In the recent past, he has had his fair share of criticism for films like The Happening (2008) and The Last Airbender (2010). But it takes more than that to write off a filmmaker who has made The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002) and The Village (2002), among others.
In this interview, M Night Shyamalan talks about the art of directing children, not having someone to blame as a writer-director, and why Will Smith is a great producer to work with. His upcoming film, After Earth, starring Smith and his son Jaden, releases in India on June 7. He also confirms that the second two films in the, urban horror trilogy, that started with Devil (2010; Shyamalan wrote and produced it) are on their way.
You’ve always written the films you’ve directed. This is the first time (for After Earth) you’ve worked on someone else’s idea and you co-wrote it with Gary Whitta (screenwriter of Book Of Eli; 2010)?
Yeah, that was new for me. I’m very insular as a filmmaker. I write things only for me, and I keep them close to me. It was unexpected and, to be honest, it was gracious of Will to approach me. It’s generous of him to take his idea and ask me if I would be interested in writing and directing it; and obviously entrusting me with his son, Jaden, to direct him.
You seem to work really well with children, so much so that Haley Joel Osment received an Oscar nomination for a supporting role for The Sixth Sense (1999).
I love kids. I’m the guy who walks into a party and runs to play with the little baby. We get along well. Their energy is not something I look down on; I honour it. They are closer to the light than we are. And I am trying to preserve that in my movies and subject matters and in the way I work with kids. When children feel someone is honouring them, they feel connected to that person.
You produced and wrote Devil (2010), calling it the first of an, urban horror trilogy. It did really well. What’s the status on the other two?
The screenplay for the second movie is virtually done. It’s been waiting for me to put it together. I want to shoot it at a time when I can pay attention to it and work with the director, and have a great time. I loved my experience on Devil. The second one, hopefully, is coming. And the third one is in an outline form; so hopefully it’ll come in the next year or two.
As a writer-director, is it tougher to handle criticism, considering you can’t really pass the blame on to anyone?
Yea, I’d love to blame the lame writer, but that’s me (laughs). But I guess I can blame Will this time; that will be great.