M. Night Shyamalan Shouldn’t Need to Defend Himself

Photo: 20th Century Fox via The New York Times

I think I have said this before, but on my flight home last year from the San Diego Comic Con I ended up sitting next to a Hollywood writer/director that all of you would recognize as soon as I said his name. We got to talking and seeing how it was right around the time Lady in the Water had been released and I seemed to be the only one that enjoyed it I asked him if he had seen it. He replied, “I wouldn’t watch a movie from that arrogant prick!”

Now you can see why I don’t give you his name, because while he seems to have no problem condemning someone for having confidence in their work I am sure he wouldn’t want me throwing his name out there attached to his condemnation. Especially since this guy hasn’t made anything worth talking about since 2004.

I bring this up as a new article over at the “New York Times” by Allison Hope Weiner talks about M. Night Shyamalan‘s return to the big screen following the box-office failure that was Lady in the Water and the downward slope in box-office his films seem to have taken since The Sixth Sense in 1999. More than focusing on box-office numbers, the article focuses on Night’s image in Hollywood. The piece opens saying, “M. Night Shyamalan says he knows exactly when his relationship with Hollywood started to sour.”

In 2000, he was on a conference call with executives from Walt Disney Studios discussing Unbreakable, the follow-up to his phenomenally successful movie The Sixth Sense. “He wanted to market Unbreakable as a comic-book movie — the tale of an unlikely superhero — but Disney executives insisted on portraying it as a spooky thriller, like The Sixth Sense. ”

“I remember the moment that it happened, exactly where I was sitting at the table, the speakerphone,” he recalled in an interview from his office in a converted farmhouse near Philadelphia. “That moment may have been the biggest mistake that I have to undo over 10 years so the little old lady doesn’t go, ‘Oh, he’s the guy who makes the scary movies with a twist.'”

His relationship with Disney was then front and center when he criticized a meeting with Disney studio executives, Nina Jacobson, Dick Cook and Oren Aviv, in a book by Michael Bamberger, “The Man Who Heard Voices.”

In the book, which received a huge amount of press, Mr. Shyamalan accused Ms. Jacobson of not giving his Lady in the Water script “a truthful reading” and said that he thought that it had been rejected because Disney “no longer valued individualism.”

Following that people began criticizing Night from every angle. Lady in the Water didn’t stand a chance even if people had liked it they wouldn’t admit it (I did though). They used comments he made back in 1999, comparing himself to Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock, against him. Suffice to say, he couldn’t win. It was negativity at an extreme level and the quote I gave you at the opening of this article goes to show it wasn’t only for the press.

The final comment at the end of the “Times” piece makes me picture Night with a bewildered look on his face saying, “You’d want me to take the money? You’d want me to whore out. That’s what they wanted me to do,” he said. “You know how hard it is not to do the conservative thing out there?”

So, here we have a filmmaker that has confidence in himself and refuses to bend and twist it in order to conform to the Hollywood norm. What does Hollywood do? They hate him for it.

I don’t see Night as an arrogant man. I see him as a confident man and I wouldn’t want a film director to be any other way. Imagine a director working from his own script and he runs around unsure of himself at every turn. A man that takes the advice from producers and studio heads as if it is free candy. Sorry, that is not a film I want to see, and luckily Night refused to fall into that mold and I applaud him for it.

In The Happening a strange occurrence has people inexplicably killing themselves
Photo: 20th Century Fox

With The Happening, which comes out on June 13, we get Night’s first R-rated film and you better believe Fox is taking advantage of that fact. While it appears the majority of the action is too brutal to point in a green band trailer the studio has resorted to using a voice over on the trailers saying, “In his first R-rated effort,” or something to that effect. As much as I loathe Fox it is rather ironic that Night’s “comeback” film would land in their laps.

Leading up to the release I plan on doing short articles about all of Night’s previous films beginning with The Sixth Sense up to Lady in the Water. Yeah, I own all of them and even have Signs and Unbreakable on Blu-ray and regret not having the others in high definition yet.

Night is a man I respect and I have been able to find something I love about each and every one of his films even if I wasn’t enamored with the final product. I will share that later, but if you have the time be sure to read the article at the “New York Times” it’s worth a moment of your time. Here’s the link.

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Tuesday: Mar. 31, 2020


Weekend: Apr. 2, 2020, Apr. 5, 2020

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