M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan

*M. Night Shyamalan
(46 years old)

6 August 1970
Mahé, Pondicherry, India
5' 11" (1.80 m)

He raised all the funds for this project, in addition to directing, producing and starring in it. Los primeros amigos (1998), his second film, he wrote and directed, and shot it in the Philadelphia-area Catholic school he once attended--even though his family was of a different religion, they sent him to that school because of its strict discipline.

Born in India but raised in the posh suburban Penn Valley area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, M. Night Shyamalan is the son of two doctors. - IMDb Mini Biography By: < mwprods@mindspring.com>

Bhavna Vaswani (1993 - present) (3 children) 

Trade Mark*
Frequently uses Philadelphia as the backdrop in his movies. As seen in the films Los primeros amigos (1998), El sexto sentido (1999), El protegido (2000), Señales (2002) and El bosque (2004).

Having some sort of twist in the end or surprise ending in his films

Frequently uses shots of people's reflections in various objects

Many of his films involve two ordinary individuals with extraordinary abilities or events happening to them. One of the people either has connections to a child or is a child, and the one connected to the child is always having marital difficulties.

Frequently uses fluttering curtains, such as when Bruce Willis discovers the victimized mother in El protegido (2000) and in the last shot of Señales (2002).

Films often use an event from the main character's past as a major connection to what is happening in the present (the Vincent Gray case in El sexto sentido (1999), the car crash in El protegido (2000), the death of the wife in Señales (2002))

Makes cameo appearances in his own movies, like Alfred Hitchcock, one of his favorite directors.

Frequently uses water as a sign of death or weakness (the aliens in Señales (2002) and David Dunn in El protegido (2000) both have the same weakness; in El sexto sentido(1999), Malcolm Crowe's killer is hiding in a bathroom. In El bosque (2004), Finton becomes too scared to continue on with Ivy when it is raining.)

Car crashes play pivotal roles in all his films: Cole reveals his gift to his mother during a traffic jam in El sexto sentido (1999), David "loses" his football abilities in a car accident in El protegido (2000), and Graham's wife dies in a bizarre car accident in Señales (2002).

Many of his films have an important scene set in a basement. El sexto sentido (1999): Malcolm is in the basement when discovering important plot information; El protegido(2000): David discovers his strength in a basement; Señales (2002): The family is in the basement when the aliens attack. In El bosque (2004), when they are in the cellar (basement) Ivy discovers that Lucius really does care for her.

His films tend to be religiously themed

Lengthy, uncut, immovable shot of two people talking. Usually the two characters are standing a distance from the camera.

Use of bright colors, especially red, to signify a clue or crucial item in the movie.

Always works with James Newton Howard for the musical score

Never uses stock sound effects; insists that all foley sounds, ambience, and other audio be originally created

Often works with particular actors twice in consecutive movies. For example Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, both Joaquin Phoenix and Cherry Jones in Signs and The Village, and Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village and Lady in the Water.

Films contain widowed spouses or struggling/abandoned marriages. Anna Crowe in The Sixth Sense was a widow and Lynn Sear's husband had abandoned them. The struggling relationship of David and Audrey in Unbreakable. Graham was a widower in Signs. Alice was a widow in The Village. Cleveland was a widower in Lady in the Water. Finally, the struggling marriage of Alma and Elliott in The Happening.

His characters are often ordinary individuals caught up in extraordinary circumstances

Often includes a spiral motif or pattern in environments. The stairway at the birthday party in El sexto sentido (1999), a chalk pattern in a school playground in El protegido(2000), the direction in which the corn was bent in Señales (2002).

Emphasises beats between actions and dialogue delivery, so his characters lines and actions seldom (if ever) overlap.

Frequently uses broken glass as a symbol of fragility or to foreshadow a terrible event.

Trivia (36)
Episcopal Academy, where Shyamalan was sent, is actually a private academy that is affiliated with the Episcopalian Church. It is a private school in Lower Merion, PA, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the U.S. and home at one time or another to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Blythe Danner, among others.

Shymalan lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania, part of the affluent "Main Line" suburban region of Philadelphia.

His parents, wife, and 9 other family members are MDs and/or Ph.Ds.

Name pronounced "SHAH-ma-lawn".

His middle name "Night" was made up during college.

Has made on-screen appearances in several of his own movies, beginning with a lead role in his debut feature, Praying with Anger (1992), and including subsequent supporting roles and cameo appearances in the films The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004) and Lady in the Water (2006).

One of the first scripts he sold was called "Labor of Love" about a man who walks across country to prove his love for his recently deceased wife. As of March 2001, it has still not been made.

Graduated from New York University.

He is an avid comic book fan, which was made apparent in his film El protegido (2000).

After attending private schools Waldron and then Episcopal Acaedmy, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the latter in 2001.

The silver charm worn around his neck was given to him by his father and contains Sanskrit proverbs to keep him safe.

Became the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood when Disney gave him $5 million to write Señales (2002).

Son of Jayalakshmi Shyamalan and Nelliate C. Shyamalan.

Said in the bonus disk that the movie El protegido (2000) was made from what started as only the first third of the original script. He said he felt no connection to the last two thirds of the text and decided to discard them.

Ranked #21 in Premiere's 2003 annual Power 100 List. Had ranked #64 in 2002.

Ranked #23 in Premiere's 2004 annual Power 100 List. He was the 5th-highest ranked director. Had ranked #21 in 2003.

Favorite film of all time is En busca del arca perdida (1981).

His three supernatural thrillers, El sexto sentido (1999), El protegido (2000), and Señales(2002), grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide.

Has in his office posters from 3 of his most favorite movies: En busca del arca perdida(1981), El exorcista (1973), and Jungla de cristal (1988).

Made many films using a video camera when he was young. When his theatrical films go to DVD, he puts in a scene from one of his childhood films that marks his first attempt at the same kind of movie. El sexto sentido (1999) includes the ghost story Nightmare on Old Gulf, El protegido (2000) includes the action movie Millionaire, Señales (2002) includes the monster movie Pictures, and The Village includes an untitled period piece.

His inspiration for El sexto sentido (1999) was based on an episode from El club de medianoche: The Tale of the Dream Girl (1994) directed by David Winning.

His Los primeros amigos (1998) was one of the year's lowest-grossing, least- profitable films; in contrast, El sexto sentido (1999) was 1999's No.2 box-office phenomenon, surpassed only by Star Wars: Episodio I - La amenaza fantasma (1999).

Completed 45 homemade movies by age 17.

Ranked #30 on Premiere's 2005 Power 50 List. Had ranked #23 in 2004.

Father of Saleka Shyamalan.

Has worked with two Academy Award-nominated child actors. He directed the first one to a nomination--Haley Joel Osment in El sexto sentido (1999) )--and then helped introduce the second, Abigail Breslin in Señales (2002) prior to her nomination for Pequeña Miss Sunshine (2006).

Has a reputation for attaining A-list actors of his first choice to star in his films, in roles specifically written for them. Shyamalan was able to cast Bruce Willis in El sexto sentido(1999), Samuel L. Jackson in El protegido (2000), Mel Gibson in Señales (2002), Joaquin Phoenix in El bosque (2004), Paul Giamatti in La joven del agua (2006), and Mark Wahlberg in his next project, El incidente (2008).

He and Dan Aykroyd, are the only two men to direct themselves in performances that "won" them a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor. Shyamalan "won" the award for, and also directed, the film La joven del agua (2006).

His six favorite movies are En busca del arca perdida (1981), El exorcista (1973), Jungla de cristal (1988), Psicosis (1960), Nayakan (1987) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).

Maintains his offices and screening room in a converted barn in suburban Philadelphia.

Directed two Oscar-nominated performances: Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette both in El sexto sentido (1999).

Turned down the opportunity to direct the Harry Potter franchise on three separate occasions. He was first offered Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal (2001) on a recommendation from friend Steven Spielberg (who had previously been considered to direct), but turned it down due to post-production commitments on his own film El protegido (2000). After the massive success of his own film, Señales (2002), Shyamalan was once again offered Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban (2004) and later Harry Potter y el cáliz de fuego (2005), turning down the former to direct his own project El bosque (2004) and the latter to work on his since aborted adaptation of the Yann Martel novel The Life of Pi.

Was offered the chance to write and direct new versions of both Spider-Man (circa 2000) and Batman (circa 2002), but having already directed a superhero project of his own with El protegido (2000) turned them down.

Was attached to write and direct an adaption of the Yann Martel novel The Life of Pi intended for production in 2005. When the project stalled, Shyamalan left the movie to direct his own screenplay for La joven del agua (2006). The Life of Pi was subsequently passed over to Alfonso Cuarón and then later to Jean-Pierre Jeunet (both subsequently dropped out) before eventually being brought to the screen by director Ang Lee.

Was offered the opportunity to direct Las crónicas de Narnia: El león, la bruja y el armario(2005) but turned it down.

Was set to direct an original screenplay for Fox called The Connected; a supernatural thriller about a father's search for his missing child. Shyamalan had already cast Bruce Willis, Bradley Cooper and Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead roles with a tentative start date set for early 2011, but for unknown reasons the project collapsed.

Personal Quotes*
I play for a living...Success is tied to a feeling of magic, which I can protect.

My hope is we broke so many rules we created a new rule.

The idea is to always go for the thing that's risky. I want to be courageous and original. And original means, you don't know what 'colour' movie you just saw.

Movie making is not like other artforms, like painting, or writing a novel, because that can be disgested or interpreted... It takes two years to make each one of these, and it's always judged on money.

All of my movies have made money, and that's important for me - it's my job to make money for the studio...

That's the way stories come to me, they come to me very naturally like that. If this was a story about me and someone else, I would be withholding information about them immediately. The negative thing about the twist is that it's all people are occupied with; all the gentleness in the movie is being overshadowed by the flashy cousin in the sequined vest taking centre-stage. [on surprise endings]

When you say fear of the unknown, that is the definition of fear; fear is the unknown, fear is what you do not know, and it's genetically within us so that we feel safe. We feel scared of the woods because we're not familiar with it, and that keeps you safe.

I have this whole picture of the film in my head and then I put it all down on paper and storyboard it; showing the movie shot by shot. I like to feel that I have thought of everything before the camera starts rolling but I think that's probably my asset and weakness as a film maker. I am giving my cast a target that I have in my mind and they are trying to hit it. It's positive because I know exactly what I want to get out of my actors and the scene. But the negative is that I might not catch the lightning in the bottle, I may not get that unexpected improvised brilliance.

I think I take what you might call a B-movie story, deal with B-movie subjects, and I treat it as if it's an A-movie in terms of my approach, my crew, my actors, my ethics and so on. I guess that's my trademark or one of them anyway!

I'm going to stop making movies if they end the cinema experience. If there's a last film that's released only theatrically, it'll have my name on it. This is life or death to me. If you tell audiences there's no difference between a theatrical experience and a DVD, then that's it, game's over, and that whole art form is going to go away slowly. Movies will end up being this esoteric art form, where only singular people will put films out in a small group of theaters.

You get in my corner, you're going to get pummeled.

"It's human nature. Twenty-six people love the movie, and the 27th person hates it, and the only thing you can think about is the 27th person." (on critics)

I am fully aware of the giant risk I'm taking. Being as eccentric as my mind will let me and then hearing people's responses. This requires an incredible amount of pain. Everyone around me, 98%, at some point doubted.

If you're not betting on me, then nobody should get money. I've made profit a mathematical certainty. I'm the safest bet you got.

Except for Pixar, I have made the four most successful original movies in a row of all time.

My movies don't get acclaim the day they come. I have to wait longer.

When we made El sexto sentido (1999) in 1999, every film had an original film-maker with an original point of view - American Beauty (1999), Cómo ser John Malkovich(1999), Matrix (1999), El proyecto de la bruja de Blair (1999), Magnolia (1999). Clearly that's not the case today.

If I'm hesitant at all about an idea, then that's not the right idea.

My intention, whether it's fictional or not, is a retreat back to making small, personal visions.

[on his influences] At 14, I was at the airport, dropping off my grandmother. I went into the bookstore and picked up Spike Lee's book, "Gotta Have It", documenting his early filmmaking experiences. If I hadn't picked up that book, I don't know if I would have been a filmmaker. Lee was from the East Coast and had no family in the business. He just found the way to make movies. And somehow, it demystified it for me. Perhaps that was his intention. And I was like, "I'm going to go do this for real." At 14, that was it. There was no way of talking me out of anything.

[on making movies for the cinema] I am an artist whose art-form is making cinema for a group of people to watch together. That's what I do for a living. The exploitation of that is unending, but that isn't what I do it for. That's not the artist that I am. Someone who makes TV shows is a different kind of artist. The experience of being in a room with 500 people is different; you literally share points of view when you watch together.

[on the power of cinema] I once wrote an article about the Nuremburg trial and on the evil of the Nazis. These people were animals. And their faces throughout the trial were like ice, except for the moment when they showed a movie in the courtroom. When the lights went down and they showed the footage of the bodies being pushed into the pits, their expressions changed and they became emotional. They were watching the events on the screen through the eyes of everyone in the theater. They were having a joint experience. They were all connected, and they saw the horror, saw that their victims were human beings, and they changed.

[on the kind of films he'd like to make] Right now, I'm starting to believe that the future for me, what I want to do, and I know it sounds very hypocritical now, since I'm making this giant movie with Will Smith, is to be like the Coen brothers and make small movies where I can take great artistic risks and do stuff that I know 30% of the audience is not going to like, because I'm making it for the appropriate budget. I believe the future will be in marketing those movies through social networking avenues, as opposed to just TV; 95% of the way we sell movies is TV commercials. It will be more of an underground movement.

[on his love for La última película (1971)] I think Peter Bogdanovich 's mastery of tone in this film is the holy grail of filmmaking. I'm voraciously after that as both an audience member and a filmmaker.

I want to make tonal movies [like La última película (1971) ] where plot is almost obscene. In fact, I think I get in trouble because my movies are presented as plot-driven vehicles, so I'm perceived more for that characteristic when in reality my tastes are more here, more like Kubrick and Blow-Up (Deseo de una mañana de verano) (1966).

[on La joven del agua (2006)] Making that film for me, as an artist, was the greatest moment in my entire life.

[When asked the question "What determines the success of a film for you?"] If I can I look myself in the eye and say I was artistically truthful.

[on his legacy as a filmmaker] After I made Wide Awake, the critics said I was worthless. A year later I released The Sixth Sense and the same critics called me a master. A year later I released Unbreakable and they called me pretentious. Then I released Signs and they said I was the next Spielberg. After Lady in the Water they said I was an egomaniac and a charlatan. Now, after The Last Airbender, I'm a worthless filmmaker again. When the next movie comes out I'll [probably] get called a master. And after that they'll call me a charlatan. It goes back and forth to the point where you can't really take it seriously. You're only as good as your last movie, but I feel like I'm at a point in my life [now] where I want to take risks, where I want to make movies that don't necessarily "work", where all the elements seem misplaced, and maybe in doing this I can find a new way of expressing myself through movies. A style of filmmaking that is my own and true to my own sensibilities.

[His advice to younger filmmakers] Work on your authenticity, your own voice. It's true for everything, not just movie-making. Know yourself. Hone your point of view with the people you're around and the experiences you have. Be attentive. A rich, specific and unusual point of view is going to be very successful in any film.

[on the criticism of his work] It really doesn't bother me because my aspiration, as I said, isn't necessarily acceptance. But I always want to understand what's going on. What are the principles behind the tension or the miscommunication? I want to totally get that. Then I can choose not to react to it, or react to it. My constant, in self-analysis, is to try to figure out: Am I complicit in this situation? How did I create this situation? What is my role in it? Do I want to continue that role? Do I want to change the course of that role? As long as I understand it, I'm much more comfortable with it. And I feel I'm in a strangely decent place of wanting that amount of passion [and debate] people have when they speak about the movies, and the expectations. My obligation is to figure out the bridge so that I don't just let go of me and please them. That would be the disaster.

My smallest movie, in terms of the amount of people that saw it in the theaters, is Lady in the Water, and that was always meant to be a kind of super unusual, very quirky fairy tale. That's the movie that has the most intense following, but the smallest group. You know what I mean? The people that saw it, they are like, die hard fans of that thing! And for me, if my house is burning down and I can only grab one or two movies, that would be one of the two movies.


The Sixth Sense (1999) $3.000.000
Unbreakable (2000) $10.000.000
Signs (2002) $12.500.000 (writing, directing, and co-producing)

The Village (2004) $10.700.000 (Story rights ($7,200,000); Writing services ($300,000); Producing ($3,000,000); Directing ($221,000).).