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Tobin Bell (born Joseph Henry Tobin, Jr.; August 7, 1942) is an American film and television actor, best known for his role in the Saw franchise.

He played John Kramer in Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, Saw 3D and Jigsaw and voiced him in Saw: The Video Game and Saw II: Flesh & Blood.

Early Life

Tobin Bell was born in Queens, New York and raised in Weymouth, Massachusetts. His English-born mother, Eileen Julia Bell Tobin, is an actress who worked at the Quincy Repertory Company. His American-born father, Joseph H. Tobin, who was of Irish descent, built and established the radio station WJDA in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1947 and once ran for mayor of Gloversville, New York. Bell's maternal grandmother, Julia Gandon Bell, was born in Cork, Ireland. Bell has one sister and one brother. He studied liberal arts and journalism in college, with the intention of becoming a writer and entering the broadcasting field. He also has an interest in environmental matters, holding a master's degree in environmental science from Montclair State University as well as having worked for the New York Botanical Garden. Bell credits hearing a seminar by Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy at Boston University with inspiring him to begin an acting career.

Later, Bell joined the Actors Studio, where he studied with Lee Strasberg and Ellen Burstyn, and joined Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. He played background roles in the late '70s and early '80s in over 30 films, including films by Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, while also performing in Broadway. Bell said that other actors at the Actors Studio thought doing stand-in and background work was "stupid or degrading", but he never felt that way.

Career

In 1982, Bell had a short uncredited scene in the Sydney Pollack film Tootsie, playing a waiter at the Russian Tea Room. He told Movieline, "You know, when you're talking about Tootsie, it's the tip of the iceberg, because those other twenty-nine films I did aren't even on the IMDb." In 1982, he worked on The Verdict for two weeks as a courtroom reporter in the trial. He recollected it being a "great opportunity" watching Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman, while also learning the technical aspect of acting. For every role he plays, starting with the initial reading of the script to the final shot of a production, he keeps a journal of various questions about and motivations for his character. "I write all kinds of stream-of-consciousness things that help me."

The same year, Bell landed his first speaking role in the last few moments of the drama Sophie's Choice, starring Meryl Streep. In the mid-1980s, Bell said "I was doing off-Broadway plays three nights a week, working on my craft. And a director at the Actors Studio said, 'You know, Tobin, you've been doing that for a while. I think you should go to Hollywood and play bad guys'." Bell moved to Los Angeles and was cast in his first feature film, Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning in 1988, as a "tough, street smart, FBI agent". Bell played an assassin called "The Nordic Man" in another Pollack film, The Firm in 1993. He went on to appear in an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld titled The Old Man, playing a record store owner. Furthermore, he appeared in two episodes of NYPD Blue, playing different characters.

In 1994, Bell played a hospital administrator in the second episode of the first season of ER and went on to appear in an episode of another medical drama, Chicago Hope, playing a terminally ill inmate on death row. That same year, he portrayed the "Unabomber" in the made-for-television film Unabomber: The True Story. In 1997, Bell guest starred in an episode of La Femme Nikita and Nash Bridges. The following year, he guest starred in an episode of Stargate SG-1 and a two-part episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. He also appeared as villain Peter Kingsley during the second season of 24.

In 2004, Bell was cast as the nefarious Jigsaw Killer, an engineer who wants others to appreciate the value of life via twisted "games", in the horror film Saw. The low-budget film was a box office success, spawning seven sequels: Saw II un 2005, Saw III in 2006, Saw IV in 2007, Saw V in 2008, Saw VI in 2009, Saw 3D in 2010 and Jigsaw in 2017. He provided his voice for the Jigsaw character in the Saw video game in 2009 and its sequel, Saw II: Flesh & Blood, in 2010, to which he provided his likeness. Even though Bell spent three weeks lying on a floor and had very few lines in the first film, his role was pivotal to the plot. For his role as "Jigsaw", Bell received MTV Movie Awards nominations in 2006 and 2007 for "Best Villain", won "Best Butcher" in the Fuse/Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and was given the "Best Villain in a Film Series" title at the 2010 Chiller-Eyegore Awards. Although he considers his role in Saw to have been "a great blessing", he hopes to soon have the opportunity to be cast against type.

In 2016, he starred as hermit Yo Ling on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, revealed to be John Black's long lost father. He later starred as the voices of cultist Doctor Alchemy and the evil speedster Savitar on the third season of The Flash, in an uncredited recurring role.

Personal Life

Bell is married and has two sons. When not acting, he coaches a Little League Baseball team and flag football. His other hobbies include hiking and playing guitar.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role
1979 Manhattan Man on Street
1981 Storie di ordinaria follia Bar Patron
1982 Tootsie Waiter
The Verdict Courtroom Observer
Sophie's Choice Reporter
1983 Svengali Waiter
1985 Turk 182! Sergeant on Bridge
1988 Mississippi Burning Agent Stokes
1989 An Innocent Man Zeke
Perfect Witness Dillon
1990 Loose Cannons Gerber
False Identity Marshall Errickson
Goodfellas Parole Officer
1991 The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Al Stutz
1992 Ruby David Ferrie
Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story
1993 Boiling Point Roth
Sex, Love and Cold Hard Cash Mansfield
The Firm The Nordic Man
In the Line of Fire Mendoza
Malice Earl Leemus
1994 Deep Red Warren Rickman
Dead Man's Revenge Bullock
Mortal Fear Dr. Alvin Hayes
New Eden Ares
1995 The Quick and the Dead Dog Kelly
Serial Killer William Lucian Morrano
1996 The Babysitter's Seduction Det. Frank O'Keefe
Unabomber: The True Story Theodore Kaczynski
Cheyenne Marshal Toynbee
1998 One Hot Summer Night Vincent "Coupe" De Ville
Overnight Delivery John Dwayne Beezly
Best of the Best 4: Without Warning Lukasz Slava
Brown's Requiem Stan the Man
1999 The 4th Floor The Lock Smith
2000 The Road to El Dorado Zaragoza
2001 Good Neighbor Geoffrey Martin
2002 Black Mask 2: City of Masks Moloch
2003 Power Play Clemens
2004 Saw John Kramer / Jigsaw
2005 Saw II John Kramer / Jigsaw
2006 Saw III John Kramer / Jigsaw
2007 Decoys 2: Alien Seduction Professor Erwin Buckton
The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It The Stranger
Boogeyman 2 Dr. Mitchell Allen
Buried Alive Lester
Saw IV John Kramer / Jigsaw
2008 Boogeyman 3 Dr. Mitchell Allen
Saw V John Kramer / Jigsaw
2009 Saw VI John Kramer / Jigsaw
2010 Saw 3D John Kramer / Jigsaw
2014 Haunted Seth
Finders Keepers Dr. Freeman
Phantom Halo Smashmouth
2015 Manson Family Vacation Blackbird
Unbelief Frank
2016 Rainbow Time Peter
12 Feet Deep McGradey
2017 Gates of Darkness Monsignor Canell
Jigsaw John Kramer / Jigsaw
My Pretty Pony George Banning
Ice Cream in the Cupboard Pop

Television

Year Title Role
1987-1988 The Equalizer Weber / Cronin / Deputy Secretary
1990 Vendetta: Secrets of a Mafia Bride Barman
Alien Nation Brian Knox / Dr. Death
Nasty Boys Finley
Jake and the Fatman Vic Fargo
Broken Badges Martin Valentine
1991 Love, Lies and Murder Al Stutz
The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Tony Gianini
1992 Mann & Machine Richards
Silk Stalkings Emil Rossler
1993-1996 NYPD Blue Donald Selness / Jerry the Artist
1993 Seinfeld Ron
1994 ER Hospital Administrator
1995 Under Suspicion Ron O'Keefe
1996 The Lazarus Man
Murder One Jerry Albanese
Chicago Hope Luther Evans
High Incident Garland Birsic
1997 La Femme Nikita Perry Bauer
Nash Bridges William Boyd
1998 Stargate SG-1 Omoc
Walker, Texas Ranger Karl Storm
Vengeance Unlimited Teddy Hix
1999 Strange World Owen Sassen
The Pretender Mr. White
2000 The X Files Ashman / Darryl Weaver
Harsh Realm Slater
2001 Once and Again Man in Suit
The Sopranos Major Zwingli
The Guardian Mr. Pierce
Alias Karl Dreyer
2002 Charmed Orin
The West Wing Colonel Whitcomb
2003 24 Peter Kingsley
2005 Revelations Nathan Volk
2007 The Kill Point Alan Beck
2014 Criminal Minds Malachi Lee
Wilfred Charles
2016-2017 The Flash Savitar / Doctor Alchemy
2016 Days of Our Lives Yo Ling

Video Games

Year Title Role
2009 Saw: The Video Game John Kramer / Jigsaw
2010 Saw II: Flesh & Blood John Kramer / Jigsaw

Gallery

External Links

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