Director of The Sixth Sense
“I have this whole picture of the film in my head and then I put it all down on paper and storyboard it; showing the movie shot by shot. I like to feel that I have thought of everything before the camera starts rolling but I think that's probably my asset and weakness as a film maker. I am giving my cast a target that I have in my mind and they are trying to hit it. It's positive because I know exactly what I want to get out of my actors and the scene. But the negative is that I might not catch the lightning in the bottle, I may not get that unexpected improvised brilliance.” M. Night Shyamalan
Celebrated Indian/American motion picture director, writer and producer, who frequently has small parts in his movies, M. Night Shyamalan is best known as the director and writer of the highly successful supernatural thriller “The Sixth Sense” (1999), which starred superstar Bruce Willis and young actor Haley Joel Osment. In addition to becoming one of the biggest hits in 1999, the film brought Shyamalan two Oscar nominations as well as such awards as a Golden Satellite Award, a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Award, an Empire Award and a Bram Stoker Award. Making short movies at age 10, the graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts experienced a revival after the disappointing “Unbreakable” (2000) with the Mel Gibson vehicle “Signs” (2002), which primarily received good reviews from critics and was a blockbuster hit in and outside America. On selecting Mel Gibson for his film, he said, “I was on my parents' sofa watching the video of 'Lethal Weapon' and then this guy did stuff emotionally that had no business being in an action movie. I completely believed the humanity of a man who was so torn by the loss of his wife that he wasn't afraid of dying, which made him a lethal weapon. When I wrote the movie about a guy who loses faith because his wife has passed away, I felt like that was the guy. And I also like taking an action guy and not letting him be ‘The Guy.’”
Shyamalan, who is noted for making films with modern supernatural plots that commonly end with a surprise ending, has also directed such movies as his debut, “Praying with Anger” (1992), “Wide Awake” (1998), “The Village” (2004) and “Lady in the Water” (2006), from which he was handed two Razzie Awards. He also scripted the popular live-action/animated “Stuart Little” (1999), directed by Rob Minkoff.
Shyamalan's new film, “The Happening,” is expected to be released in 2008.
“All of my movies have made money and that's important for me. It's my job to make money for the studio.” M. Night Shyamalan
As for his personal life, Shyamalan has been married to Bhavna Shyamalan since 1993. They have two young daughters.
Childhood and Family:
Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan, who would later be popular as M. Night Shyamalan, was born on August 6, 1970, in Mahé, Pondicherry, India, to doctors Nelliate Shyamalan and Jayalakshmi Shyamalan. His parents immigrated to the United States and his mother did not return to India until several months before he was born. Shortly after his birth, Shyamalan was brought to the U.S. where his family stayed in the classy Philadelphia suburb of Penn Valley. He attended the private Catholic grammar school Waldron Mercy Academy and The Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated high school in 1988. He earned academic scholarships to a number of esteemed medical programs, but instead of following in his parents' footsteps, the long-time fan of Steven Spielberg chose to attend the New York University Tisch School of the Arts to pursue filmmaking. Shyamalan completed his education in 1992.
Meeting at NYU, Shyamalan married Bhavna Vaswani in 1993. His wife is an Indian psychologist. The couple now reside in Willistown Township, Pennsylvania, with their two daughters.
Born in India, M. Night Shyamalan developed a love for filmmaking while growing up in Philadelphia. Given a Super-8 camera at age 8, the bright pupil produced more than 45 short movies by the time he was 16. Adopting the nickname Night, Shyamalan emerged as a talented filmmaker at NYU and before graduating, made his first movie, “Praying with Anger.” A semi-autobiographical drama about an Indian American who journeys to Madras to explore his ancestors, “Praying with Anger” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 1992, but its poor reception subsequently prevented the film from being released nationally. In addition to taking on the directing duty, Shyamalan also produced, wrote and played the leading role of Dev Raman.
Undaunted, Shyamalan kept on working and in 1994 sold the rights to a screenplay called “Labor of Love” to Fox for $750,000 with the guarantee that he would sit in the director's chair. The project, however, has not been produced. Using the money from “Labor of Love,” Shyamalan directed and wrote his next film, “Wide Awake,” in 1995, but the drama was not released until three years later in 1998. Shot in Philadelphia, the coming of age comedy was nominated for two Young Artist Awards, including one for Best Family Feature/Drama. A commercial flop, “Wide Awake” went straight to video release.
Shyamalan enjoyed a massive breakthrough when he resurfaced in 1999 with the supernatural thriller “The Sixth Sense,” which marked his first venture into the horror realm. Budgeted at 40 million dollars, the film was an instant success at the box office and grossed more than 600 million dollars at the box office worldwide. Also a favorite among critics, the vehicle of Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment collected an awesome six Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing.
After the success of “The Sixth Sense,” Shyamalan became one of Hollywood's hottest filmmakers. That same year, he was hired to re-write the script for the Oscar nominee “Stuart Little,” a combination live action and animation movie adapted from the book by E.B. White. For his effort, Shyamalan co-netted an Annie nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production. In 2000, he directed, wrote and produced the mystery/thriller “Unbreakable,” which starred Bruce Willis as the only train crash survivor and Samuel L. Jackson as the comic book collector who convinces Willis' character that he has potential superpowers. Reportedly earning a total of 10 million dollars for his writing and directing duties, Shyamalan had to deal with a setback when the film failed to charm both audiences and critics.
Two years later, Shyamalan proved he was back on track with the thriller “Signs,” which starred Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. For his work on “Signs,” Shyamalan was nominated for an Online Film Critics Society award, a Bram Stoker award for Best Original Screenplay and an Empire for Best Director.
In 2004, Shyamalan directed, wrote, produced and had a small part in “The Village,” a mystery/thriller starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Adrien Brody and Sigourney Weaver. Although it gained a strong reception at the box office during its first week of release, the film is largely considered a commercial failure. “The Village,” however, received an Oscar for Best Original Score and Shyamalan took home an Empire nomination for Best Director.
Shyamalan's next film, “Lady in the Water,” was released in 2006 under Warner Bros. It was his initial collaboration with the studio after he left Disney following a conflict with the production president Nina Jacobson. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard in the title role and Paul Giamatti as apartment building supervisor Cleveland Heep, “Lady in the Water” was a box office disappointment and Shyamalan himself, who served as director, writer and producer in addition to having the supporting role of Vick Ran, was panned by critics. He picked up two of four Razzie nominations in the categories of Worst Director and Worst Supporting Actor.
Shyamalan is scheduled to make his comeback with “The Happening” (2008), a thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis. The film, which Shyamalan directed, wrote and produced, stars Mark Wahlberg as Elliot Moore, Zooey Deschanel as Alma Moore and John Leguizamo as Julian, among others.
Razzie: Worst Director, “Lady in the Water, 2007
Razzie: Worst Supporting Actor, “Lady in the Water,” 2007
ShoWest Convention: Director of the Year, 2006
Satellite: Golden Satellite, Best Screenplay, Original, “The Sixth Sense,” 2000
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Nebula Award, Best Script, “The Sixth Sense,”2000
Empire: Best Director, “The Sixth Sense,” 2000
Bram Stoker: Screenplay, “The Sixth Sense,” 2000