|M. Night Shyamalan
Personal Info - Awards - Film Credits - Biography
Born: 6 August 1970, Mahé, Pondicherry, India
Birth Name: Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan
• Signs (2002): $12,500,000
• Unbreakable (2000): $10,000,000
• The Sixth Sense (1999): $3,000,000
• Blinding Edge Pictures
• United Talent Agency (agent)
• Dart Group
• Bloom, Hergott & Cook (legal)
Academy Awards, USA
• Nominated, Oscar
Best Director for The Sixth Sense (1999)
• Nominated, Oscar
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for The Sixth Sense (1999)
Another 7 wins & 17 nominations
Born in India but raised in the posh suburban Penn Valley area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, M. Night Shyamalan is the son of two doctors. His passion for filmmaking began when he was given a Super-8 camera at age eight, and even at that young age began to model his career on that of his idol, Steven Spielberg. His first film, Praying with Anger, was based somewhat on his own trip back to visit the India of his birth. He raised all the funds for this project, in addition to directing, producing and starring in it. Wide Awake, 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.
Lady in the Water - Writer (written by), Director, Vick, Producer 2006
The Village - Writer (written by), Director, Guard at Desk, Producer 2004
Signs - Writer (written by), Director, Ray Reddy, Producer 2002
Unbreakable - Writer (written by), Director, Stadium Drug Dealer, Producer 2000
Stuart Little - Writer (screenplay) 1999
The Sixth Sense - Writer (written by), Director, Dr. Hill 1999
Wide Awake - Writer (written by), Director 1998
Praying with Anger - Writer (written by), Producer 1992
Shyamalan was born in Mahé, Pondicherry, India, and is of South Indian heritage: His father, Nelliattu C. Shyamalan, a physician, is a Malayalee, and his mother, Jayalakshmi (called Jaya), an obstetrician and gynecologist, is a Tamil. In the 1960s, after medical school and the birth of their first child, Veena, Shyamalan's parents moved to the United States. Shyamalan's mother returned to India to spend the last five months of her pregnancy with him at her parents' home in Chennai, India.
Shyamalan spent his first six weeks in Pondicherry, and then was raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, an affluent Main Line suburb of Philadelphia. He attended the private Catholic grammar school Waldron Academy, which his parents chose for its academic discipline, followed by The Episcopal Academy, a private Episcopalian high school in nearby Lower Merion. Shyamalan went on to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan, graduating in 1992.
Shyamalan had an early desire to be a filmmaker when he was given a Super-8 camera at a young age. Though his father wanted Shyamalan to follow in the family practice of medicine, his mother encouraged Shyamalan to follow his passion. By the time he was 17, Shyamalan, who had been a fan of Steven Spielberg, had made 45 home movies. Beginning with The Sixth Sense, he has included a scene from one of these childhood films on each DVD release of his films, which he feels represents his first attempt at the same kind of film.
Shyamalan made his first film, the semiautobiographical drama Praying with Anger, while still an NYU student, using money borrowed from family and friends. It was screened at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 12, 1992, and played commercially at one theater for one week. When the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, Shyamalan was introduced by David Overbey who predicted that the world would see more of Shyamalan in the years to come. Praying with Anger has also been shown on Canadian television. Filmed in Chennai (Madras), it is his only film to be shot outside of Pennsylvania.
Shyamalan wrote and directed his second movie, Wide Awake in 1995, though it was not released until 1998. His parents were the film's associate producers. The drama dealt with a 10-year-old Catholic schoolboy (played by Joseph Cross) who, after the death of his grandfather (Robert Loggia), searches for God. The film's supporting cast included Dana Delany and Denis Leary as the boy's parents, as well as Rosie O'Donnell, Julia Stiles, and Camryn Manheim. Wide Awake was filmed in a school Shyamalan attended as a child. and earned 1999 Young Artist Award nominations for Best Drama, and, for Cross, Best Performance. A commercial failure, the film grossed $305,704 in theaters.
That same year Shyamalan wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little.
In 1993, Shyamalan married Indian psychologist Bhavna Vaswani, a fellow student whom he'd met at NYU and with whom he has had two daughters. As of mid-2006, the family resides in Wayne, Pennsylvania, near Shyamalan's usual shooting site of Philadelphia.
Shyamalan achieved commercial success in 1999 when he wrote, directed, and produced The Sixth Sense, a supernatural drama about a psychologist (Bruce Willis) who blames himself for a patient's suicide and his own broken marriage. Upon meeting a disturbed child (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see people who have died, the psychologist feels he has a chance to redeem himself. According to the book DisneyWar, David Vogel of The Walt Disney Company read Shyamalan's script and, without obtaining approval from his superiors, bought the rights to it for a high $2 million dollars and allowed Shyamalan to direct. Vogel's bosses, disagreeing with his decision, sold the profits to Spyglass Entertainment, and kept only a 12.5 percent distribution fee for itself.
The film had a $40 million budget, and grossed over $600 million box office worldwide. It is one of the 25 most commercially successful films through mid-2006, and Disney's biggest live-action hit until 2006's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
The Sixth Sense was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor for Osment, Best Supporting Actress for Toni Collette, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.
Unbreakable is a naturalistic drama about David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a train crash. He eventually meets comic-book collector Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a mysterious mastermind who is convinced that Dunn has latent super powers. Budgeted at $75 million, it grossed $95 million domestically and $248 million worldwide.
Opening in August 2002, Signs is a science-fiction drama of a rural Pennsylvania pastor (Mel Gibson) who has lost his faith after his wife's death, and regains it with his family as they witness the worldwide events of an alien invasion. Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin also star.
Budgeted at $72 million, Signs grossed $227 million domestically and $408 million worldwide. It was the highest-grossing film as well as the highest opening-weekend gross ($60 million) of Gibson's career as an actor.
Shyamalan said in an interview with Science Fiction Weekly that his choice of Gibson was based in part by the actor's emotional role in the film Lethal Weapon: "I was on my parents' sofa watching the video of Lethal Weapon, and then this guy did stuff emotionally that had no business being in an action movie. ... I completely believed the humanity of a man who was so torn by the loss of his wife that he wasn't afraid of dying, which made him a lethal weapon. ...When I wrote the movie about a guy who loses faith because his wife has passed away, I felt like that was the guy. And I also like taking an action guy and not letting him be The Guy". Shyamalan also said that originally, there was going to be very little music in the film, but that composer James Newton Howard's intense and emotional compositions changed his mind.
Drawing on Wuthering Heights after being offered to pen a screen adaptation, Shyamalan went to work on what was originally titled The Woods, The Village was released in July 2004. A drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Adrien Brody, it tells of a small, 19th-century community (we see the tombstone of a boy is being laid to rest in the opening of the film that reads 1890-1897) run by a group of "Elders" who seem to be content in their isolation from the outside world. The village is encircled by a forest said to be filled with mysterious and threatening creatures. Even as an uneasy truce between the villagers and the creatures seems to be falling apart, one villager (Phoenix) starts to question their forced isolation.
With total production costs of $71.6 million, the film grossed $114.2 million domestically ($50 million in its opening weekend) and a further $142 million in non-USA receipts. Its successful opening weekend in America was followed by a severe dropoff of 67%, and the film is generally considered to be somewhat of a commercial failure. Critical response was mostly negative: Desson Thomson of The Washington Post called it "a bewildering disappointment"; Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times said, "It's tedious instead of provocative and so unconvincing as to be preposterous". Shyamalan claimed he was exploring a more romantic story than he had in his other works.
The Village earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
Lady in the Water, released on July 21, 2006, is a fantasy about a Philadelphia apartment-complex maintenance man, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), who discovers a young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) in the swimming pool. Gradually, he and others in the complex learn that she is a water nymph who has come to "the world of man" to bring inspiration to someone in the complex. Her life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature that tries to keep her from returning to her watery "blue world."
The proposal for this film highlighted a severe rift between Shyamalan and Disney, the studio for which he had done his biggest previous films. In the book The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger, Shyamalan said that he felt Disney "no longer valued individualism ... no longer valued fighters."Shyamalan left the studio after production president Nina Jacobson and others became highly critical of his script, which Warner Bros. eventually produced. Critical response was again negative — Frank Lovece of Film Journal International saying simply, "this Lady is the Showgirls of fantasy film" — disparaging both the inclusion of a film-critic character (one element of Shyamalan's screenplay that Disney found troublesome) and Shyamalan's decision to take such a large and personal role in the film as a writer whose work would change the world. The New York Post wrote that the film was "dead in the water", criticizing Shyamalan as a "crackpot with messianic delusions". Film critic Max Weiss, however, found the humor involving the film critic one of the movie's best features.
Shyamalan has been approached to collaborate on several movies with strong fan bases, the most notable of which was the fourth Indiana Jones film. This would have given Shyamalan a chance to work with his longtime idol, Steven Spielberg. Shyamalan turned down the opportunity, claiming it was too "tricky" to get everyone on the same page and that it just "was not the right thing" for him to do.
However, Shyamalan seems to have since changed his mind on collaborations, stating that he would like to direct the seventh Harry Potter film, claiming that the relationship between the characters interested him.