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In the past, mad scientists drank a potion to turn invisible. That was the original H.G. Wells novel and the 1933 movie adaptation. Even 2000’s Hollow Man was a chemical, although 1992’s beautiful, underrated Memoirs of an Invisible Man was a more sweeping scientific procedure. 2020’s The Invisible Man has the most cutting edge technology of all.

Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

Writer/director Leigh Whannell spoke at a Q&A following a screening of The Invisible Man in Los Angeles. He explained how he created the technology of his invisibility and had it verified by scientists. The Invisible Man is now in theaters.

Why ‘The Invisible Man’ doesn’t drink a serum in 2020

Even though the classic Invisible Man took a potion to turn himself invisible, Whannell didn’t want to go there again.

“I didn’t want him injecting a serum or something like that,” Whannell said. “It’s always the serum. It’s like any superhero film, it’s like, ‘My God, he’s injected himself with the serum. Now he can see through time.’ If anybody asks, you’re just like, ‘it’s a serum.’ So I wanted to get away from that. No potions. So I started thinking about what would make invisibility credible.”

‘The Invisible Man’ passes scientific scrutiny

In The Invisible Man, optics scientists Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) invents a suit covered in miniature cameras. Presumably, the cameras photograph and/or reflect the environment so that the suit blends in with outsiders’ field of view.

“If you do research into it, they really are actively trying to make this a real thing,” Whannell said. “It always starts with the military. That’s where everything starts. The internet, everything, and then it filters down into our lives eventually. So they are doing this.”

Whannell actually asked scientists to review his maguffin.

Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

“The production designer, Alex Holmes and I, actually went to visit some scientists in Sydney at the University of Technology in Sydney and we kind of pitched our idea for the suit,” Whannell said. “There was three of them and they were like, ‘Yeah, that could work.’ They started drawing up plans for it. Anything to make it credible I guess. I wanted the audience to just see themselves in the movie and not feel it was too outlandish or too far removed from daily reality.”

Making it real on film

Of course, Whannell didn’t actually invent the invisibility suit. To make it real in the film, Whannell used every trick in the book.

“It was a mixture of everything. We had a stunt performer in a green suit struggling with her. We had wires pulling her around. We had a motion control camera that was like a robot so it’s more like dance choreography because it’s all based on numbers. We also used old school stuff in the same scene. We would have props people hidden in cabinets pulling doors shut. We’re using everything from cutting edge technology to stuff they would’ve used on the original Invisible Man in 1933.Whatever gets the job done.”

Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man Q&A, 2/24/2020
The Invisible Man: Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss | Universal Pictures

The most disturbing parts of The Invisible Man are not even dramatic visual effects. Adrian doesn’t need big visual effects to make himself known.

“I didn’t want to make a special effects heavy film,” Whannell said. “I wanted to make something where it was pretty suggestive and build to that stuff. I always thought that the most effective stuff in the movie would be the more low key stuff where it was more suggestive, for sure.”