M.Night Shyamalan: CGI doesn’t scare me anymore

Writer, Director and Producer, M.Night Shyamalan tells Metro about his feelings towards using CGI, his favorite directors and his most challenging film to date. M.Night Shyamalan, 40, first found commercial success in 1999 with The Sixth Sense. You can read the rest of the interview below and let us know your opinion whether Shyamalan should use CGI again.

What was making The Last Airbender like?

Because the movie took two-and-a-half years to make I had a lot of emotions. It was a great learning experience. I learned about CGI in a hardcore way. I’m so grateful to all the teachers I had on the film, whether that’s for stunts or CGI. It’s from a cartoon aimed at children. I made it for my seven-year-old daughter so it had a positive family atmosphere on the set.

Is your next effort going to be another special effects extravaganza?

I learned so much on this that putting CGI in my movies doesn’t scare me any more. With the thrillers they’re quite grounded and don’t have much need for CGI but I’m being offered a broader spectrum of movies since I’ve done this film. I’ll always make minimalist, grounded stuff but it was fun to learn this. Stanley Kubrick is one of my favourite directors and watching the diversity of his movies, from The Shining to A Space Odyssey: 2001, I’d love to have different accents to the way I tell stories.

Who else was an influence on your work?

I’m starting to think of my career as two separate things. For the thrillers it would be Kubrick, Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa. Then the other side which I don’t do much, the family film side of me, the influence is Hayao Miyazaki. He has an interesting way of portraying fantasy. His films are for young kids but done with incredible artistry. Normally in the West, films for children are aimed at a broad age group with double entendres and jokes for adults and a cynicism for an older group. With Miyazaki it’s completely for children with incredible aesthetics.

Were you aware ‘bender’ is slang for homosexual in Britain?

Apparently some immature cinema-goers found dialogue such as ‘look out he’s a bender’ hilarious. No. I thought you guys used bender as a term for getting drunk, like: ‘I’m going on a bender.’ I wasn’t aware of that term. It was just the title of the cartoon show. Sometimes the title gets changed for particular territories. The title of my film The Happening was changed in some countries because happening meant party.

What’s been the most challenging film to make?

The biggest challenge for me is being ignorant of the context in which my movies are seen in the marketplace. I’ve only recently become aware that my movies are seen as being part of some bigger contextual issue. If I make six scary movies then I want the seventh to be a children’s film. I didn’t understand why some people would have an issue with that. When you do your first movie it’s a blank slate. It doesn’t mean you can’t do different things – look at Tom Hanks to how he went from comedian to dramatic actor.

So what direction do you want to go in?

I love suspense a lot. That’s where I live and I know audiences love it when I live there. I do have that edgy side, it’s not a conflict, and the next three or four ideas are all dark like that. It’s just when I want to do something different that it’s a problem putting it in context.

Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

No. I don’t know where it all came from in my films. The films I was making when I was 13 even had occasional supernatural elements in them so it’s always been there. I guess it’s because of people like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas – those guys were the reason I wanted to make films, they’re the greatest storytellers for kids – but a lot of their films were about something extraordinary happening to a very ordinary family or person. That whole set-up appeals to me.

The Last Airbender is out now on DVD


  1. That’s great. Now I know that One Thousand A.D., will have awesome CGI, and that Shyamalan is going to return to the supernatural thrillers. But I’m still waiting for TLA 2 and 3 🙂

  2. Is it me or does he seem less enthusiastic about a sequel in the latest interviews? Is there any news on if there will be a second Airbender movie? Noone has asked recently and he hasn’t brought it up in any interviews. Surely we should know something in the next few months.

    • I of course mean that noone has RECENTLY asked about it. I realize the question was quite popular when the film was released but now that we know more about the box office numbers, noone asks.

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