What you can’t see can hurt you. Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Moss stars in a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic Monster character.
Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid).
But when Cecilia’s abusive ex, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turn lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.The Invisible Man represents a fresh, new direction for how to celebrate these classic characters. This new direction is filmmaker driven, inviting innovative storytellers with original, bold ideas for these characters to develop the stories and pitch them.
For writer/director Leigh Whannell, the character of H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man has been in the back of his mind since he was a boy skipping school to watch Universal’s Monsters on television. What he appreciates about the villain is that, unlike so many other iconic tales, the story hasn’t been redone over and over again.
As he crafted a terrifying, modern story of obsession, he imagined the story from the perspective of Cecilia Kass, a smart, capable architect in San Francisco who has become imprisoned by Adrian Griffin, her violent, abusive and powerful boyfriend. When she escapes from the brilliant inventor and optics pioneer, she goes into hiding with the help of her friends and family. But after her ex commits suicide, Cecilia begins to suspect he’s not actually dead but has made himself invisible…using his ground-breaking invention to torture her. The trouble is, her theory sounds insane and paranoid, and she finds herself questioning her own sanity, while also trying to protect herself and the people she loves.Cecilia is a smart, strong woman, but she has been traumatized beyond recognition. Her relationship has affected her view of herself and her world. She’s anxious, paranoid and fearful. Because of this, when she suspects that Adrian is stalking her, her family and friends doubt her interpretation of events. She has strong relationships with her sister Emily, best friend James and his daughter Sydney. Still, as Cecilia seems to unravel, the bonds of those relationships are tested. What we don’t know is whether her belief that Adrian is still alive is real…or just in her imagination.
Leigh Whannell crafted Cecilia as a strong, talented and capable heroine. Cecilia is someone with her whole life in front of her, but it was suddenly cut short by a toxic relationship. By getting into the wrong relationship. her life’s been put on pause. Cecilia found herself in this controlling situation, one where she was stifled as a human and couldn’t do anything. She was suffocated by her partner. But by escaping, she finds her strength.
It was important for Whannell to create a lead character that completely unravels. The more adversity Cecilia faced, the greater the conflict. The odds against Cecilia and the forces amassing against her to be insurmountable—to the point where the audience is thinking: ‘How is she possibly going to get out of this?’When the script was finished, Whannell knew it required an extraordinary actress to pull off Cecilia and he found his heroine in two-time Golden Globe Award winner Elisabeth Moss, who brought brutal authenticity to her work on Mad Men and, of course, her current role as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Moss is the sole focus of the movie and her journey coupled with her flawless acting makes the audience believe in this terrifying situation where everyone’s live are at stake. If the audience doesn’t believe in Moss then the whole movie falls apart. She alone can dig in deep to give spirit and grit to this character. She brings authenticity to every role she’s in and because of this, The Invisible Man has audiences at the edge of their seats gasping with every plot twist.
Moss believes this has been the most challenging role of her career. “It took me 10 minutes to understand Leigh’s take and how modern and relevant this film could be,” Moss says. “I love how he upended the idea of The Invisible Man. It was one of those scripts that you read and think, ‘I wish I’d thought of that…’ It’s a great metaphor and completely relevant to our time…as well as to my time as a woman in this society.”In addition, Moss is often on screen alone for entire scenes, playing against someone she can’t see. “There was a whole section of the film where no one was there,” Moss says. “I would turn to Leigh and say, ‘Where do you think he is?’ Whether or not my character knew where the Invisible Man was would change depending on the scene. Sometimes, I would have no idea Adrian was there; others, at some points, I would feel a presence or hear a noise or something and then would turn.”
“There’s a certain point where Cecilia is convinced that Adrian’s always in the room,” Moss continues. “It’s like I developed a sixth sense for where he was…but nothing was ever there. We would make it up, and we’d say he’s in this corner or coming out of that room. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never been in that position where that was possible. Still, the idea of seeing something that nobody else can see, that’s my bread and butter. It’s what I do every day for a living.”
The Invisible Man allowed Moss to reflect on the types of relationships that can be abusive or toxic. “It was important to Leigh and me that we made the space for a relationship that was not only physically abusive, but was also emotionally and psychologically abusive,” Moss says. “Those types of relationships can be just as damaging. I hope that this film gives some voice and strength to people who have been through that. As women, we feel like there’s a sense of empowerment, that we’re this generation that speaks up, but I think we sometimes still judge others for staying in relationships that they shouldn’t be in.”Moss concludes: “I think it’s important to give space for women to be weak. You can be strong and scared at the same time. And you can be strong and weak at the same time. You can be a feminist and still lose your voice. That’s important to remember and important to be able to see.”
The Invisible Man is in theaters now.