Upgrade, the sci-fi thriller from writer/director Leigh Whannell and starring Logan Marshall-Green, is headed to theaters June 1, 2018.
Set in the not-so-distant future, Marshall-Green stars as Grey Trace, a technophobic man who becomes a quadriplegic after a horrific accident. Grey is offered a new chance at a normal life when an experimental computer chip called Stem is implanted in his neck, but that’s really only the beginning of his new adventure.
The film, produced by the geniuses at Blumhouse, is already garnering a lot of online buzz, and Whannell and Marshall-Green recently spoke with iHorror about the experience of creating this exciting and dangerous new world.
“It’s funny to think about how long ago it was that I started writing the script,” Whannell laughed, “and it makes me reflect on how long it takes to get a film made.”
The story started for Whannell when he was sitting in his back yard. The idea of a quadriplegic man being given a new lease on life through technology excited the writer, and he began researching what others had written about bridging the gap between technology and humans.
“There are a lot of books by Ray Kurzwell where he talks about the future and the singularity when humans merge with technology,” the writer/director explained. “I was so excited by that idea because it was exactly what I was going for in the script.”
As the project came together, and it was time to look for someone to take on that rather daunting task of playing Grey, Logan Marshall-Green quickly moved to the top of the list. Once he was cast in the role, he quickly went to work playing with different ways of moving and using his body so that he could portray a man who in many ways becomes a passenger in the active aspects of his life.
“I started sending Leigh videos of myself doing very pedestrian movements. Sitting down, drinking water, taking a bit of an apple,” the actor said. “I would do them as Grey, and then I would do them a second time as Grey and Stem together.”
Neither the director nor the actor wanted the movements to seem robotic in the ways we’ve seen before on film. Instead, they focused on more efficient ways of moving that could potentially come from the tech component.
“Ultimately, it took a lot of work with a brilliant stunt team and movement coaches to make it seem as though Grey was a passenger with Stem,” Marshall-Green pointed out. “We were working our butts off from the neck down while trying to stay as neutral as possible and tell an emotional story from the neck up.”
“There were so many roles that Logan had to take on,” Whannell explained further. “He would train with a movement coach, then do fight choreography, and he also had to learn to use the wheelchair and play a quadriplegic.”
The role is full of obstacles, but for Marshall-Green, that’s really what acting is all about, and it was all about getting the small details correct to make the Grey/Stem performance work.
“I got to spend some time with someone who is quadriplegic, and I knew I had to be true to him and to his experience when we were telling that part of the story,” the actor said. “Little things like, I’m a nail biter. I can’t do that in this character, and while I was in it, I didn’t do it. It’s funny, though, because I do now. It came back as soon as the role was over.”
More importantly for the actor, Whannell’s script and direction allowed him to act with his full body and embrace the physicality of movement and body language in a way that many films roles can’t offer.
“I came up in the theater,” he said. “I love the ability to act from head to toe which is something you don’t get in film. You generally isolate your performance to your face and shoulders mostly, and I was grateful that Leigh gave me the opportunity to tell this story with my whole body.”
As filming began, Whannell had one more surprise up his sleeve to help make the performance as real as possible.
In the film, Stem has a voice that only Grey can hear and they can communicate internally. So, Whannell placed Simon Maiden, the actor voicing Stem, out of sight, but allowed the two actors to communicate via an earpiece and mic.
“I wanted them to be able to interrupt each other and interact,” Whannell said. “I wanted them to play those scenes together like any two actors would.”
“It was another ball to juggle in the middle of those fight scenes,” Marshall-Green added, “but we got a really positive effect from it.”
The actor worked hard to pull double duty in those fight scenes, but also really focused on Grey’s evolution with Stem throughout the film, and it’s fascinating as Grey goes from a bystander to an active participant in what’s going on around him. In the final stages of the film, Stem may be doing the fighting, but Grey is actively watching for danger and working with the implant confidently.
Upgrade is set to hit theaters nationwide on June 1, 2018. Check out the trailer below!