When news broke in May 2019 that Chris Rock was relaunching the “Saw” horror franchise with a new film based on his own original idea, many fans of the comedy icon never saw such a career move coming. But Darren Lynn Bousman, director of four “Saw” films and the upcoming Rock starrer “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” recently told Esquire that Rock’s horror bonafides run deeper than most fans know.
“A lot of times you meet with people and they say, ‘Oh, I love the horror genre,’ and you can tell if they’re bullshitting,” Bousman said. “That was not him at all. He was giving very obscure references to movies, as well as very detail-oriented thoughts on the previous ‘Saw’ films.”
In “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” Rock stars as a brash police detective named Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks who has to contend with the death of his recent partner, the shadow that looms large from his esteemed police veteran father (Samuel L. Jackson), a corrupted police force, and a string of grisly murders that may or may not link back to the infamous “Saw” killer Jigsaw. There’s no shortage of drama in “Spiral,” but Rock made sure to bring the levity even during the most intense takes on set.
“There’s a scene where Chris has this dramatic encounter in the police station right after he finds out his partner died, and no one’s taking it seriously, and he wants the case,” Bousman told Esquire. “He comes in and he’s screaming and going off and gets really emotional. We do it in one extremely long take—it’s silent at the very end, and he’s got tears coming down his cheek. And everyone on the set claps and they’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ And he looks directly at the camera and goes, ‘Lest no one forget: I was in Pootie Tang. So what I’m saying is, I have range.’”
For those unaware, “Pootie Tang” is a 2001 comedy movie written and directed by Louis C.K. A satire of Blaxploitation movies, “Pootie Tang” stars Rock in a supporting role and is an adaptation of a sketch that appeared during the run of the comedian’s HBO talk show “The Chris Rock Show.” The movie was an infamous critical and commercial bomb, earning abysmal reviews and grossing around $3 million on a $7 million production budget.
Rock is surely hoping “Spiral” brings more success than “Pootie Tang.” Lionsgate is opening “Spiral” in theaters on May 14.