M. Night Shyamalan recently talked with Australian newspaper ‘The West Australian’, as his film ‘Lady in the Water’ makes its debut there this week. It’s a pretty interesting interview that covers the split with Disney, making the film, and working with Christopher Doyle. Night also decided to drop a couple more clues about the “very clean” idea for his next film, saying: “I have an idea, but sometimes the ideas are more wrestling, grappling and complicated. I’m excited about the clarity of what I’m thinking of now, it’s a big idea I’ve got in the works.”
(read the full interview here: The West Australian: “I’m Really Quite Normal: Shyamalan”)
For archival purposes:
Hollywood thriller writer and director M. Night Shyamalan says people expect him to have a dark side – but his life is pretty normal.
M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation precedes him.
As the writer and director of Hollywood thrillers The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village and now his latest, Lady In The Water, people expect the 36-year-old film maker to have a dark side.
“It’s true, yes. Some people do expect that,” he grins, sitting in a luxurious suite at New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria hotel.
“But I can assure you, my life is not dark. I’m not at the back of some sadomasochistic club at 4am.
“I’m pretty normal and my life is pretty normal.”
That doesn’t stop people asking those in Shyamalan’s intimate circle of family and friends if he is, well, crazy.
“People are always asking my cousins and my friends, ‘What is he really like? Is he weird? Is he imagining freaky things?’,” he laughs.
“I think Seinfeld is the best TV show ever and I think Michael Jordan is the best athlete.
“My taste is the same as the general population, so I may have a foot in another room, but I also have one foot in the same room with everybody else.
“Maybe one day that will change, but it hasn’t changed yet.
In reality, Shyamalan’s life couldn’t be more normal.
Born in India and the son of doctors, he lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters. On weekends, the family go to their farmhouse in Pennsylvania, a place Shyamalan refers to as his sanctuary.
It is where he writes most of his movies, including Lady In The Water, which stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Paul Giamatti.
The idea for Lady In The Water stemmed from a story Shyamalan loved to tell his children about an apartment building manager (played by Giamatti) who rescues a young woman from a pool (Howard), only to discover she is a character from a children’s story who is trying to get back to her home.
It requires a leap of imagination, but one Shyamalan is confident audiences will enjoy. It might not be immediate, but they will eventually get it.
“Here’s the thing,” he says.
“I’m tougher on myself than those expectations other people have for one of my movies.
“The immediate reaction is not what’s important – its the long-term feeling they have about my movies.
“The Wizard of Oz was considered a failure, but in the long term, the feeling is different.
“There are many examples of that. Being aware of the bigger picture is something I’m getting better at and that helps me with the expectations, because the expectations are just really talking about the immediate and the immediate isn’t always reality.
Helping him create Lady In The Water, was renowned Australian cinematographer Chris Doyle.
Mention his name to Shyamalan, and he quickly notes: “All the stories you’ve heard of Chris are not even close to the reality. The reality is unbelievable.”
“It’s like Keith Richards being your cinematographer – in the heyday of the 70s,” Shyamalan adds.
“It’s literally like trying to have a rock star be your cinematographer, but the wild rock star on tour.”
To give an example of Doyle’s off-the-wall ways, Shyamalan said: “Well, we’ve seen him many times with his pants down which is a disturbing image for us. He’s insane, just insane.
“Everyone said I was insane (about wanting to work with him). But he’s actually a sweet child inside.
“Also, Chris and I finished this movie a week early, which is the quickest I’ve ever finished a movie.
“We were $US2 million under budget. So for all the rock and roll stuff, he and I work really well together.
Shyamalan enjoyed the collaboration so much that he immediately hired Doyle to shoot an American Express (Amex) TV ad in which Shyamalan stars.
“When I did that, everyone was like ‘What?!'” Shyamalan laughs about his willingness to work with Doyle again.
“While we were filming the Amex commercial, he fell off the dolly for whatever reason. I was like What happened? and then we just kept on working. I love working with him.”
There is a lot riding on Lady In The Water for Shyamalan.
It is his first film with Warner Bros after the director and Disney, which distributed all of his big films, parted ways.
He cooperated with the tell-all book, The Man Who Heard Voices: Or How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on A Fairy Tale, which details the split with Disney.
Shyamalan describes his new relationship with Warner Bros as “nurturing”.
“It was what I thought it would be,” he says, taking a sip of a glass of cola. “It was full of faith.
“When I came into Disney I had no track record and when I came into Warner Bros I had a big record, so it’s not comparable.
“Warner Bros is a studio that embraces amateurs.
“They dig it and they exploit it. Kubrick, Hitchcock, you name it, Clint Eastwood, Tim Burton and on and on and on.
“If they believe in it, they’ll do it. This is the home where they go ‘We believe in story tellers’.
“The Disney thing ..,” he stops mid sentence.
“I think the success of the four movies over there kept us from dealing with something which we dealt with, which was ‘Hey, we’re not quite in the vibe yet. Not that we couldn’t be one day’.”
Lauded for his creativity, Shyamalan says he has started working on a new idea for a film which he described as “very clean.”
“I have an idea, but sometimes the ideas are more wrestling, grappling and complicated. I’m excited about the clarity of what I’m thinking of now,” he said.
“It’s a big idea I’ve got in the works.”
One thing he will promise his audience for Lady In The Water – don’t expect any twists at the end, something Shyamalan has developed a reputation for in Hollywood after The Village and The Six Sense.
“Signs didn’t have a twist either,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
“Everyone thinks it does, but I don’t know why.
“I’m sure they’ll think that way too about Lady. I actually feel more of a burden when I come up with an idea that has a twist.
“Then I’m like, ‘Oh God, what do I do?’ This was no problem. It was a straight movie.
“Hopefully just when you forget it, I’ll do it again,” he smiles.
Relaxed and at ease, Shyamalan says he is now learning to enjoy his career more than ever.
Even though The Sixth Sense was smashing box office records worldwide and he had plenty of other successes, Shyamalan says he looks back on the time with some sense of regret.
“I wish I had enjoyed it more,” he says.
“I’m sad I didn’t enjoy the last four (films) the way I should have.
“I remember feeling really sad and disappointed when I read the reviews for Sixth Sense or I saw that it didn’t get nominated for things and didn’t win anything.
“Hayley (Joel Osment) didn’t win anything and I thought he gave me the best kid performance of all time. I was sad for so many reasons and that was my experience of The Sixth Sense.
“I had the same kind of thing for each movie. Now I think, what a silly way to have gone through those six years.”
But now, things have changed for Shyamalan.
“I’m really enjoying this right now, this moment in time. When I see the poster of Lady In The Water, I feel happy.