Leigh Whannell (born January 17, 1977) is an Australian screenwriter, producer and actor, best known for his work on the Saw and Insidious franchises.

He played Adam Stanheight in Saw and Saw III, David in the short film, was one of the writers of Saw, Saw II and Saw III and one of the executive producers of Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, Saw 3D and Jigsaw.

Early Life

Leigh Whannell was born in Melbourne, Australia. He believes that he inherited his love of storytelling from his mother, and his fondness of filmmaking from his father, who 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 that was hosted by Dylan Lewis. Whannell had originally auditioned for the host role, but was later employed as a reporter. His first interview was with Jackie Chan and he has stated that "Recovery is the best job I've ever had ..." Whannell later appeared in Episode 4 of the first season of the RMITV production What's Goin' On There? on June 10, 1998.

While in film school, Whannell met James Wan, who would eventually go on to direct the horror film Saw 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 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. They wrote a film called Dead Silence, which Wan directed. It was originally 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. Whannell wrote the screenplay for the third time. It was again directed by Bousman and was released on October 27, 2006. Whannell had a featured cameo, reprising his role as Adam from the first film. Saw III grossed $33,610,391 on its opening weekend, making around $129,927,001 worldwide after 38 days in cinemas.

Whannell's writing partner, James Wan, was chosen to direct the film Death Sentence, the first feature film with their participation that they did not write themselves. In the film, Whannell had a small appearance in the role of Spink.

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 ancestor Alexander Pearce's taste for human flesh and become prey.

Whannell wrote the script for and acted in the 2011 paranormal thriller film Insidious, which was directed by Wan and produced by Oren Peli. When being asked about the future of the Saw franchise, which came to a temporary end after the seventh film, Saw 3D, was released in 2010, Whannell stated: "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."

Media reports were published in mid-2013 in regard to Cooties, a film project that Whannell was an executive producer, actor and screenwriter for. The film's plot concerned an extreme virus that infects an isolated elementary school. Whannell made his directing debut on the sequel of Insidious 2, Insidious: Chapter 3, in 2015, which he also wrote.

In 2014, Whannell expressed possible interest in returning to the Saw franchise. However, in a post on his personal blog in November 2013, Whannell described a new chapter beyond his partnership with Wan, as the director had finally reached his goal of making epic-style blockbuster productions. Whannel explained: "Now, he’s off making the films he’s always wanted to make - the big ones. I have no doubt that his name will be added to that special club of film directors that he’s always admired very soon. I’m so happy for him, like a proud father. And that is why it is the end of an era."



Year Film Actor Producer Writer
2003 Saw Yes No Yes
2004 Saw Yes No Yes
2005 Saw II No Executive Yes
2006 Saw III Yes Executive Yes
2007 Dead Silence No No Yes
Saw IV No Executive No
2008 Saw V No Executive No
Doggie Heaven Yes No Yes
2009 Saw: The Video Game No No Yes
Saw VI No Executive No
2010 Insidious Yes No Yes
Saw 3D No Executive No
2013 Insidious: Chapter 2 Yes No Yes
2014 Cooties Yes Executive Yes
The Mule Yes Executive Yes
2015 Insidious: Chapter 3 Yes No Yes
2017 Jigsaw No Executive No
2018 Insidious: The Last Key Yes Yes Yes
Home Shopper Yes Executive No
Upgrade No No Yes
Year Title Role
2000 Stygian Clown / Punk Kid
2003 The Referees Footy Mate
Saw David
The Matrix Reloaded Axel
Razor Eaters Nick D.
2004 Saw Adam Stanheight
One Perfect Day Chris
2006 Saw III Adam Stanheight
2007 Death Sentence Spink
2008 Dying Breed Matt
Doggie Heaven Neil
2009 The Last Supper Philip
2010 Insidious Specs
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Jatt
2012 The Debt Collector Donovan
2013 Crush David
The Pardon Clement Moss
Raze Elevator Guard
Insidious: Chapter 2 Specs
2014 Cooties Doug
The Mule Gavin Alastair Ellis
2015 Insidious: Chapter 3 Specs
Lavalantula Director
2017 The Bye Bye Man Larry
Keep Watching Mysterious Guest
2018 Insidious: The Last Key Specs


Year Title Role
1996 Neighbours Stuart Maughan
1999-2000 Blue Heelers Jared Ryan
2013 Insidious: Spectral Sightings Specs

Video Games

Year Title Role
2003 Enter the Matrix Axel


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