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M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan
File:M. Night Shyamalan 2008 - still 40580 crop.jpg
M. Night Shyamalan at a press conference for The Happening in 2008
Born Manoj Shyamalan
(1970-08-06) 6 August 1970 (age 45)[1]
Mahé, India[2]
Residence Willistown, Pennsylvania, US
Citizenship American
Education Waldron Mercy Academy
Episcopal Academy
Alma mater New York University
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, film producer, actor
Years active 1992–present
Notable work The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village
Home town Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Religion Hinduism
Spouse(s) Bhavna Vaswani (1993–present)

Manoj Shyamalan (/ˈʃʲɑːmələn/ born 6 August 1970), known professionally as M. Night Shyamalan, is an Indian-American[3] film director, screenwriter, producer and occasional actor known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots. His major films include the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (1999), the superhero drama thriller Unbreakable (2000), the science fiction thriller Signs (2002), the psychological thriller The Village (2004), the fantasy thriller Lady in the Water (2006), the fantasy adventure film The Last Airbender (2010), and the sci-fi action adventure film After Earth (2013). He is also known for filming and setting his movies in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was raised, and for including plot twists in most of his films.

Most of Shyamalan's commercially successful films were co-produced and released by the Walt Disney Studios' Touchstone and Hollywood film imprints. In 2008, Shyamalan was awarded the Padma Shri by the government of India.[4]

Early life

Shyamalan was born in Mahé, India.[2][5] His mother, Jayalakshmi, is a Tamilian and is an obstetrician and gynecologist by profession. His father, Nelliate C. Shyamalan, is a Malayali and is a traditional physician (Vaidyar) from Mahé.[6] In the 1960s, after medical school (at the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research in Pondicherry) and the birth of their first child, Veena, his parents moved to the United States. His mother returned to India to spend the last five months of her pregnancy at her parents’ home in Chennai.

Shyamalan spent his first six weeks in Puducherry, and then was raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. Although Hindu, he attended the private Roman Catholic grammar school Waldron Mercy Academy, followed by the Episcopal Academy, a private Episcopal high school located at the time in Merion, Pennsylvania. Shyamalan earned the New York University Merit Scholarship in 1988.[7] Shyamalan is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan,[8] graduating in 1992. It was while studying there that he adopted Night as his second name.[9]

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 him to follow in the family practice of medicine, his mother encouraged him to follow his passion.[10] By the time he was seventeen the Steven Spielberg fan had made forty-five home movies. On each DVD release of his films (beginning with The Sixth Sense and with the exception of Lady in the Water), he has included a scene from one of these childhood movies which he feels represents his first attempt at the same kind of film.


File:M. Night Shyamalan and Mark Wahlberg 01.jpg
M. Night Shyamalan and Mark Wahlberg (right) at the presentation of the film The Happening in Madrid.

Shyamalan made his first film, the semi-autobiographical drama Praying with Anger, while still a student at NYU, using money borrowed from family and friends.[11] He wrote and directed his second movie, Wide Awake. His parents were the film's associate producers. The drama dealt with a ten-year-old Catholic schoolboy (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 Julia Stiles and Camryn Manheim. Wide Awake was filmed in a school Shyamalan attended as a child[12] and earned 1999 Young Artist Award nominations for Best Drama, and, for Cross, Best Performance.[13] Only in limited release, the film grossed $305,704 in theaters, against a $6 million budget.[14]

That same year Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little with Greg Brooker. In 2013, he revealed he was the ghostwriter for the 1999 film She's All That, a teen comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachel Leigh Cook.[15] However this statement has come into question as the credited screenwriter for the film, R. Lee Fleming Jr., denied Shyamalan's involvement in a now deleted tweet.[16]

Shyamalan gained international recognition when he wrote and directed 1999's The Sixth Sense, which was a commercial success and later nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

In July 2000, on The Howard Stern Show, Shyamalan said he had met with Steven Spielberg and was in early talks to write the script for the fourth Indiana Jones film. This would have given Shyamalan a chance to work with his longtime idol, Steven Spielberg.[17] After the film fell through, Shyamalan later said it was too "tricky" to arrange and "not the right thing" for him to do.[18]

Shyamalan followed The Sixth Sense by writing and directing Unbreakable, released in 2000, which received positive reviews.

Shyamalan's name was linked with the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but it conflicted with the production of Unbreakable. In July 2006, while doing press tours for Lady in the Water, Shyamalan had said he was still interested in directing one of the last two Harry Potter films. "The themes that run through it...the empowering of children, a positive name it, it falls in line with my beliefs", Shyamalan said. "I enjoy the humor in it. When I read the first Harry Potter and was thinking about making it, I had a whole different vibe in my head of it".[19]

His 2002 film Signs, where he also played Ray Reddy, gained both critical and financial success. His next movie The Village (2004) received mixed reviews from the critics, but turned out to be a financial success.

File:Night Shyamalan-2.jpg
M. Night Shyamalan and Bryce Dallas Howard at the Spanish premiere of The Village (in the San Sebastián International Film Festival, 2006).

After the release of The Village in 2004, Shyamalan had been planning a film adaptation of Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi with 20th Century Fox, but later backed out so that he could make Lady in the Water. "I love that book. I mean, it's basically [the story of] a kid born in the same city as me [Pondicherry, India] — it almost felt predestined", Shyamalan said. "But I was hesitant because the book has kind of a twist ending. And I was concerned that as soon as you put my name on it, everybody would have a different experience. Whereas if someone else did it, it would be much more satisfying, I think. Expectations, you've got to be aware of them. I'm wishing them all great luck. I hope they make a beautiful movie".[20]

Released in 2006, Lady in the Water performed worse critically and financially. The film The Happening (2008) was a financial success but also received negative reviews. In 2010, he directed The Last Airbender, based on the Nickelodeon TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. It received extremely negative reviews in the United States and won five Razzie Awards, but it made nearly $320 million internationally at the box office.

In July 2008, it was announced that Shyamalan had partnered with Media Rights Capital to form a production company called Night Chronicles. Shyamalan would produce, but not direct, one film a year for three years.[21] The first of the three films was Devil, a supernatural thriller directed by siblings John and Drew Dowdle. The script was written by Brian Nelson, based on an original idea from Shyamalan.[22] The movie was about a group of people stuck in an elevator with the devil, and starred Chris Messina.[23] The film was not previewed by critics before its release, eventually receiving mixed reviews. Devil was not a blockbuster hit, but has become a commercial success relative to its budget. The next film in the Night Chronicles series will be called Reincarnate. It will be scripted by Chris Sparling and directed by Daniel Stamm.

In 2013 Shyamalan directed the film After Earth, based on a script by Gary Whitta and starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith. It was received poorly by critics, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a score of 11% based on 180 reviews.

Shyamalan currently has three television projects in production and varied stages of development. The first, titled Proof, has been sold to the Sci-Fi channel, the second is being developed with NBC reportedly titled Lost Horizon and the third is an off-beat thriller titled Wayward Pines, adapted from the novel of the same name and will be made for FOX.

Shyamalan announced in January 2014 that he would be working again with Bruce Willis on a film titled Labor of Love.[24] Later that year, in November, it was announced that Universal had picked up rights to a low budget movie called "The Visit" that Shyamalan had shot in secret.[25] Universal has plans to release the movie on 11 September 2015.[25]

Sci-Fi Channel hoax

In 2004, Shyamalan was involved in a media hoax with Sci-Fi Channel, which was eventually uncovered by the press. Sci-Fi claimed in its "documentary" special—The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan, shot on the set of The Village—that Shyamalan was dead for nearly a half-hour while drowned in a frozen pond in a childhood accident, and that upon being rescued he had experiences of communicating with spirits, fueling an obsession with the supernatural.

In truth, Shyamalan developed the hoax with Sci-Fi, going so far as having Sci-Fi staffers sign non-disclosure agreements with a $5-million fine attached and requiring Shyamalan's office to formally approve each step. Neither the childhood accident nor the supposed rift with the filmmakers ever occurred. The hoax included a non-existent Sci-Fi publicist, "David Westover", whose name appeared on press releases regarding the special. Sci-Fi also fed false news stories to the Associated Press[26] and Zap2It,[27] and the New York Post,[28][29][30] among others.

After an AP reporter confronted Sci-Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer at a press conference, Hammer admitted the hoax, saying it was part of a guerrilla marketing campaign to generate pre-release publicity for The Village. This prompted Sci-Fi's parent company, NBC Universal, to state that the undertaking was "not consistent with our policy at NBC. We would never intend to offend the public or the press and we value our relationship with both."[31]

Personal life

Shyamalan married Bhavna Vaswani, a fellow student whom he met at New York University.[32] His production company, Blinding Edge Pictures,[33] is located in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.[34] Blinding Edge has produced The Happening, Lady in the Water, The Village, Signs, Unbreakable, The Last Airbender, and After Earth. It is run by Night and Ashwin Rajan.[35]


Year Film Director (Executive) Producer Writer Actor Role Notes Budget Box office Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1992 Praying with Anger Yes Yes Yes Yes Dev Raman $800,000 $1.4 million N/A
1998 Wide Awake Yes No Yes No $6 million $282,000 40%[36] N/A
1999 The Sixth Sense Yes No Yes Yes Dr. Hill $40 million $673 million 85%[37] 64/100[38]
Stuart Little No No Yes No $133 million $300 million 66%[39] 61/100[40]
2000 Unbreakable Yes Yes Yes Yes Stadium Drug Dealer $75 million $248 million 68%[41] 62/100[42]
2002 Signs Yes Yes Yes Yes Ray Reddy $72 million $408 million 74%[43] 59/100[44]
2004 The Village Yes Yes Yes Yes Jay - Guard at desk $60 million $257 million 43%[45] 44/100[46]
2006 Lady in the Water Yes Yes Yes Yes Vick Ran $70 million $73 million 24%[47] 36/100[48]
2008 The Happening Yes Yes Yes Yes Joey (Voice) $48 million $163 milion 17%[49] 34/100[50]
2010 The Last Airbender Yes Yes Yes Yes Firebender at Earth Prison Camp $150 million $320 million 6%[51] 20/100[52]
Devil No Yes Yes No $10 million $63 million 52%[53] 44/100[54]
2013 After Earth Yes Yes Yes No $130 million $244 million 11%[55] 33/100[56]
2015 Wayward Pines Yes Yes No No Television series 86%[57] 66/100[58]
The Visit Yes Yes Yes No Post-production[59] TBA TBA TBA TBA

Frequent collaborators


Actors The Sixth Sense
The Village
Lady in the Water
The Happening
Labor of Love
Bruce Willis 13px 13px 13px
Bryce Dallas Howard 13px 13px
Joaquin Phoenix 13px 13px
Cherry Jones 13px 13px
Frank Collison 13px 13px

Criticism and controversy

Shyamalan twists

With the exception of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, a common criticism of Shyamalan's works is that they feature better direction than screenwriting.[60][61] He has also been labeled a "one-trick pony" for his continuous use of the "twist" element in his screenplays.[60] After the release of The Village, Slate's Michael Agger noted that Shyamalan was following "an uncomfortable pattern" of "making fragile, sealed-off movies that fell apart when exposed to outside logic."[62]

On a 31 May, 2008 interview with the London Independent, Shyamalan offered this answer to the question about his "one-trick" movies: "[A common misperception of me is] that all my movies have twist endings, or that they're all scary. All my movies are spiritual and all have an emotional perspective."[63]

Plagiarism accusations

Robert McIlhinney, a Pennsylvania screenwriter, sued Shyamalan in 2003, alleging similarity of Signs to his unpublished script Lord of the Barrens: The Jersey Devil.[64][65]

In 2004, Margaret Peterson Haddix noted that The Village has numerous similarities to her young adult's novel Running Out of Time, prompting discussions with publisher Simon & Schuster about filing a lawsuit.[64][65][66]

In response to both allegations, Disney and Shyamalan's production company Blinding Edge issued statements calling the claims "meritless".[66]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1998 Young Artist Award Best Family Feature - Drama Wide Awake Nominated
1999 Academy Award Best Director The Sixth Sense Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Screenplay Nominated
Empire Award Best Director Won
Nebula Award Best Script Won
Online Film Critics Society Award Best Screenplay Nominated
Saturn Award Best Writing Nominated
Annie Award Writing in a Feature Production Stuart Little Nominated
2000 Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay Unbreakable Nominated
Nebula Award Best Script Nominated
2002 Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay Signs Nominated
Empire Award Best Director Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award Best Screenplay Nominated
2004 Empire Award Best Director The Village Nominated
2005 Teen Choice Award Choice Movie: Thriller Nominated
2006 Teen Choice Award Choice Summer Movie: Drama/Action-Adventure Lady in the Water Nominated
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Director Won
Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Won
Stinkers Bad Movie Award Worst Director Nominated
Worst Ensemble
Shared with the entire cast
Least Scary Horror Movie Won
Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
2008 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Director The Happening Nominated
Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
2009 Fangoria Chainsaw Award Worst Film Won
2010 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Director The Last Airbender Won
Worst Picture Won
Worst Screen Couple
Shared with the entire cast
Worst Screenplay Won
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel Nominated
Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D Won
Teen Choice Award Choice Summer: Movie Nominated
2013 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Director After Earth Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated

See also


  1. ^ "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1219) (Time Inc.). 10 August 2012. p. 27. 
  2. ^ a b "The need for a Dev Patel in the Life of Pi". Rediff. 20 February 2009. 
  3. ^ Huber, Robert; Wallace, Benjamin. The Philadelphia Reader. Temple University Press. p. 197. Then [Shyamalan] changed his name. The idea came when he was applying for American citizenship at age 18. 
  4. ^ Padma Shri Awardees — Padma Awards.
  5. ^ Bamberger, Michael. The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale (Gotham Books, New York, 2006), p. 150.
  6. ^ "Chennai Online". Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. 
  7. ^ Edelstein, David (16 July 2006). "". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Dean's Message". 
  9. ^ Edelstein, David (16 July 2006). "M. Narcissus Shyamalan". New York Magazine. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  10. ^ NNDB -Manoj Shyamalan.
  11. ^ Bamberger, Ibid., p. 19.
  12. ^ - Wide Awake.
  13. ^ Young Artists Award - Past Nominations Listing.
  14. ^ The Numbers - Wide Awake Box Office Data.
  15. ^ M Night Shyamalan reveals he ghost-wrote 'She's All That'
  16. ^ Kibblesmith, Daniel (17 June 2013). "Wait, did M. Night Shyamalan lie about writing "She's All That"?". Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  17. ^ - "Indiana Jones and the Curse of Development Hell", By Ann Donahue.
  18. ^ Science Fiction Weekly,[volume & issue needed]
  19. ^ Otto, Jeff (14 July 2006). "Potter in the Water? Shyamalan interested in magical franchise". IGN.
  20. ^ Schwawrtz, Missy (3 May 2006). "'Water' Bearer". Entertainment Weekly.
  21. ^ Fleming, Michael (21 July 2008). "Night falls for Media Rights". Variety. 
  22. ^ Fleming, Michael (28 October 2008). "MRC, Shyamalan dance with 'Devil'". Variety. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  23. ^ "Details on Shyamalan Story 'Devil'". Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  24. ^ M. Night Shyamalan And Bruce Willis Will Reteam For Labor Of Love
  25. ^ a b Fleming, Mike, JR. "Universal Slots ‘The Visit’, M. Night Shyamalan’s Secret Thriller". Deadline. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "Profile of M. Night Shyamalan goes sour: Sci-Fi Channel is still planning to air the documentary". Today. Associated Press. 16 June 2004. Archived from the original on April 1, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Sci Fi schedules controversial Shyamalan doc.". Knight Ridder / Tribune News Service. 21 June 2004. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  28. ^ Edelstein, David (n.d.). "M. Narcissus Shyamalan". (Sidebar, "Backstory") New York. Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. 
  29. ^ Starr, Michael (23 June 2004). "Starr Report". New York Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  30. ^ Recchia, Philip (2 January 2005). "Let's Be Honest! Who Were the Biggest Liars of 2004?". New York Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  31. ^ Collins, Dan (July 20, 2004). "Sci-Fi Channel Admits Hoax, 'Documentary' On Reclusive Filmmaker Is Bogus". CBS News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 10, 2011. 
  32. ^ Humphries, Stephen (28 July 2004). "A Different Take". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 2 January 2015. 
  33. ^ "Legal". M. Night Shyamalan official site. Archived from the original on 23 December 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  34. ^ "Blinding Edge Pictures". Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  35. ^ "Syfy, Marti Noxon, M. Night Shyamalan and Universal Cable Productions Team for Proof Pilot" (Press release). Syfy. 3 August 2012. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  36. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Wide Awake''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  37. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Sixth Sense''". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  38. ^ "Metascore of ''The Sixth Sense''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  39. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Stuart Little''". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  40. ^ "Metascore of ''Stuart Little''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  41. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Unbreakable''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  42. ^ "Metascore of ''Unbreakable''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  43. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Signs''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  44. ^ "Metascore of ''Signs''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  45. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Village''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  46. ^ "Metascore of ''The Village''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  47. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Lady in the Water''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  48. ^ "Metascore of ''Lady in the Water''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  49. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Happening''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  50. ^ "Metascore of ''The Happening''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  51. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Last Airbender''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  52. ^ "Metascore of ''The Last Airbender''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  53. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Devil''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  54. ^ "Metascore of ''Devil''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  55. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''After Earth''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  56. ^ "Metascore of ''After Earth''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  57. ^ "WAYWARD PINES: SEASON 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  58. ^ "Wayward Pines : Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  59. ^ "The Visit (2015) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  60. ^ a b Whip, Glenn (20 July 2006). "Water' torture is M. Night Shyamalan a genius of an egomaniac? Director's newest film has Gollywood wondering". 
  61. ^ The Radford Reviews (2 August 2004)
  62. ^ "The case against M. Night Shyamalan". 30 July 2004. 
  63. ^ "The 5-minute Interview: M Night Shyamalan, Writer and director". The Independent (London). 31 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  64. ^ a b Grossberg, Josh (10 August 2004). "Shyamalan's "Village" Villainy?". 
  65. ^ a b "Is Shyamalan a copycat?". Rediff Entertainment Bureau. 11 August 2004. 
  66. ^ a b Susman, Gary (10 August 2004). "It Takes a Village". 

External links