Born in Melbourne, Australia, Leigh Whannell met James Wan when they were Media Arts/Filmmaking students at the Melbourne Institute of Technology. They became the best of friends and hoped one day to make a film together.
In the meantime, Whannell landed an on air job as a movie reviewer from 1997 to 1998 on the Australian Broadcasting Network series Recovery, then as a reporter for ABC's show In Entertainment. His duties included interviewing Hollywood stars and directors who were promoting their films.
Although he'd managed to land small roles in The Matrix Reloaded and the Aussie film One Perfect Day (both filmed in 2002), talking to A-list celebrities reinforced Leigh's desire to star in a film, so he and James got together and came up with a story, then Leigh wrote the screenplay.
The script made the rounds in Australia, but they weren't able to find financial backing, so their manager sent it to a literary agent in America.
Wan directed an eight-minute sample short on DVD to take to Los Angeles to show potential backers. Producers at the U.S. film company Evolution were impressed by what they saw. They liked Wan's directorial style and Whannell's acting, and agreed to keep them on, rather than replacing them with big name talent.
Evolution then signed Cary Elwes and Danny Glover for the other lead roles in the movie, called Saw (2004). The film premiered at Sundance, then was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival before receiving a wide North American release in October 2004. It was such a big hit at the box office, that several sequels were made.
In the years since Saw, Whannell has acted in a slew of films, including the threequel Saw III (2006), the horror Insidious (2010) and its follow ups Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015).
He also starred alongside Bella Thorne in the horror thriller Keep Watching (2016) and reprised his role in Insidious: The Last Key (2017), which he also directed and wrote.
The next year, he took on a part in the DC Universe's blockbuster Aquaman (2018) with Jason Momoa in the title role. His second film as a director was the horror film Upgrade (2018), starring Logan Marshall-Green. However, it was his third directorial effect, The Invisible Man (2020), starring Elisabeth Moss, that proved to be his biggest hit as a director/screenwriter to date. It debuted at the top of the weekend box office domestically, and earned $55 million in its first week in theaters.
Leigh married Corbett Tuck in 2009 and in March 2013, they welcomed a baby daughter, Sabine Silver, into their lives.
Keep Watching (2016)
Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)
The Pardon (2008)
Death Sentence (2007)
Saw III (2006)
Saw II (2005)
One Perfect Day (2004)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)