Spiral is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD, and digitally. The Saw spin-off stars Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Max Minghella in the lead roles and is directed by Saw II-IV director Darren Lynn Bousman in his return to helming the horror series. While it exists in the Saw universe, it’s very much its own thing and provides a fresh experience.
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Spiral star Max Minghella about the film, a possible sequel, his relationship with the Saw franchise, and much more.
Tyler Treese: I really liked Spiral and it’s this great mix of genres as you’ve got the Saw-type horror and the torture scenes, but the first half of the film is very much kind of like a buddy cop movie. Can you speak to that interesting blend of genre that we have?
Max Minghella: I was very excited when I started to realize that that’s the direction the movie was going to go in. I love buddy cop movies. I really miss movies like that. I had been craving it as a movie fan, so I was really relieved by that. And then I thought that the needle thread of the Saw franchise and the identity of that franchise into this other story was so brilliantly handled in very kind of successful, you know what I mean on the page. I can really see how this works and is very much the movie I’d go and see even if I had nothing to do with it.
You couldn’t get a better buddy cop partner than Chris Rock. He just has so much natural charisma. He’s so funny in the first 30 minutes of the film. Can you talk about your chemistry on set and how it was getting to have him as your buddy cop?
Yeah, I mean, it’s an insane privilege and he’s just somebody I love so much in every way. I love him as a actor performer. I loved him as a filmmaker and it was really fun just getting to have meaningful time with somebody you look up to so much and see how they work and pick their brain. I’m sure Chris got very bored of me badgering him with questions all the time, but I had such a good time getting to work with him. We really had fun together.
Before signing onto Spiral, were you a big fan of the Saw franchise, and what was it like coming into such an established series? It just crossed the billion dollar mark. What are the expectations of coming into a series like that?
I think it’s the first franchise thing I’ve done. I love franchises just in general. I love the concept of them. I love how they exist in film culture. I like the challenges of having to keep them alive and what’s about them and it really appeals to me. So that was just exciting, just fundamentally to be a part of a franchise, like you said, and sort of take on that responsibility, I suppose. I also love so much about the DNA of Saw movies, so I love the kind of whodunnit element of them. I love how sort of visceral it is an experience for an audience, especially when you’re watching it. It’s so fun to watch these movies with people. To answer your question about my familiarity with the franchise. I had seen several of them, but the one I’ve always loved, and I think I owned on DVD like way before being involved in this, was Saw II. I love Saw II. I’m a big twist guy, like a big twist fan, and that movie has got a great twist.
Spiral saw the return of Darren Lynn Bousman as the director. How exciting was it to get to work with him? He has helmed so many great Saw films in the past and now he gets to reinvent it here with you and Chris Rock onboard.
Yeah. It was great to have Darren back. He was such a smart choice. To have somebody who was one of the architects of the Saw aesthetic, which is a very specific aesthetic. I don’t think any other movies share this sort of visual technique. So there’s a lovely, I mean, I think the movie is a great blend of the old guard and then the new kids, you know, Chris [Rock] and Sam [Jackson] and Marisol [Nichols], myself, we’re all completely new to the franchise, but then almost everybody else involved has been there for a minute and it’s like a family, you know what I mean? It really does feel very kind of an intimate group of people and very familiar.
You grew up around movies, you’ve gotten to work with so many incredible actors, so I’m sure it’s not super often where you’re like, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m with this guy,” but Samuel L. Jackson. If that’s ever going to happen, it’s probably him. How cool was it getting to work with a legend like him and cross that off your bucket list?
It’s pretty cool and unexpected. This movie was sort of almost always a pinch yourself kind of job, to be honest. There’s very few days on set where I wasn’t like, I can’t believe I’m going to [do this]. Sam Jackson is truly one of the great actors of all time, it’s a pretty ridiculous situation to be in.
One thing I really like about your character is that he has these very valid grievances about police corruption and that’s a true-to-life issue. Spiral spotlights it, but it’s a very real issue and very timely for the society that we’re in. Did having that interesting backstory for the character really help you dive into playing this role?
I love when you have compassion for a villain. I think it’s so much more compelling than when they are impossible to relate to. So that was really important to me that when he said things. It was his own sort of mad logic to him, obviously the way that he goes about practicing his beliefs is completely wrong, but there’s something there sort of relatable I think to what he’s saying. That’s much more interesting always.
We see that in the original series with Jigsaw and Saw always had some social commentary and some interesting morality questions. Can you speak to Spiral also bringing those philosophical elements and how the series has stayed really interesting? It would have been so easy to just be leaning into just the gore element, but instead, you keep that philosophy and having the moral ambiguity.
Like you said, man, it’s so essential to the DNA of these movies. There’s John Kramer and he always had some interesting perspective on things and reasons for doing things. I think it’s essential that that sort of stays in it, even though Spiral is obviously a very different direction. I think for these movies it is its own story and its kind of its own sort of journey in a way, but there are certain things you don’t want to lose and that’s one of them. You want a compelling villain and I think compelling villains aren’t just being idiots with their point of view.
There’s not many people that can say they fought Chris Rock in a fistfight. How fun was that final fight sequence in the film, and you got the punch Chris Rock! How cool is that?
Again, man, it was all so much fun. Everything was so much fun. I just felt like a kid on the playground. It was crazy. I mean all of it’s like the stuff you sort of dream about doing as a kid. I think there’s a line in the movie where, “I started dreaming about this since I was 12 years old,” and I felt that was pretty resonant for me because I really have. I grew up with a Beverly Hills Cop poster above my bed since as long as I’ve been a conscious person. I really like movies like this where the genre movies have real stakes, but have a sense of humor and aren’t pretentious. It’s very specific to what I want to go and see.
Before we get the big reveal of yourself as the villain, we see the villain in a pig mask a lot. Was it actually you wearing the mask in those scenes?
That’s funny, man. You’re the second person to ask me that question. Yes, not always. I mean it depends on what we’re doing. But absolutely. As long as it’s not some big dangerous stunt.
There are some gruesome and really clever traps in Spiral. Did any of those stick out as a particular favorite for you and what was it like getting to see how they’re actually, with the movie magic and all that, how they’re actually concocted?
It’s dope, so cool. It’s really fun. The subway trap is my favorite. I feel it was really brilliant way into the movie, so cinematic, and that set was crazy sort of built that station. That was so cool. I felt like going to Universal’s studio tour thing. That was how I felt.
Saw fans are very passionate. How’s the reception been? You talked about this being your first franchise, how cool was it to enter that fandom?
I’ve got to say, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t anxious before the film was released. Obviously I felt a huge amount of responsibility to the fans of these movies and didn’t want them to feel let down by the performance. I’ve been so like grateful and moved by how kind of nice that community is. I mean, nice is maybe a weak word to use, but they’re really supportive. They love these movies. They’ve been really supportive of the movie and supportive of us, the new actors, and I’m very relieved and it means a lot.
With the way the film ends, there’s obviously some unfinished business between yourself and Chris Rock’s character. Would you be interested in returning for a sequel?
For sure, if there was an appetite for us to come back. I think we both love to do another one. But we did this without any expectations of anything beyond. I think it’s a very unusual ending and also very unique and exciting one. I haven’t seen something that sort of ends with such a pronounced cliffhanger. So I’m certainly curious to know what’s gonna happen.
For your other projects, you’ve got Babylon coming up, which has just the most incredible star-studded cast. It even has Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I know. That’s cool, right?
It’s really cool. I believe filming starts on that soon. How thrilled are you to just get to work with so many talented actors on one set?
Yeah, man. Amazing. I’m a huge fan of Damien Chazelle and he’s sort of one of my sort of heroes. So I’m really looking forward to getting to be on set with him and see how he works. All of this is sort of like an education, you’re really just trying to work with people you can learn from and hopefully, we’ll make it better. I can’t think of a group of people to be around that’s more talented.
We spoke about passionate fans earlier. The Handmaid’s Tale has so many passionate watchers and Season 4 had a really shocking ending. What are you looking forward to the most in Season 5?
Season 4 is, by some pretty wide margin, my favorite season we’ve shot. I really loved the season. It’s funny because it’s an ensemble show, and as a result,I don’t know what everyone else is doing. I’m not there on set when everyone else is shooting that stuff. I play a pretty small part in the show, so when it comes out, I get to watch it like an audience member and go along for the ride. I just had such an amazing time watching it this year. I was so proud of everybody in the cast and crew. It was tough circumstances, as you can imagine, shooting during a pandemic and especially Elisabeth Moss just was incredible this year, really just took care of everyone and for it to come out as strong as it was, was really amazing. I never thought I’d be so excited to go into Season 5 of a TV show, but I get more and more excited every year as we get further into it and it just keeps staying so strong. It’s amazing. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be on a show that is that good.
It’s kind of rare to see a show building on its quality over time. Usually it peaks in Season 2 or 3, but like you said, Season 4 is the best one yet. It was very exciting as a fan to see how it’s going to continue.
Thank you. It’s amazing and that people are still watching a show and sticking with us. We are all so conscious. It’s sort of pathetic actually, whenever The Handmaid’s Tale cast talk about anything, we’re just all so conscious of how singular this experience is and how we can’t take it for granted. I think stuff like this comes along very, very rarely, and when you’re lucky enough to be a part of something that you like so much and other people seem to like.
Over the past five years, we’ve seen you find success as a screenwriter and a director as well. Working behind the camera and looking at the scenes from that different perspective, does that help your acting as well?
That’s a good question. I dunno. I don’t know if I can do anything about my acting talents, but it comes from a very simple place, man, because I just love movies so much. Just the fact that I don’t really know about anything else. Like if you asked me about where any country is on a map, I would have no idea, but I’m okay with movies. Like I kind of know movies and, and so I get impatient. I’m a bit of a workaholic and I just want to do whatever I can. So it would be on set. So we get to engage creatively and I can do it a little bit. It’s really different. Well, what I think is interesting about it is often have a day where I have to have a call maybe as a producer and then a call as a writer, then a call as a director, then a call as an actor, and each conversation I’m treated quite differently or my job is so different. Switching those hats is I think quite good and keeps you in check and keeps your feet on the ground and keeps you hungry and all that stuff. So I feel very lucky I get to do different things.
When you were growing up, one of your goals was to be a music video director. Is that something that you still want to wind up doing down the line?
I got to make a movie that I think exorcised a lot of those demons. So I have to be honest, I have less of a burning desire to sort of work in that space because I felt like I got to sort of express that part of me a little bit. That said, I love music videos. It’s one of my favorite mediums. The tricky thing, and I’m sure most people would tell you this, is that music videos have very, very limited budgets. When I was a kid, this was the year of like Francis Lawrence and Hype Williams where people were getting like $4 or $5 million to make these two-minute clips. Now when I’m sent music video stuff, it’s like the budgets are very, very limited. So you really have to be passionate about it because you’re basically going to have to spend money to make it. So to answer your question I would love to do some music videos, but I think there has to be things that I was really, really married to.
In the past decade and some change we’ve seen superhero films become all the rage. Would you be interested in those types of projects and are there any comic characters that appeal to your acting sensibilities?
I kind of like all kinds of movies. I don’t have a genr that I’m not into. Yeah, I’m totally open to that. I think as long as I felt useful ther., I mean, that’s totally how I approach everything. It’s not so much about the glamor of an opportunity so much as whether I think I could actually contribute something. If I can’t, I don’t think it’s helpful for me to do it, then nobody wins. But if there was a show that I felt like, oh, I could do this and maybe not sink the ship then for sure.