The move is part of a fresh strategy for Universal's monsters properties, bringing creative directors with distinctive visions to the classic characters and moving on from the interconnected Dark Universe concept.
Whannell, who is co-producing and also penning the script, has previously worked with Blumhouse Productions on hit films including "Insidious: The Last Key" and "Upgrade." Johnny Depp was previously attached to "The Invisible Man," but sources say he will not appear in this film. He may be featured in another one of the monster movie projects in development, sources say.
Universal has tabled the idea of an interconnected universe and is reassessing how to keep the enduring characters relevant for a new generation. Sources tell Variety that Universal remains committed to creating compelling filmmaker-driven projects based on characters from the studio's vast monsters legacy.
"Throughout cinematic history, Universal's classic monsters have been reinvented through the prism of each new filmmaker who brought these characters to life," said Peter Cramer, Universal's president of production. "We are excited to take a more individualized approach for their return to screen, shepherded by creators who have stories they are passionate to tell with them."
The decision comes after "The Mummy" fell short of expectations at the box office, which led to the studio taking a new look at the strategy for the remaining monster characters including Frankenstein and Dracula.
By not mandating a unified, connected universe of monster stories, the studio will be able to open up the characters to filmmakers who will be inspired to create their own unique stories. Insiders say Universal has met with a number of prominent directors for various properties, and "The Invisible Man" is one of those new films. But hiring Whannell does not necessarily mean this will be the next monster movie to go into production, as other pitches are also coming together revolving around different characters.
Several versions of "The Invisible Man" have gotten the Hollywood treatment, with the most well-known being James Whale's 1933 original adaptation of the H.G. Wells story, starring Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart.
Upcoming titles for Universal's new monster strategy will be rooted in horror, with no restrictions on budget, tone, or rating, and no expectation that they will exist as part of a shared universe. An insider close to the process said freeing up the characters' origins and stories to different interpretations will help them appeal to modern audiences.
The talent previously attached to various monster roles like Depp, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, and Russell Crowe still have the option to appear in the movies after a filmmaker with a new vision is brought on.