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It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror anymore.
~ Sebastian Caine
Sebastian Caine is the protagonist villain of the 2000 film Hollow Man. A brilliant but narcissistic scientist, Caine has been tasked with finding a means of conferring invisibility on living beings and eventually returning them to visibility. Though initial tests are successful with animal subjects, Caine's hunger for fame and power leads him to test the invisibility serum on himself; this newfound power allows him the freedom to indulge his criminal fantasies, eventually drawing him steadily closer to insanity as his tolerance for violence grows.
Sebastian Caine has been tasked by the Pentagon with the job of formulating and testing a serum that will allow a living being to become invisible, with the eventual intention of harnessing it for the US Military. Together with a team consisting of Dr. Linda McKay, Dr. Matt Kensington, Sarah Kennedy, Carter Abbey, Frank Chase and Janice Walton, Caine has been working in a high-security research base hidden deep underground, and begins experimenting on a wide variety of animals - most prominently gorillas. However, though the brilliant project leader is able to create a working invisibility serum, it's quickly discovered that the serum is not without its pitfalls, as many of the test subjects become unnaturally aggressive as a result of their condition, forcing team members to don infrared goggles and fit the corridors with thermal imaging cameras in order to assist in recapturing escape-prone animals. Worse still, returning the test subjects to visibility is a much more dangerous process: by the start of the film, at least one test gorilla has been fatally liquefied as a result of a botched reversion.
You don't make history by following the rules; you make it by seizing the moment.
~ Caine, justifying his lie to the Pentagon.
The film begins with Caine running another serum test in his apartment, clearly not expecting any positive feedback. However, in between spying on a female neighbor and grouching over his breakup with Linda McKay (who is now in a relationship with Matt Kensington, unknown to Caine), he manages to develop a working reversion serum. The following morning, the team tests the new batch on their current invisible gorilla, and though the process almost results in her flatlining over the course of her exertions, the test subject is successfully returned to visibility. However, Caine feels curiously disappointed by his victory, believing that this is the last big breakthrough before the experiment is finally taken out of his hands.
When the time comes to report his progress to the Pentagon, Caine inexplicably lies to the oversight committee and his mentor Dr. Howard Kramer, claiming that he has not yet cracked the reversion process, and instead pleads for more time. The disappointed committee reluctantly permit him an extension - but not before warning him that their patience is not unlimited and Caine himself is not indispensable. On the way out of the building, Linda and Matt naturally confront Caine, who insists that this is the only way to keep the higher-ups from seizing control of the program and putting another team in charge for the next phase; determined to claim all the glory of the experiment's success for himself, he talks the two of them into proceeding to human trials without oversight from the Pentagon - the chosen test subject being Caine himself. Though the rest of the team are a little suspicious at this development and reluctant to proceed in the new direction outlined for them, Linda reluctantly convinces them to agree, deciding to keep their project leader's recklessness a secret for the time being.
Over the course of an extremely painful transformation process, Caine is made invisible - though he almost immediately passes out from shock. After getting used to the fact that his eyelids are translucent and the laboratory lights have to be lowered accordingly, he soon gets into the habit of abusing his powers for his own amusement, either spying on his fellow team-members or playing childish pranks on them; this quickly comes to a head when he goes so far as to inappropriately fondle Sarah in her sleep, and only stops when Sarah unexpectedly wakes up.
After three days of tests and protracted immaturity, the time comes for Caine to return to visibility: unfortunately, the reversion serum fails, nearly killing him. For the time being, he is left invisible while he and the rest of the team struggle to find an alternate means of restoring him to normality; in order to make him easier to interact with, they also provide him with gloves and a home-made latex mask for him to wear around the lab, granting him hands and a visible but disturbing-looking face at long last.
Descent Into Madness
...But then, who's going to know?
~ Caine, talking himself into raping his neighbor.
After another week of extensive testing, the project leader is beginning to crack under the strain: ten straight days of cabin fever, nausea-inducing radiation tests and the practical failure of his own reversion serum have left Caine almost explosive with rage, and the fact that he can't sleep easily due to the transparency of his eyelids only worsens his mood. As a result, his relationship with the rest of the team further deteriorates, and he often resorts to taking out his frustrations on the furniture.
One night, unable to stand another minute underground, Caine leaves the facility in direct contravention of laboratory protocols and returns to his apartment, pausing only to frighten a carload of small children along the way. Once there, he quickly returns to his old habit of spying on his neighbor as she undresses - but this time realizes that he has the power and the freedom to take his voyeurism to the next step. Stripping naked, he sneaks into the neighbor's apartment and rapes her, trusting that his invisibility will make any testimony on her part irrelevant.
Though Caine eventually returns to the lab of his own free will before the rest of the team are forced to hunt him down with tranquilizer guns and thermal imaging goggles, Linda warns him that she'll have no choice but to reveal everything to Dr. Kramer if he tries to leave again. Over the course of the days that follow, Caine appears to be on his best behavior, showing no signs that his confinement bothers him other than sarcasm. However, when Carter mentions the fun he would have in committing pranks as an invisible man, he is able to use the opportunity to express his feelings concerning the rape of his neighbor, claiming to have merely pranked her - and admits that he liked how it felt, proving himself utterly unrepentant for his crime. Eventually Matt concocts a promising means of returning Caine to visibility, but the computer simulation of the cure predicts a lethal failure, resulting in an explosive temper-tantrum from the increasingly-demented project leader. When Linda attempts to reign him in, he grows even more aggressive and comes dangerously close to assaulting her in his frustrations over not being able to exercise his "gift." In private, he also expresses a growing obsession with discovering the identity of Linda's new boyfriend.
One night, unable to sleep and unable to put aside thoughts of Linda enjoying a life without him, Caine sabotages the thermal camera in his cell by fitting it with a device that replaces the current video feed with a looped recording of himself asleep. Once this is in place, he is free to sneak out of the compound and proceed on foot to Linda's apartment, where he observes her having sex with Matt. In a rage, the invisible man smashes their bedroom window, and though the two lovers almost immediately suspect Caine as the culprit, the looped video feed immediately diverts any suspicion from him. Meanwhile, Caine returns to the lab and throws another temper tantrum over the betrayal he believes this incident represents, eventually losing all composure at the sound of a barking invisible dog and killing the animal by brutally smashing it against the cage wall.
Eventually, the team soon discover that the security feed has been a recording, and that Caine has been leaving the facility on an almost nightly basis. Realizing that the experiment has officially spiraled out of control, Linda and Matt go to Dr. Kramer's house and confess their deception and illegal experiments; an immensely disappointed Kramer fires them, and attempts to warn the rest of the committee - and from there, their superiors at the Pentagon, presumably. Unfortunately, Caine has followed the two scientists to the committee head's home, and as soon as they leave the area, he cuts off Kramer's phone connection and drowns him in his own swimming pool.
With the only non-team member aware of Caine's status dead before he could alert the Pentagon, the invisible scientist then engineers a plan to ensure that the rest of the team suffer a similar fate, guaranteeing a clean escape from government scrutiny. The next day, Caine waits until all the team members have assembled in the lab, then disables the phones and overrides the team's elevator codes - except for his own. With the team effectively trapped in the facility, he once again strips naked and begins to hunting them down: Janice ends up becoming his first victim after falling behind to retrieve her goggles, being strangled with an IV line and dumped in a locker.
Upon discovering Janice's corpse and the alterations made the the lab's security systems, the surviving members quickly realize Caine's intentions, and attempt to counter as best as they can: while Linda, Sarah, and Frank hide in the lab, Matt and Carter take tranquilizer guns to hunt down Sebastian using their thermal imaging goggles. Unfortunately, the most prominent heat signature turns out to be from a steam vent, and the distraction is enough for Caine to ambush the two of them: having concealed himself on one of the overhead pipes, he grabs Carter by the neck and throws him down so violently he ruptures Carter's carotid artery. Though Matt arms himself with a fire extinguisher and tries to make Caine visible enough to attack, he merely toys with him until the extinguisher is empty, and almost kills Matt before Linda is able to open one of the security doors for him.
Splitting up in an ill-advised attempt to rescue Carter, Sarah leaves Frank to stand guard over the mortally wounded Carter while she retrieves blood for an emergency transfusion. Unfortunately, this just leaves her cornered in the medical bay when Caine arrives on the scene: in a panicked frenzy, she tries to prevent herself from being attacked by covering the ground with as much blood as she can spare - hoping that Caine's footsteps through the puddle will reveal him. However, he proves too quick to be caught by this method, and attacks Sarah as soon as she believes herself alone in the room; though she is able to make him temporarily visible by throwing a bag of blood in his face, Caine overpowers her and shoots the veterinarian in the chest with her own dart gun, before snapping her neck.
Nearby, Carter bleeds to death, forcing Linda, Matt and Frank to look for Sarah, once again using fire extinguishers in an attempt to reveal Caine: however, their target is able to lure them into the walk-in freezer with Sarah's body and then ambush them, fatally impaling Frank with a crowbar and badly wounding Matt with the hook-end, before sealing the two survivors in the freezer.
One last kiss, for old times' sake.
~ Sebastian Caine's last words to Linda before Linda detaches the elevator cable from the elevator and Sebastian falls to his death in the inferno below.
Now intent on leaving the building in style, Caine washed up and gets dressed, augmenting his mask with makeup and wig to make himself look more human; then, in order to destroy any evidence of the experiment or his survival, he mixes up a batch of nitroglycerin and places it in the laboratory centrifuge on a timer, guaranteeing a massive explosion when the timer finally stops. For good measure, he also smashes the keyboard so the centrifuge is practically unstoppable.
While he's preparing for his escape, however, Linda is able to use a defibrilator to improvise an electromagnet powerful enough to open the freezer door from the inside: after hastily tapes Matt's wounds shut and providng him with enough warmth to recover from the hypothermia, she hurriedly jerry-rigs a flamethrower, then goes looking for Caine.
She soon finds him entering the elevator, intent on leaving well in advance of the detonation: before he can leave, Linda fries him with the flamethrower, destroying both his clothes and his mask and burning a good deal of his upper body in the process. However, his invisibility adapts quickly to the burns, and he vanishes from sight as soon as he's able to extinguish himself; Linda is able to trigger the sprinklers, partially revealing him again, but Caine is able to overpower her before she can finish him off.
Just when it appears Caine has the upper hand, Matt appears and knocks him out with the crowbar. Recovering swiftly, the invisible man attacks the fleeing scientists with the crowbar, only for Matt to deflect the blow, throwing their attacker into a nearby circuit box. Accidentally penetrating the box with the crowbar, the soaking-wet Caine is immediately electrocuted, and though he is thrown clear before the voltage can kill him, the shock is enough to destabilize his invisibility - rendering his muscles, bones and internal organs visible, but leaving his skin and hair invisible.
Returning to the lab, Linda and Matt find the nitroglycerin bomb about to explode and quickly evacuate the lab; however, since their codes don't work on the elevator anymore, they're forced to climb up the elevator shaft via the emergency ladder. They are barely able to reach a safe distance before the bomb detonates, reducing the laboratory to blazing wreckage and flinging the elevator car into the air - where it's immediately jammed in the shaft just below them.
Against all odds, Caine is somehow able to regain consciousness and reach the elevator shaft before the bomb explodes, for just when Linda and Matt are on the verge of escaping, Caine reappears, dragging Linda off the ladder and onto the precariously-balanced elevator car. He is able to kiss Linda one last time "for old time's sake" before attempting to kill her, but while the semi-invisible man is distracted, she grabs the elevator cable and knocks the car loose, sending Caine plummeting to his death in the inferno below.
Even before achieving invisibility, Sebastian Caine was barely tolerable: arrogant, egotistical, self-righteous, condescending, and astonishingly vain, he constantly looked down on his coworkers and treated them with a mixture of smug superiority and barely-restrained irritation. Throughout the early chapters of the film, he regaled his exasperated team-members with pompous lectures, half-joking proclamations of omnipotence, and deeply inappropriate sexual jokes; also, he went out of his way to pointedly and deliberately aggravate veterinarian Sarah Kennedy by scheduling their newly-visible gorilla for dissection. However, to the continued annoyance of the team, he compensated for his unbearable personality by virtue of his abilities: as infuriating as his attitude was, their project leader was indeed a genius - a fact he made known as often as possible. When bored, Caine liked to amuse himself by spying on his neighbor while she undressed, expressing frustration when she finally remembered to close the blinds; likewise, he took great delight in trying to find some traction in his ex-girlfriend's private life, his bloated ego unable to tolerate the prospect of someone enjoying a happy relationship with someone other than him.
As an invisible man, it wasn't long before Caine's personality went from unpleasantly narcissistic to downright monstrous: with the freedom to make his twisted fantasies a reality, he began committing obnoxious pranks on his coworkers almost immediately after recovering, several of which crossed the line from bad taste to outright criminal behavior; on his very first day of invisibility, he stopped just short of raping Sarah - only backing off at the last minute when it looked as though Sarah might wake up. As cabin fever set in, his attitude grew more and more violent as well, leading to furniture-throwing temper tantrums and the murder of at least one test-subject: however, it wasn't until Caine left the facility for his apartment that he took the final step into psychopathy, raping his neighbor without a shred of remorse.
~ Sebastian's first lines, after failing a molecule test
Did you ever hear the one about Superman and Wonder Woman? No, come on! This is a good one. Superman's flying around Metropolis and he's horny as hell. He's checking out the rooftops and all of a sudden he sees Wonder Woman sunning herself on the roof of the Justice League. I mean she is lying there buck naked and spread eagled - looks like she wants to get fucked right? So Superman starts thinking to himself, "Man I gotta get myself some of that wonderpussy," and then he realizes that he can fly down, do a little fast pumping and be gone before she even sees him. Because he's Superman. he's faster than a speeding bullet, right? So Superman, he swoops down, he fucks her so quick, she doesn't even see him. Wonder Woman sits up and says, "What the f**k was that?"
...and the Invisible Man says "I don't know but my asshole is killing me." That's funny right? C'mon, guys. That's funny.''
~ Sebastian cracking jokes just before testing the serum on himself
Ladies, please. This is science.
~ Sebastian as he is about to test the invisibility serum on himself.
Yeah! If I die, pretend the last words I said were real deep and clever.
~ Sebastian before he uses the invisibility serum on himself.
~ Sebastian before killing Dr. Howard Kramer by drowning him.
Sebastian working on his invisibility serum
Sebastian lying to the oversight committee about his findings
Sebastian after testing his own serum on himself
Sebastian wearing a latex mask
Sebastian using his invisibility to scare two children
Sebastian drowning Dr. Howard Kramer in his swimming pool
Sebastian, covered in blood, attacking his work colleagues
Sebastian donning a disguise and intending to escape
Sebastian being burnt alive by his former love interest, Linda McKay
Sebastian being electrocuted
Sebastian in muscle form
Sebastian being dropped down an elevator shaft by Linda
Sebastian falls to his death into a fiery explosion
Besides the full body suits in different colors for visual effects scenes, Kevin Bacon also had to wear full-eye contact lenses the same color as the suits for most scenes.
Guy Pearce and Edward Norton were considered for the role of Sebastian. Kevin Bacon was chosen for his "ability to be both charming and diabolical".
During filming, Kevin Bacon wore skin-tight costumes in green, blue, grey, or black, to assist with the adding of visual effects. Some of his cast mates said that the hardest part of the role was not laughing at someone painted in black, green, blue, or grey, pretending to be mean.
When Linda and Sebastian are talking out on the balcony, Sebastian asks Linda "You ever thought of turning the clock back and trying again?" Linda replies "I'd say that kind of time travel doesn't exist." This could be an homage to Shue's role in Back to the Future Part II (1989), and Back to the Future Part III (1990).
Paul Verhoeven was investigated by the ASPCA because of the scene in which Sebastian kills the dog. Verhoeven showed them the raw footage, which showed Kevin Bacon handing the real dog to a vet, and taking a dummy from a crew member.
A scene depicting the invisible Sebastian brutally raping his neighbor, then climbing off her as she wept, was deleted, because test audiences, still identifying with Sebastian, seemed to feel it was too early in the movie for him to have descended to that level of evil. Other deleted scenes included Sarah discussing with Linda and Matt the possibility that Sebastian had fondled her, Sarah confronting Sebastian about the death of the dog, and Linda being stalked by Sebastian. The latter two scenes contain footage that was used in the promotional trailers.