M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN
'OLD' AND THE UNPREDICTABLECAREER OF
By Lee Parham
With the release of his upcoming film Old, we take a look back through the twists and turns of M. Night Shyamalan’s unique career.
Born in India in 1970, M. Night Shyamalan’s family immigrated to America when he was just 6 years old. M. Night would go on to get a degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Shyamalan grew a filmmaking urge as a young age after receiving a Super 8 camera as a gift. He made over 45 short films before college, some of which appear on DVDs of his future feature films.
Shyamalan’s first movie came in the way of Praying with Anger, a semi-autobiographical story about an young Indian-American man journeying home to India. The film never received a wide release.
1998 saw Shyamalan’s first dive into mainstream filmmaking with the comedy drama family film Wide Awake, starring Denis Leary, Rosie O'Donnell, and both a young Joseph Cross and Julia Stiles.
However Shyamalan didn’t make a big name for himself until 1999’s release of The Sixth Sense. The low budget horror flick shocked audiences around the world en route to becoming a cultural phenomenon.
Known for its iconic twist ending that would become a Shyamalan staple, The Sixth Sense established him as one of Hollywood’s hottest young filmmakers with studios yearning to produce his next script.
Shyamalan would reunite with The Sixth Sense star Bruce Willis for 2000’s Unbreakable, an original superhero story about David Dunn, a lone survivor of a train crash who discovers he has super strength.
2002 witnessed the release of Signs, Shyamalan’s spin on an alien invasion movie, focusing more on the human characters having a crisis of faith during an extraterrestrial attack.
His success on these films lead to Shyamalan garnering mainstream recognition, with Newsweek lauding him as, “The Next Spielberg.” However, things took a turn for the worse from there.
Shyamalan’s next three projects, 2004’s The Village, 2006’s Lady in the Water, and 2008’s The Happening failed to live up to the critical or commercial success of his prior work.
Lady in the Water
In 2010 Shyamalan made a live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender titled The Last Airbender, dropping the Avatar moniker after the immense popularity of the film Avatar the year before.
The Last Airbender proved to be a low point for Shyamalan’s career as the film was panned by critics and lambasted by fans of the show for not honoring the immensely popular and rich source material.
His next film After Earth didn’t fare much better, but the release of 2015’s The Visit saw the beginning of a career renaissance, marking the first positively reviewed film of his since Signs.
Things really got back on track in 2017 with the release of Split featuring a multi personality performance from James McAvoy. In a twist ending, Split was revealed to be connected to Unbreakable.
Split and Unbreakable crossed over in 2019’s Glass, featuring Bruce Willis’ David Dunn and James McAvoy’s The Horde teaming up against the nefarious Mr. Glass, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Shyamalan’s latest effort Old sees the director retracing his horror roots in a film about a beach where people age rapidly with every 30 minutes equal to 1 whole year of their life.
Just like the unpredictable twists and turns in his films, the career of M. Night Shyamalan has featured many ups and downs, but it’s undeniable the impact the filmmaker has had on the industry.