How 'Upgrade' Became Blumhouse's First Sci-Fi Film

Star Logan Marshall-Green spoke to The Hollywood Reporter at the film's premiere about how he learned the brutally efficient fighting style created by writer-director Leigh Whannell, making his directorial debut after writing the 'Insidious' movies.
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
From left: Jason Blum, James Wan, Leigh Whannell and Logan Marshall-Green

Upgrade, a high-tempo action thriller set in the near future, represents the first science-fiction feature from prolific horror producer Blumhouse.

The film premiered Wednesday night at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre, where producer Jason Blum told The Hollywood Reporter why he wanted Leigh Whannell to direct the far-out script, which Whannell also penned

“What excited me the most about this movie was actually Leigh directing an original that he wrote," Blum said. "I also love the movie. I think he was ahead of his time because he wrote about [artificial intelligence] at a time when no one was really talking about it. He wrote the script three or four years ago.”

Whannell, who has written several scripts for Blumhouse, including the Insidious series, spoke to THR about why he loves the production company's fast-paced approach to movie-making.

“I’m kind of addicted to their process, which is that they don’t talk about making movies, they just make movies," he said. "You don’t develop things for two years, you just go out and shoot it. Which can be good and bad. Like sometimes when you’re making a Blumhouse movie it feels like a runaway train ... but I kind of love that feeling.”

The film stars Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace, a quadriplegic who regains his ability to walk after having a high-tech computer chip, named Stem, installed in his neck. Stem gives him the ability to move — and eventually fight in ways Trace could never have imagined.

Whannell wanted to create an entirely new fighting style to represent the brutal efficiency of how a computer would fight. resulting in an arduous educational process for Marshall-Green.

“It was very demanding and that is why we started very early, months out. Leigh and I worked to define the movement. We didn’t want staccato; we didn’t want robotic; we wanted efficient. ... It’s just calculated efficiency," the actor said. "It’s the path of least resistance because that’s what a computer would use. ...There’s no martial arts to it. None of that was planted in. It was all just new movement. We knew that we wanted to do something new.”

The film elicited several laughs and more than a few “oohs” for some of its more graphic violent moments, but by the time the credits finally rolled, the audience was buzzing from the adrenaline rush of watching the high-octane action thriller.

After the premiere, cast and crew flooded the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt, where Blum held court, and guests drank champagne and chowed down on beef sliders and shrimp cocktails while sharing their favorite moments from the film.