By Arun Kumar
Indian-American filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamalan, known for his spooky suspense thrillers, has in a new tell-all book lashed out at Walt Disney Studios, considered his artistic home since his 1999 surprise hit The Sixth Sense.
Penned by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger with Shyamalan's blessing and extensive participation, the 278-page book recounts what led him to part ways with Disney over the script of a new venture, ultimately financed by Warner Bros.
The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale, hits stores July 20, a day before the premiere of the Mahe (Pondicherry)-born writer-director's new movie, Lady in the Water.
At the centre of his dispute with Disney, the $70-million movie is a scary fantasy that stars Paul Giamatti as an apartment building superintendent who rescues a sea nymph he finds in his swimming pool.
Disney production president Nina Jacobson who shepherded his four Disney films, including Unbreakable, Signs and The Village over six years, gets the worst drubbing in the book.
The book recounts how at a disastrous dinner in Philadelphia last year Jacobson delivered a frank critique of the Lady in the Water script. When she told him that she and her boss, studio chairman Dick Cook, didn't "get" the idea, Shyamalan was heartbroken.
Things got only worse when she lambasted his inclusion of a mauling of a film critic in the story line and told Shyamalan that his decision to cast himself as a visionary writer out to change the world bordered on self-serving.
|M Night Shyamalan|
Getting back at Jacobson in the book, Shyamalan says he had felt for some time that he "had witnessed the decay of her creative vision right before his own wide-open eyes. She didn't want iconoclastic directors. She wanted directors who made money."
Disney's executives are not the only ones who are ripped in the book. Miramax Films co-founder Harvey Weinstein is described as "famously tyrannical" and is portrayed as ruthlessly re-cutting Shyamalan's 1998 film Wide Awake.
"There is an elusive balance that all parties strive for between art and commerce," Warner Bros. president Alan Horn, who was Shyamalan's first call after the break-up with Disney, is quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. "With Lady in the Water, we're trying to support a film that has unique artistic expression and at the same time makes money," he said.
Author Bamberger too acknowledges that the book is told from Shyamalan's point of view. "It's not intended to be balanced," Bamberger said of the book, based on a year he spent shadowing Shyamalan. "It's a Night-centric view of how Night works."