“I like to write in a shroud of secrecy because I have to keep finding ways to scare myself.”
–M. Night Shyamalan
Manoj Shyamalan was born on this day in Mahe, Pondicherry, India in 1970. Today is his 42nd birthday.
His parents lived in the US prior to his birth, but his mother traveled back to India to be with her parents for the last few months of her pregnancy. She came back to the states with the baby when he was 6 weeks old. He was raised outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was given a Super 8 camera as a kid and began making home movies starring himself, his friends and his toys. While attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts he added “Night” as his middle name. He also finished his first feature film, Praying with Anger. The film roughly echoed his own experiences on a visit to India and deals with cultural tensions and family secrets.
Miramax optioned Wide Awake which Shyamalan directed and shot in Pennsylvania (his location of choice.) Then he penned the script for Stuart Little.
His big break came with The Sixth Sense. [No spoilers here, all I’ll say is… if you haven’t seen this tight, dramatic, ghost story rent it now. It is part 1 of the M. Night trifecta ] The movie was filmed in Philadelphia and starred Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. Shyamalan again directed. And it received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
He added Producer credit to the list with 2000’s Unbreakable. The film tapped Willis as star again, this time partnering him with Samuel L. Jackson. More superhero than supernatural this film did well at the box office, but didn’t deliver the punch of its predessor.
Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix starred in Signs a sci-fi, alien invasion thriller. [It is part 2 of the M. Night trifecta so add this to your queue as well.]
The Village shifts the action to an idealistic 19th century farming village. There’s just one problem, the surrounding woods are populated by huge clawed monsters. As long as the villagers keep inside set boundaries and don’t wear red (red is a bad color and attracts the monsters) all is well. But this is an M. Night Shyamalan film… nothing ever stays all well. The Village did not achieve the audience or critical favor that Sixth Sense or Signs enjoyed. [But I really like it. So it’s my number 3 pick for the trifecta. ]
He based The Lady in the Water with Bryce Dallas Howard and Paul Giamatti on a story he told his kid. During filming of Lady he had a break with Disney films. Warner Bros. picked up the picture, but it lost money.
The writer/director returned to his horror roots with The Happening starring Mark Walhberg and Zoey Deschanel .
In 2010 He made The Last Airbender based on Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show received very poor reviews, but has done well internationally. He also wrote and produced Devil, a story about people stuck on an elevator with the Devil in disguise.
He is currently in post-production for After Earth, a science fiction thriller staring Jaden Smith.
Shyamalan’s latest project takes him to the television’s cable network Syfy where it has just been announced that he will work with producer Marti Noxon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) on of a scripted series called Proof. According to a press release for the show:
In Proof, after the tragic accident and sudden death of his parents, the son of a billionaire tech genius offers a large reward for anyone who can find proof of life after death,
Shyamalan will direct the pilot which he and Noxon will co-write .