Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From the Mind of ...

M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most successful directors of the late 1990s into early 2000s; probably best known for the 1999 summer hit “The Sixth Sense”, and is well known for making controversial films with supernatural plots.

Born Manjo Nelliyattu Shyamalan, on August 6, 1960 in Mahe, Pondicherry, India to doctors and raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. At the age of 8, he was given a Super-8 camera which began his passion for filmmaking. An ardent fan of Steven Speilberg, he had already made 45 home movies by the time he turned 17.

After receiving a Catholic school education, M. Night studied filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan, and adopted “Night” as his second name. While in school, using money borrowed from family and friends, M. Night made his first film, the semibiographical “Praying with Anger” which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1992, upon graduation.

After graduation, he began to submit his scripts at various studios, and found a patron in Miramax who bought “Wide Awake” and agreed that he would also direct it. “Wide Awake”, a drama about a 10 year old Catholic schoolboy who, after the death of his grandfather, searches for God, was directed in 1995 but released (limited) in 1998 was mildly successful at the box office. But M. Night continued writing scripts and in the process he earned one of his first high profile jobs as a co-writer of the 1997 hit “Stuart Little” with Greg Brooker.

While working on “Stuart Little”, he began writing a supernatural story, inspired by an episode of the fantasy series “Are You Afraid of the Dark”, about a young man with the ability to see ghosts. The story was titled “The Sixth Sense” and was bought by Disney for $2 million and allowed M. Night to direct. “The Sixth Sense” ended up being a commercial success and also critically acclaimed, earned 6 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. It remains till date his highest grossing movie.

Basking in the success of his previous effort, M. Night wrote, produced and directed his next feature “Unbreakable”, a supernatural thriller about a sole survivor of a train crash, undergoes mysterious changes. Though regarded as his best movie (that he’s worked on), “Unbreakable” enjoyed mild success at the box office. But afterwards, M. Night was connected with some high profile projects such as the fourth Indiana Jones movie, as well as the third Harry Potter movie; which he rejected. He decided to work on an entirely new project, writing and selling a screenplay to Disney in 2001. It was titled “Signs”.
“Signs”, a science fiction about a rural family who discover crop circles on their farm, was a full blown blockbuster in the summer of 2002. His next two movies, however, did not do well at the box office. “The Village”, released 2004, received negative reviews and was a commercial disappointment and “Lady in Water” saw the studios lose close to a $100 million.

However, in 2008, M. Night released his eight movie “The Happening”, whose plot involves a mysterious toxin that causes people to commit suicide and a couple’s struggle for survival. This was his first R-rated movie, and it was a box office success.

2007 was the first time M. Night would become familiar with his next project, “The Last Airbender”, after his daughter requested to dress as a character for Halloween. “The Last Airbender” based on the popular animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, which he wrote, produced and directed, was released July 2, 2010; but was panned by critics and achieved mild success at the box office.

M. Night Shyamalan is married to Bhavna Vaswani, with two daughters.

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.

The first of the three films will be “The Night Chronicles: Devil”, a supernatural thriller about a group of people stuck in an elevator with the devil opens in theatres September 17, 2010. The script was written by Brian Nelson and based on an original idea from M. Night Shyamalan.