M. Night Shyamalan tells the New York Times that he remembers the exact moment when his relationship with Hollywood began to go bad: A conference call with Disney executives discussing how to market Unbreakable. Night wanted to sell the film as a comic-book movie (“the tale of an unlikely superhero”) but Disney executives insisted on portraying it as a “spooky thriller”, like The Sixth Sense.
“I remember the moment that it happened, exactly where I was sitting at the table, the speakerphone,” Night recalled. “That moment may have been the biggest mistake that I have to undo over 10 years so the little old lady doesn’t go, ‘Oh, he’s the guy who makes the scary movies with a twist.’ “
If Night is still making movies ten years from now, I’m sure audiences will still have the same expectations. And it’s a shame because Unbreakable was probably his best film in my opinion. It’s one of the most underrated superhero movies ever made. And it’s very likely the movie will never get its due thanks to the way the film was marketed. Shyamalan also attempts to defend the idea of a director’s name on the marquee:
“The problem is the assumption that if I am selling the movie – because I’m selling me – that I’m being egotistical. If Will Smith did the same thing, it would be perceived very differently,” he said. “You’re supposed to be hidden if you’re a director. That’s a rule that who said in the movie business?”
And again he has a point. People (and American more specifically) put too much value in the archaic Hollywood star system. I’m not sure screenwriters will ever get their due (unless of course they are writer/directors), but it seems to me that the director (and again, to a greater extreme, the writer/director) is more an author than the actor ever will be. And that’s not to say that the stars don’t contribute. I just don’t understand why more people don’t choose movies based on the filmmakers. And I sure don’t understand why a director who wants to put his name in the billing must be considered egotistical. It’s just a shame that Shyamalan, who has come off pretty egotistical in every interview I’ve ever seen him do, is the only one willing to say it.
Read the rest of Allison Weiner’s fascinating article about Shyamalan on NYTimes.com.