Having the exceptional luck of being a part of a legendary project that quickly defines their professional career isn’t a fortune that everyone has in their lives. But legendary actor, Cary Elwes had the good fate to be cast in the lead role in director Rob Reiner‘s famed 1987 adventure film, ‘The Princess Bride,’ early in his career, which quickly garnered him international recognition.
Elwes later earned further appreciation by the next generation when he was cast in director James Wan‘s classic horror movie, ‘Saw.’ After spawning seven sequels since the original feature’s initial theatrical release in 2004, ‘Saw’ has become one of the highest-grossing horror film franchises of all time. Last month, a ninth installment in the groundbreaking series was announced by distributor Lionsgate and Chris Rock, who’s attached to produce and co-write the eighth follow-up.
The ‘Saw’ and ‘Princess Bride’ actor will once again generate attention by a new generation of fans when he guest stars as Mayor Larry Kline on the upcoming third season of Netflix’s hit sci-fi-fantasy-horror series, ‘Stranger Things,’ which is set to debut on July 4. Mayor Kline is being described by the streaming service as the classic ’80s politician: handsome, slick and sleazy, and more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs.
Elwes generously took the time during this past weekend’s Wizard World Philadelphia to sit down for a panel at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to discuss his career as a film and television actor since the mid-1980s. Among other things, the performer discussed his experiences guest-starring on ‘Stranger Things,’ as well as playing Dr. Lawrence Gordon in ‘Saw,’ and its sixth sequel, ‘Saw 3D.’
When asked what the experience was like to travel back in time to the 1980s for the anticipated next season of ‘Stranger Things,’ Elwes joked that “being a guy who had success during that time (with ‘The Princess Bride,’) it’s kind of weird to step back. But it really is amazing.
“The show truly is remarkable in every department, from the acting to the production value; everything’s top-notch. The kids are incredible,” the actor boasted about the Emmy Award-winning horror series’ core group of young performers. “I wish I was that put together when I was their age. A lot of them have trained on Broadway, and they’re so professional.”
The detailed production design that was created for ‘Stranger Things’ upcoming third season is also something that Elwes admires. “If you’ve seen the trailer for this next season, the Starcourt Mall that’s featured was created in an empty mall in Atlanta. I can tell you that we took it over and completely filled every shop with ’80s stores. It was insane!,” he revealed.
“There are filled stores around each corner that you won’t even see in the show. They put in tills (for the cash registers) that worked, food in the food court, an Atari game center and a working movie theater. There were several real movies that were listed to be playing in the theater; I think ‘Back to the Future’ was one of them,” as the Oscar-winning sci-fi film was released in 1985, the same year the third season of ‘Stranger Things’ is set. “They had real posters and merchandise. It was amazing.”
The crew paid such attention to production design and detail in every store because the Duffer Brothers, who created, and have also written, directed and produced episodes of, the series, “wanted to be able to pick and choose where ever they put the camera…I went around taking pictures, and they said, ‘You know you can’t post any of those, right?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, but I just have to get pictures of all of this stuff.’ It was unbelievable, and a lot of fun,” Elwes further shared. He garnered a laugh when he added, “Thank God I didn’t have to wear any shoulder pads!”
Besides appearing on the next season of ‘Stranger Things,’ the actor also expressed his appreciation that he was able to star in two of the entries in the ‘Saw’ franchise. He shared that he was cast as Lawrence because his “agents at the time also had a production company. The script had been sent around Hollywood by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who wrote it together. But nobody wanted to do it,” he admitted.
“So they shot one scene by raising money from their family and friends back in Melbourne, which is where they’re from. They shot that scene to show everyone what the style of the film would be, and it featured Leigh inside the Reverse Beartrap,” Elwes revealed.
“So my managers said, ‘There are these great guys from Australia who are interested in film. You should read their script, as it’s really innovative.’ They also showed me the short James and Leigh made. So my managers sent me the script and I read it, and I immediately knew that it was unique. I also knew by the way the short was shot that they had a very specific way they wanted to make the feature,” the performer divulged.
“So I agreed to meet with these guys, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into! James brought a big artist portfolio, and opened it on the lunch table. Inside where these beautiful ink watercolor drawings that he had done himself of the bathroom set, and it was very specific,” Elwes shared. “Then I turned the page, and there was a portrait of the outfit that Jigsaw wears, as well as the mask of the pig head.
“Then I turned the page again, and there was this blueprint of the Reverse Beartrap, and it was very detailed. So I turned to James and said, ‘Wow, that looks very specific.'” The actor then mimicked Wan’s Australian accent when repeating, “He said, ‘Oh yes, it’s operational,'” which garnered a laugh from the crowd. “It turns out that he spoke with an engineer to make sure that it would work. It was pretty terrifying!”
When Elwes turned the page of the director’s portfolio again, “there was a drawing of the (Billy) doll. I thought it was amazing, because I couldn’t tell from the script what it was going to look like. So I asked James where the doll was.” The performer then mimicked Wan’s accent again when he repeated, “‘Oh yes, he flew with me. I couldn’t put him in the cargo, so I bought him a seat on the plane.’ So he flew from Australia with the doll next to him on the plane,” which garnered another laugh from the audience. “That’s when I knew these guys were serious, and I had to be a part of the film. It was great fun…except being chained to a wall!”