Imagine if you had a cutting-edge, weaponized A.I. in your brain that could control your body. It’s kind of scary! But in the new sci-fi thriller Upgrade from director Leigh Whannell, a cutting-edge A.I. helps carry out violent revenge for Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a disabled mechanic whose wife was killed in front of him. In an Inverse-exclusive clip, Whannell and Green explain how the uniquely “robotic” fight scenes were achieved on camera.
In Upgrade, hitting theaters on June 1, Grey becomes a quadriplegic when hired hitmen severely injure him and murder his wife, Ashe (Melanie Vallejo). With the help of an artificial intelligence named Stem (voiced by Simon Maiden), Grey regains use of his limbs with the added bonus of superhuman strength and agility. But when things get dicey, Stem takes total control over Grey’s body, and Grey “fights” his assailants with extremely calculated, and lethal, intent.
In researching for his role, Marshall-Green reveals that he met with a real-life quadriplegic. “I needed to understand where he’s coming from,” Marshall-Green explained. “I noticed quickly his hands were an incredible part of telling his physical story. So that became a vital part of telling [mine].”
When it came to shooting the fight scenes, Marshall-Green worked with a movement coach from Cirque du Soleil to create a rigid posture. Training took place a month prior to shooting, and there were no stunt doubles. “We worked these fights and worked them hard,” Marshall-Green said.
The effect created in the film is Marshall-Green acting like his body is programmed but his head is loose, as Grey surrenders control of his own body to Stem. It’s a combination of improv and rigorous training that gives Upgrade an edge over the competition.
Upgrade hits theaters on June 1.