Leigh Whannell (born 17 January 1977) is an Australian screenwriter, producer, and actor, best known for his work on the Saw franchise.
Life and career
Whannell was born in Melbourne, Victoria. A writer since childhood, Whannell worked as a reporter and film critic for several Australian television shows, including ABC's |Recovery hosted by Dylan Lewis. He also had a minor role in The Matrix Reloaded, as well as the video game Enter The Matrix as the character Axel.
Whannell believes that he inherited his love of storytelling from his mother and his fondness of filmmaking from his father, who worked behind the camera in the television industry.
While in film school, he met James Wan, who would eventually go on to direct the horror film Saw (co-written by Wan and Whannell) in 2004. After making a short film to showcase the intensity of the script, the feature film was made and became a low-budget sleeper hit in late 2004. Whannell played Adam Stanheight in the film, one of the main characters. The popularity of Saw led to a sequel, Saw II, which was directed and co-written by Darren Lynn Bousman, and on which Whannell co-wrote and revised Bousman's original script, titled The Desperate. Whannell also served as an executive producer.
Around the same time, Whannell returned to collaborate with Wan and they wrote a film called Dead Silence, which Wan directed. It was slated for a 2006 release, but small problems with the title pushed the release date back to March 2007, when it was released as Dead Silence. In 2006, the duo composed the story for Saw III, with Whannell writing the screenplay for the third time. It was again directed by Bousman and was released on 27 October 2006. Whannell has a featured cameo, reprising his role as Adam. Saw III was a huge financial success and raked in $33,610,391 on its opening weekend, making around $129,927,001 worldwide (after 38 days in cinemas) and is currently the most successful Saw film to date.
Whannell's writing partner, Wan, was chosen to direct the film Death Sentence, the first feature film with their participation that they did not write themselves. Whannell has a small role as Spink in Death Sentence.
In 2008, Whannell took off his "writing hat" to perform alongside Nathan Phillips in Dying Breed, a low-budget Australian horror film about a team of zoologists exploring the Tasmanian wilderness to locate a creature thought extinct, the thylacine, aka Tasmanian tiger. Instead, they wander into the domain of cannibals who retain their ancestor Alexander Pearce's taste for human flesh, and become prey.
Before and during the production of Saw, Whannell sought medical treatment. "I was going through a bit of a tough time healthwise and suffering anxiety," says Whannell. "The anxiety manifested itself in physical ways. I was suffering headaches everyday for nearly a year. It was serious stuff and really started affecting my life." Spending time in a hospital inspired him to endow the lead antagonist of the Saw series, John Kramer, with cancer. "It was weird to be 25 and sitting in a neurological ward and I'm surrounded by people who actually had brain tumors. It was very scary and it was my first proper look at mortality. I really wanted to get my health back and it really hammered home how important good health is. If you've got that, you've got everything."
Whannell and Wan are currently developing a new feature, X-Ray, described as an action/noir film. He wrote the script for the 2011 paranormal thriller film Insidious, which was directed by Wan and produced by Oren Peli.
- Neighbours (1996) (TV series) - Stuart Maughan
- Blue Heelers (1999–2000) (TV series) - Jared Ryan
- Stygian (2000) - Clown/Punk Kid
- Enter The Matrix - Axel (voice)
- The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - Axel
- Razors Eaters (2003) - Nick. D
- The Referees (2003) - Footy Mate
- Saw (short film) (2003, short) - David
- One Perfect Day (2004) - Chris
- Saw (2004) - Adam Stanheight
- Saw III (2006) - Adam Stanheight
- Death Sentence (2007) - Spink
- Dying Breed (2008) - Matt
- Doggie Heaven (2008) - Neil Sampson
- The Last Supper (2009) - Philip
- The Pardon (2009) - Clement Moss
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010) - Jatt
- Saw 3D (2010) - Adam Stanheight
- Insidious (2011) Specs
- Insidious Chapter 2 (2013) Specs
- Insidious Chapter 3 (2015) Specs
- Saw II (2005)
- Saw III (2006)
- Saw IV (2007), Executive Producer
- Saw V (2008), Executive Producer
- Saw VI (2009), Executive Producer
- Saw 3D (2010), Executive Producer
- Saw (2004)
- Saw II (2005)
- Saw III (2006)
- Dead Silence (2007)
- Doggie Heaven (2008)
- Saw: The Video Game (2009)
- Insidious (2011)
- Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)
- Insidious Chapter 3 (2015)