Whannell was born in Melbourne, Australia, and believes that he inherited his love of storytelling from his mother and his fondness of filmmaking from his father (Whannell’s father was a cameraman in the television industry). A writer since childhood, Whannell worked as a reporter and film critic for several Australian television shows, including ABC’s Recovery, a Saturday morning youth-oriented program. Whannell has described the show in a 2011 blog post:
The result was that instead of following the usual MTV ideal of what teenagers want in a TV show—“Hey kids, coming up next we’ve got some seriously WICKED windsurfing moves!!”—Recovery managed to tap into the so-called “alternative” movement that was in full swing at the time by giving teenagers what they actually want: genuine, unpolished anarchy.
Whannell had originally auditioned for the host role, but was later employed as a reporter; Whannell’s first interview was with Jackie Chan and he has stated that “Recovery is the best job I’ve ever had …”
In 2003, Whannell appeared in a minor role in The Matrix Reloaded. While in film school, Whannell 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 another young horror filmmaker, 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. 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 infamous 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, Jigsaw/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 wrote the script for and acted in the 2011 paranormal thriller film, Insidious, which was directed by Wan and produced by Oren Peli of the Paranormal Activity franchise. A sequel, Insidious, Chapter 2 is due out in late 2013.
In relation to the Saw franchise, Whannell stated, also in 2011: It’s hard to say definitively, because we don’t own the copyright for it. The producers could make 10 more if they wanted to. But, if we’re to take them at face value, they told us that they were definitely done with it. They’re pretty exhausted. They’ve been making one a year every year for the past seven years, so I think they need some time off.
Darren Lynn Bousman (born January 11, 1979) is an American film director and screenwriter. Bousman was born in Overland Park, Kansas, the son of Nancy and Lynn Bousman. He attended high school at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, and studied film at in Winter Park, Florida.
During 2004, he was pitching an idea for a movie called The Desperate to various American studios, who complained that the screenplay was too violent, and the plot was too close to Saw. David A. Armstrong who worked on Saw asked Bousman if he could show the script to Saw producer Gregg Hoffman, who read the script and called Bousman interested in producing “The Desperate”, but after showing the script to his partners Mark Burg and Oren Koules, the two decided it would be the perfect opportunity to turn “The Desperate” into Saw II. Two months later, Bousman was flown to Toronto to direct Saw II.
During the production of Saw II, Bousman directed the music video for Mudvayne’s single “Forget to Remember”, which appeared as the lead song on the Saw II soundtrack album. Saw II was a huge hit and Bousman was signed on to direct Saw III, which was released on October 27, 2006.
After Saw III, Bousman announced that he would never direct another Saw film so that he would be free to prepare for his project Repo! the Genetic Opera, the stage version of which he had directed in 2002. Despite this, on February 19, 2007, Leigh Whannell announced that Bousman had signed on to direct Saw IV, as before shooting could begin on Repo!, there was a gap of time during which the songs were being pre-recorded, and he would be able to direct Saw IV during that period. He also directed an episode of the horror anthology show Fear Itself, entitled “New Year’s Day”, in 2008.
Bousman taught Film director newcomers in the Horror Film Boot Camp, May 7, to May 9, 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bousman directed Mother’s Day (2010) starring Rebecca De Mornay, Shawn Ashmore and Jaime King; a remake of the old 1980 Troma slasher.
In 2011, Bousman directed the awful film 11-11-11, about an author who, after the death of his wife and child, travels to Barcelona to see his estranged brother and dying father, where he learns that his life is plagued by events that occur on 11/11/11.
In 2012, Bousman reunited with Repo! writer Terrance Zdunich along with several cast members to direct The Devil’s Carnival, an interesting short film that is planned to be the first installment of a longer series. In 2012, he also directed The Barrens, a horror film about a man who takes his family on a camping trip and becomes convinced they are being stalked by the legendary monster of the New Jersey Pine Barrens: the Jersey Devil. Notable only for starring Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame.
He is currently directing the psychological thriller Ninety which follows the wrongfully accused Vernie James, who having escaped prison is thirsty for revenge. The only thing that can balance the scales for this psychopath: a rampant, cross country killing spree, all while ebbing chased by Detective Bill Denton, the cop that put Vernie James away. Bousman is better than his last few movies, he needs something fresh to show what he’s capable of; various websites have him attached to direct remakes of David Cronenberg’s The Brood and Scanners.
Shawnee Smith (born July 3, 1970) is an American film and television actress and singer. Smith is best known for her roles as Meg Penny in The Blob (1988), Amanda Young in the Saw films and Linda in the CBS sitcom Becker. Smith once fronted the metal band Fydolla Ho, with which she toured the United States and the United Kingdom, and is half of Smith & Pyle, a desert country-rock band, with actress Missi Pyle. She also featured in an awesome MAXIM photoshoot.
Shawnee Smith was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, however, the family relocated from South Carolina to Van Nuys, California, when she was one year old. She attended North Hollywood High School where she graduated from in 1987.
Smith began acting as a child appearing on stage in A Christmas Carol repertory from ages 8 to 11 and starred in a stage play with Richard Dreyfuss at age 15. She joined the Screen Actors Guild at age nine and made her feature film debut in John Huston’s musical Annie, as one of the orphans. In 1985, Smith co-starred in two troubled-teen melodramas, Not My Kind and Crime of Innocence. In 1987, Smith co-starred in the hit comedy film Summer School as pregnant student Rhonda Altobello. The following year, she starred with Kevin Dillon in a 1988 remake of the Steve McQueen b-movie classic The Blob as Meg Penny.
Smith had roles in Who’s Harry Crumb (1989), Michael Cimino’s The Desperate Hours (1990) before taking a three-year break from acting in the early 1990s because she had outgrown teenage roles and had a hard time finding work. During that time she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and competed in a triathlon. When she was about to start attending classes she landed a small role in Leaving Las Vegas (1995), and has had steady work ever since in the likes of Dogtown (1997), Armageddon and Carnival of Souls (both 1998) .
Smith’s best-known television role was Linda, an air-headed nurse’s aide, in the CBS hit comedy series Becker with Ted Danson. She served as a regular cast member in all 129 episodes from 1998–2004. She also featured in the 1994 miniseries The Stand, based on the novel by Stephen King. She also appeared as a waitress in The Shining miniseries, which King adapted from his own novel.
Smith has become well known in recent years for her role as Amanda Young in the Saw films. Due mainly to that role she has been acknowledged as the pre-eminent ‘Scream Queen’ of the last decade. She was the main star of Saw II (2005), and Saw III (2006), and although she is briefly shown in Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008), and Saw 3D (2010), she was never on set. Any scenes featuring her were dubbed from file footage. She filmed brand new flashback sequences for Saw VI (2009).
Smith has repeatedly admitted that she hates being scared and has a hard time watching the Saw films, or any horror movie. She originally turned the role of Amanda Young down because it was very upsetting to her. After turning the role down, she was shown the eight-minute short film by Leigh Whannell and James Wan and changed her mind after the role was offered to her a second time. Smith in the jaw trap became the image on the film poster. She also revealed at SawMania 2008 that her name was initially brought up for the role of Amanda because Saw director James Wan was a big fan of her films in the 1980s and had a longtime crush on her. Director Darren Bousman and Leigh Whannell have also talked about their crushes on Smith in the Saw DVD commentaries.
In 2006, Smith made an appearance in the ten-minute short film trailer Repo! The Genetic Opera by director Darren Lynn Bousmann. Smith’s character was Heather Sweet, the surgery addicted daughter of GeneCo president Rotti Largo. The trailer was filmed after completing Saw III to try to pitch the idea to film producers. Smith did not reprise her role as Heather Sweet when Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures picked up the film in 2007 and was replaced by Paris Hilton!
In 2008, Smith played Detective Gina Harcourt in the FEARnet original series 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust. The series premiered on July 17, 2008 on FEARnet.com in six 4–6 minute webisodes along with behind the scenes clips. This series is a continuation of the first webisode series 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails. It is still available on FEARnet.com and can also be seen in its entirety (about 30 minutes straight through) on FEARnet On Demand. She also made her producing debut with this series.
Smith was the host and one of three mentors on the VH1 reality program Scream Queens which aired from October 20, 2008 to December 8, 2008. Smith did not return as host and mentor for Season 2 due to scheduling conflicts, she was replaced by Jaimie King.
In 2009, Smith played the role of Dr. Ann Sullivan, a child psychiatrist, the third installment of The Grudge series, The Grudge 3. The film was a direct to DVD release in May 2009. She was last seen in the Billy Bob Thornton directed Jayne Mansfield’s Car.