The surprising return of M. Night Shyamalan
So, who wants a story with a surprise ending? Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s new superhero tale Glass unites characters from two of his previous films, 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. The third movie in the trilogy finds Bruce Willis’ vigilante David Dunn, Samuel L. Jackson’s archvillain Elijah Price (a.k.a. Mr. Glass), and the many personalities of James
McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb incarcerated at a psychiatric facility. There they are treated by Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, who believes them to be delusional. “It was delicious,” says Shyamalan of writing the film. “I always wanted to have these characters meet.” Glass has twists to spare, as you might expect from the filmmaker responsible for such sting-in-the-tail movies as 1999’s The Sixth Sense and 2004’s The Village, not to mention Split, which only revealed itself to be in the same cinematic universe as Unbreakable in its closing moments. But the real surprise is the revival of Shyamalan’s career, with Split earning $278 million around the globe — and similar high hopes for Glass.
The director first came up with the concept for a superhero trilogy while working on the box office phenomenon The Sixth Sense. After Unbreakable — which introduced the Dunn and Price characters — performed disappointingly, he abandoned the idea, instead scoring another hit with the alien-invasion film Signs. Over the next decade, however, Shyamalan’s fortunes faltered until he hit rock bottom with 2013’s After Earth, a widely panned sci-fi folly conceived by and starring Will Smith. “[My philosophy] is, control the things you have control over and don’t worry about anything else and you’ll realize that you are very powerful, no matter what the landscape is saying,” says the director. “[But] I started to give more power to everything around me and lost my center.”
Shyamalan went back to basics, first with 2015’s low-budget found-footage horror movie The Visit and then with Split, in which he meticulously detailed Crumb’s kidnapping of teenager Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). “He’s one of the most prepared directors I’ve worked with,” says McAvoy. Paulson is another fan, agreeing to appear in Glass before reading the script: “Anytime you have an opportunity to work with a director you believe is a real auteur, I can’t imagine not jumping at that chance.”
Regardless of how Glass plays, Shyamalan can claim one of the most unexpected comebacks in movie history. How does he feel about that twist? “I don’t think my career is different from anybody’s career,” he says. “But I’m really happy where I am.”
Watch the trailer for Glass, above.