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M. Night Shyamalan on how he engineered his own comeback

For a number of years, M. Night Shyamalan was king of the thrillers, touted by some as the next Steven Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock, but after a string of critically panned misfires, many assumed that the filmmaker who gave us THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS was gone. Rolling Stone released a fantastic profile on M. Night Shyamalan today in which the director spoke about how he brought himself back from the brink after believing that his career was over.

When THE LAST AIRBENDER and AFTER EARTH received the most scathing reviews of his career, M. Night Shyamalan began to feel like he was "starting to lose my voice a bit," adding "I'm not really the best person to work in the system." During a commencement speech at Drexel University earlier this year, Shyamalan reflected on that time, saying, "I find myself questioning myself, and every thought that comes out of my head. The world of my industry decides I have no worth. I am a cautionary tale. A person who got lucky for a time but revealed himself to be a sham. . . . I do not believe in myself." Deciding to get back into making the films he wanted to make, Shyamalan took out a $5 million loan against his estate in order to finance THE VISIT, a found-footage horror film which followed a brother and sister as they visited their grandparents for the first time. After showing a rough cut of the film is just about every Hollywood studio in town, Shyamalan was devastated when they all passed on the project. Fearing that this could be the end and with little to lose, the director recut THE VISIT and brought the film back to Universal where Jason Blum signed on as a producer. THE VISIT became quite the success, grossing $98 million, but his next project would soar to even greater heights and signal to many that Shyamalan had indeed returned to form.

With SPLIT, a psychological horror film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities, M. Night Shyamalan again funded his own movie, spending $9 million. The gamble paid off big time as the SPLIT wound up grossing  $278.5 million worldwide, but it was the final scene that featured the return of UNBREAKABLE's David Dunn (Bruce Willis) which had audiences talking. Back in 2000, Shyamalan had wanted to market UNBREAKABLE as a comic-book movie, but was told that superhero movies only had "niche appeal."

[Shyamalan] wanted to market the follow-up, Unbreakable, as the comic-book movie it actually was, only to be told that superhero movies had only niche appeal — instead, it was pushed as another spooky thriller. “ ‘This is just a bunch of people that go to that convention,’ ” he recalls being told — by execs at Disney, of all places, still years away from buying Marvel, “ ‘and you’re going to alienate everyone in this room if you use those words.’ 

How times have changed. With SPLIT linking back to UNBREAKABLE in a time where comic-book movies frequently break box-office records, the stage was set to come full circle with GLASS. M. Night Shyamalan again funded the film himself with earnings from THE VISIT and SPLIT in addition to collateral from his property. "How stupid am I?" he joked. "I’m going to Vegas and keep going, ‘I won that hand. Put it all again.’ Next hand, ‘Put it all again.’ My house right now is completely encumbered by this movie. . . . I’ll be sleeping on your couch, dude, if it doesn’t go well in January." It's hard to imagine the film failing at this point, but on the off chance that it does, Shyamalan knows that he's given it everything he had. "I gave it my all, so the audience, when they come pay their money, they see an artist that gave everything he had, and risked everything," Shyamalan said. "I was like a rookie. All in, angsting and sitting on the set as the sun is coming up. No trailer, freezing to death and wondering, ‘Am I good enough? Can I make this shot work? Will we get the day?’ All those things that bring out the best in you. If it doesn’t work out, I gave it my all."

The official synopsis for GLASS:

M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000’s Unbreakable, from Touchstone Pictures, and 2016’s Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

GLASS will hit theaters on January 18, 2019.

Source: Rolling Stone

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