On this week's episode of The Playlist podcast, Fiona Williams spoke to director M. Night Shyamalan ahead of the launch of Glass, the film that ties together his 2000 film Unbreakable and the surprise hit 2016 James McAvoy film Split.
It was the release of The Sixth Sense in 1999, that propelled Shyamalan to becoming a household name, often synonymous with twist endings. It's an association that Shyamalan is quick to talk down: "By nature, the genre is one that comes with a kind of an answer, so it's not something I have to manufacture because I make thrillers... So there's going to be an answers of some type. Who did it? What's happening? What's the answer to that noise in the other room?"
For Shyamalan, it's not so much a twist as much as a revelation kept from a film's protagonist. "You might as well, as a viewer, find out when the main character finds out. So, there's always a payoff of something. I think it's a genre thing, as opposed to if I did rom-coms or something, it wouldn't necessarily be part of the structure."
The Sixth Sense began Shyamalan's working relationship with Bruce Willis (who stars in both Unbreakable and Glass as the David Dunn, an everyday guy with powers beyond regular men). The film smashed the box-office when it was released, but as Shyamalan tells it, The Sixth Sense was not expected to perform well when it was released: "We were dumped in August and it was a small little movie that grew from audiences. Audiences carried that thing on its back and really strengthened it."
It was a word-of-mouth success, but was the start of a rocky relationship with critics. When Playlist host Fiona Williams suggested that he came to prominence as a critical darling, Shyamalan was adamant that this has never been the case.
"I don't remember, by the way, being a critical darling, so you might want to refresh me..." he said wryly, explaining that positive appraisal for the film came retrospectively.
Considering the longevity of Shyamalan's films, it does seem that both audiences and film writers keep coming back to the auteur, with his films often rising in critics estimations in the years that follow. It almost seems that there's a ten-year gap between his films release and positive appraisals of them.
"Just to see that these movies have stayed with people for a long time and have sat with them and now going to second generation, it's just so sweet and rewarding," Shyamalan said. "Obviously the dream, as a filmmaker, that you're making experiences that are sticking to people and become part of their lives, not something disposable."
Will Glass win audiences over as it enters theatres this week, or will it take some time? On The Playlist podcast, hosts Fiona WIlliams and Nick Bhasin review Glass, along with Josie Rourke's debut feature Mary Queen of Scots. The podcast also includes the full interview with M. Night Shyamalan.
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