How ‘The Invisible Man’ Writer/Director Leigh Whannell Made Up a Pitch On the Spot and Got the Job

Leigh Whannell has written three intricately plotted out Saw movies and spent lots of time developing the Insidious movies and crafting the world of Upgrade. His new movie, the update of The Invisible Man, just came to him on the spot. He literally just made it up in a meeting and that’s the movie he made. 

Leigh Whannell and Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss and Leigh Whannell | Universal Pictures

In the modern day Invisible Man, Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia, a woman who escaped her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Adrian is an optics scientist, so he develops a technology for invisibility and uses it to torment her. Whannell spoke at a Q&A following a screening of The Invisible Man and explained how he made up the story on the spot. The Invisible Man is now playing.

Leigh Whannell never wanted to make ‘The Invisible Man’

The Invisible Man is Whannell’s first remake. Saw, Insidious, Upgrade, The Mule, Cooties and Dead Silence were all originals. He ended up making sequels to Saw and Insidious but never adapted another franchise before, although The Mule was based on some true stories.

“It wasn’t something I was pursuing,” Whannell said. “I know of The Invisible Man obviously. As a horror fan, I respect his place in the history of horror along with Dracula and all these older characters that have been around for so long. But I wasn’t pursuing it. I didn’t march into someone’s office and be like, ‘The Invisible Man!’”

Universal and Blumhouse roped Leigh Whannell into ‘The Invisible Man’

Whannell made Insidious for Blumhouse and Universal released the fourth film in the series, as well as Whannell’s earlier Dead Silence. After he’d finished Upgrade, they asked Whannell for a meeting. He didn’t know it was about The Invisible Man.

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man
Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

“It was something that was suggested to me,” Whannell said. “The title was brought up. I actually went to a meeting right after I finished Upgrade with some of the Blumhouse execs and some of the Universal execs. I thought they were going to talk about how great Upgrade was for a while. They spent about 10 seconds talking about Upgrade and then they mentioned this.”

Leigh Whannell spitballed this ‘Invisible Man’ pitch

Whannell likened pitching The Invisible Man to the classic slacker comedy Office Space.

“Someone in the room just said, ‘What would you do with The Invisible Man?’” Whannell said. “It’s kind of that thing like remember in Office Space where they bring in Ron Livingston and they’re like, ‘What do you do at this company?’ And he’s like, ‘Nothing.’ And they’re like, ‘That’s the kind of attitude we need around here.’ And he just keeps getting promoted. It was like that.”

The Invisible Man: Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

Being indifferent ended up helping Whannell craft a green light pitch.

“Because I didn’t care, there was no intention or ‘let me get this job,’” Whannell continued. “I was just like, ‘I don’t know, I guess I would tell the story from the point of view of a victim, like a woman escaping a relationship. He comes after her and maybe fakes his suicide.’ They were like, ‘This is a great take.’ Then I had a job and my agent was calling me saying, ‘They love your take on The Invisible Man.’ Before I knew it I was writing the film.”

Leigh Whannell was inspired to make it scary again

Perhaps Whannell wasn’t looking for a job adapting The Invisible Man, but when they asked him, he immediately honed in on an idea. The Universal Monsters stable includes Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and The Mummy. Now animated shows like Monster High adapt those characters for children.

“My daughter watches animated movies with these animated characters in them,” Whannell said. “That’s how safe they’ve become. My thought was can we drag it kicking and screaming into our era and make it scary in the way the originals were. I could immediately see an opportunity to modernize it, just when someone mentioned that title to me and kind of put me on the spot.”

Leigh Whannell and Elisabeth Moss
Leigh Whannell and Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

That said, Whannell came up with a great pitch for Dracula as a rom-com.

“You could plug Dracula into anything,” Whannell said. “He’s so ubiquitous, he’s such a part of culture and he’s got such a cultural footprint that you could do a romantic comedy and just be like it’s Dracula on tinder. Can’t you just see Kate Hudson being like, ‘Why doesn’t he want to go on any dates during the day? I love this guy but he’s so weird.’ It’s this whole thing.”