You saw him in ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, director Mike Flanagan’s acclaimed Netflix series and now London-born Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays the very nasty Adrian Griffin in Leigh Whannell’s hit Blumhouse horror THE INVISIBLE MAN. Though the actor only appears in a handful of scenes, what he wasn’t allowed to say on the recent press tour was he acted off camera for star Elisabeth Moss so she could have a key dramatic focus and even donned a SFX green screen suit for the title role. No matter, we had a fun conversation talking about all things invisible and beyond.


FRIGHTFEST: Was playing Adrian a strange role because you are in the first few scenes and then the last ones?


OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN: I know! I got to go to sleep for a couple of hours, and then they woke me up and went, right, we're ready for you! A lot of people have asked me why did I want to be a part of a movie where I’m not really seen. It genuinely never occurred to me. I just thought it was such a brilliantly written script. The fact that Leigh took this property, superbly updated it, making it about domestic abuse and gas lighting was just great. I just thought it was such a genius premise that it didn't really matter to me how much I was actually on screen. The interesting thing is that we still had to tackle the important issues no matter how little you see the character.  He's a very prominent menace even though he's invisible.


FF: Why is Adrian so controlling over Cecilia, what’s the psychology behind his obsession?


OJC: It’s because she doesn't really want anything from him. That's why he's so desperate to control her. I saw this interview with a psychologist who is a specialist in narcissists and narcissistic personality disorder. She said something that I thought was fascinating: if you leave a narcissist it hurts them to a point that they need utter revenge because they cannot believe that you would actually do that. It's this rage, this need and desire for revenge that I think kind of spurs him on. It's the fact that he needs to control every single thing. He can't control what he feels so he needs to control everything else.


FF: Did you discuss those salient issues with Elisabeth Moss?


OJC: Of course. We spent three weeks in rehearsals Lizzie, Leigh and I talking about the dynamics and about what the reality of these people would be like and what had previously happened in their relationships. And so even though you don't get to see them much together, it wasn't like a walk in the park, I mean we still felt a certain amount of responsibility to tell the story as honestly as possible, because unfortunately, stalking and domestic abuse are still hugely prevalent in the world. Lizzie had concerns and was very specific that we all needed to be on the same page. We talked about how many times Cecilia would have tried to leave before. Why she stayed with him for over three years. What was it about Adrian that she loved in the first place? Those questions were fundamental to the foundations of the movie and the inherent drama. It is quite extraordinary. I mean it's not just women. It's men as well. But it's strong, really strong, intelligent people. One interview I came across was with this woman who'd come out of a horrific relationship and she stated she was in it for about four years and she left countless times. But every single time she would try to leave he would cry and she would see him as a little boy to mother. He knew exactly what he was doing, what buttons to push. This is what we discussed. It's intelligent people with empathy that are stuck in these awful relationships. It's never stupid people. It was fascinating. I was kind of unaware of how rife a problem it truly is. So it was an enthralling character study even though he's invisible.



FF: Leigh Whannell told me he wanted you specifically for the role of Adrian. Why do you think that was?


OJC: Probably because I’m famous in Australia for the series ‘The Secret River’! Seriously, no idea. That series was an amazing job and we did film THE INVISIBLE MAN there too due to tax breaks. He told me there were a lot of people wanting to play the part and that he was getting loads of audition tapes. But everyone was doing this moustache-twirling villain kind of thing. I had no desire of approaching Adrian that way. I don't think Leigh did either. This man is very intelligent and he's not going to be threatening in any way when he doesn't have to be. He's going to be deceptively charming and self-deprecating. He's going to be all of these things because he's that complex. We were very much on the same page about that. I do think Leigh is really quite an incredible writer, director and what he's doing is special in the genre. What he did with UPGRADE was phenomenal. Sci-fi like that has been done many times before but the way he executed it made the idea so original again. I think he's a really exciting-minded director.


FF: Did you bother watching any prior Invisible Man films before shooting?


OJC: No. I was about 12 when HOLLOW MAN came out but I remember it being like a really big thing. I remember thinking it was incredible, but then I thought the same thing about CRUEL INTENTIONS! I remember telling everyone that was the best movie ever. I think I saw the original 1933 THE INVISIBLE MAN as a kid on television, but I didn’t watch it again probably because I'm scared that it actually won't be nearly as good as I remember.


FF: Spoiler-free question: How many takes did you need to do with the knife?


OJC: We got it on the second take. I think the first one was too hard, it was a rubber knife and it just bent. But the second take worked and looked fantastic.


FF: What was working with Elisabeth like?


OJC: She's a terrifyingly good actor. It's so nice to work with actors that are just present as you and are immediately connected to with whatever you’re doing. She is there for you and she's not acting on her own, which happens a lot nowadays let me tell you. You know, actors acting in their own space and then it's all cut together. It's just so nice. She's a proper actor, you know, and I do genuinely think that she is our generation’s Meryl Streep.


FF: You’ve just wrapped ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, the much-anticipated follow-up to Mike Flanagan’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ based on Henry James’ classic ghost story ‘The Turn of the Screw’. But you do know Leigh is next considering the reboot of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK? How do you fancy playing Snake Plissken?


OJC: I call him every damn night about it! Leigh, Leigh hey, it's me again. I don't know what he's going to do next, but I'll be there if he wants me. I would work with him again in a heartbeat. He's a very emotionally intelligent writer and director. And he's also a really good man.


Alan Jones.


THE INVISIBLE MAN is in UK cinemas from Friday 28th February 2020.


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