M. Night Shyamalan

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M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan 2008 - still 40580 crop.jpg
M. Night Shyamalan at a press conference for The Happening in 2008
BornManoj Shyamalan
(1970-08-06) 6 August 1970 (age 44)[1]
Mahé, India[2]
ResidenceWillistown, Pennsylvania, US
EducationWaldron Mercy Academy
Episcopal Academy
Alma materNew York University
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter, actor
Years active1992–present
Notable work(s)The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water
Home townPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Board member of
Blinding Edge Pictures
Spouse(s)Bhavna Vaswani (1993–present)
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M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan 2008 - still 40580 crop.jpg
M. Night Shyamalan at a press conference for The Happening in 2008
BornManoj Shyamalan
(1970-08-06) 6 August 1970 (age 44)[1]
Mahé, India[2]
ResidenceWillistown, Pennsylvania, US
EducationWaldron Mercy Academy
Episcopal Academy
Alma materNew York University
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter, actor
Years active1992–present
Notable work(s)The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water
Home townPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Board member of
Blinding Edge Pictures
Spouse(s)Bhavna Vaswani (1993–present)

Manoj Shyamalan (/ˈʃɑːmələn/;[citation needed] born 6 August 1970), known professionally as M. Night Shyamalan, is an Indian-born American screenwriter, film director, and producer known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots including The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Last Airbender (2010), and After Earth (2013). He is also known for filming and setting his movies in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was raised.

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.[3]

Early life[edit]

Shyamalan was born in a Hindu household in Mahé, India.[2][4] His father, Nelliate C. Shyamalan, is a Malayali and is a traditional physician (Vaidyar) from Mahé. His mother, Jayalakshmi, is a Tamil and is an obstetrician and gynecologist by profession.[5] 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.[6] Shyamalan is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan,[7] graduating in 1992. It was while studying there that he adopted Night as his second name.[8]

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.[9] 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.


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.[10]

Shyamalan 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[11] and earned 1999 Young Artist Award nominations for Best Drama, and, for Cross, Best Performance.[12] Only in limited release, the film grossed $305,704 in theaters, against a $6 million budget.[13]

That same year Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little with Greg Brooker. In 2013, he revealed he was the ghost writer for the 1999 film She's All That, a teen comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachel Leigh Cook.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] After the film fell through, Shyamalan later said it was too "tricky" to arrange and "not the right thing" for him to do.[17]

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 outlook...you 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".[18]

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.

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".[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] The movie was about a group of people stuck in an elevator with the devil, and starred Chris Messina.[22] 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.[23]

Sci-Fi Channel hoax[edit]

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[24] and Zap2It,[25] among others. A New York Post news item, based on a Sci Fi press release, referred to Shyamalan's attorneys threatening to sue the filmmakers; the attorneys named were non-existent.

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."[26]

Personal life[edit]

In 1993, Shyamalan married psychologist Bhavna Vaswani, a fellow student whom he met at NYU[27] and with whom he has three daughters. His family resides in Willistown, Pennsylvania, near Shyamalan's usual shooting site, Philadelphia. His production company, Blinding Edge Pictures, is located in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.[28] 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, Ashwin Rajan, and Jose L. Rodriguez.


YearFilmDirectorProducerWriterActorRoleNotesRotten TomatoesMetacritic
1992Praying with AngerYesYesYesYesDev RamanN/AN/A
1998Wide AwakeYesNoYesNo40%[29]N/A
1999The Sixth SenseYesNoYesYesDr. Hill85%[30]64/100[31]
Stuart LittleNoNoYesNo66%[32]61/100[33]
2000UnbreakableYesYesYesYesStadium Drug Dealer68%[34]62/100[35]
2002SignsYesYesYesYesRay Reddy74%[36]59/100[37]
2004The VillageYesYesYesYesJay - Guard at desk43%[38]44/100[39]
2006Lady in the WaterYesYesYesYesVick Ran24%[40]36/100[41]
2008The HappeningYesYesYesYesJoey (Voice)17%[42]34/100[43]
2010The Last AirbenderYesYesYesYesFirebender at Earth Prison Camp6%[44]20/100[45]
DevilNoYesYesNoOnly credited for story concept; not screenplay52%[46]44/100[47]
2013After EarthYesNoYesNoAlso executive producer11%[48]33/100[49]
2015Labor of LoveYesYesYesNoFilmingTBATBA

Frequent Collaborators[edit]

Actors / Actresses[edit]

ActorsThe Sixth Sense
The Village
Lady in the Water
The Happening
Labor of Love
Bruce WillisYesYesYes
Bryce Dallas HowardYesYes
Joaquin PhoenixYesYes
Cherry JonesYesYes
Frank CollisonYesYes

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Shyamalan twists[edit]

With the exception of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, a common criticism of Shyamalan's works is that they feature better direction than screenwriting.[50][51] He has also been labeled a "one-trick pony" for his continuous use of the "twist" element in his screenplays.[50] 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."[52]

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."[53]

Plagiarism accusations[edit]

Robert McIlhinney, a Pennsylvania screenwriter, sued Shyamalan in 2003, alleging similarity of Signs to his unpublished script Lord of the Barrens: The Jersey Devil.[54][55]

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.[54][55][56]

In response to both allegations, Disney and Shyamalan's production company Blinding Edge issued statements calling the claims "meritless".[56]

Awards and nominations[edit]

1998Young Artist AwardBest Family Feature - DramaWide AwakeNominated
1999Academy AwardBest DirectorThe Sixth SenseNominated
Best Original ScreenplayNominated
Bram Stoker AwardBest ScreenplayWon
Chicago Film Critics Association AwardBest ScreenplayNominated
Empire AwardBest DirectorWon
Nebula AwardBest ScriptWon
Online Film Critics Society AwardBest ScreenplayNominated
Saturn AwardBest WritingNominated
Annie AwardWriting in a Feature ProductionStuart LittleNominated
2000Bram Stoker AwardBest ScreenplayUnbreakableNominated
Nebula AwardBest ScriptNominated
2002Bram Stoker AwardBest ScreenplaySignsNominated
Empire AwardBest DirectorNominated
Online Film Critics Society AwardBest ScreenplayNominated
2004Empire AwardBest DirectorThe VillageNominated
2005Teen Choice AwardChoice Movie: ThrillerNominated
2006Teen Choice AwardChoice Summer Movie: Drama/Action-AdventureLady in the WaterNominated
Golden Raspberry AwardWorst DirectorWon
Worst PictureNominated
Worst ScreenplayNominated
Worst Supporting ActorWon
Stinkers Bad Movie AwardWorst DirectorNominated
Worst Ensemble
Shared with the entire cast
Least Scary Horror MovieWon
Worst PictureNominated
Worst ScreenplayNominated
2008Golden Raspberry AwardWorst DirectorThe HappeningNominated
Worst PictureNominated
Worst ScreenplayNominated
2009Fangoria Chainsaw AwardWorst FilmWon
2010Golden Raspberry AwardWorst DirectorThe Last AirbenderWon
Worst PictureWon
Worst Screen Couple
Shared with the entire cast
Worst ScreenplayWon
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or SequelNominated
Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3DWon
Teen Choice AwardChoice Summer: MovieNominated
2013Golden Raspberry AwardWorst DirectorAfter EarthNominated
Worst ScreenplayNominated

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Padma Shri Awardees — Padma Awards.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Chennai Online". Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. 
  6. ^ Edelstein, David (16 July 2006). "nymag.com". nymag.com. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Dean's Message". about.tisch.nyu.edu. 
  8. ^ Edelstein, David (16 July 2006). "M. Narcissus Shyamalan". New York Magazine. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  9. ^ NNDB -Manoj Shyamalan.
  10. ^ Bamberger, Ibid., p. 19.
  11. ^ Answers.com - Wide Awake.
  12. ^ Young Artists Award - Past Nominations Listing.
  13. ^ The Numbers - Wide Awake Box Office Data.
  14. ^ M Night Shyamalan reveals he ghost-wrote 'She's All That'
  15. ^ Kibblesmith, Daniel (17 June 2013). "Wait, did M. Night Shyamalan lie about writing "She's All That"?". Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Premiere.com - "Indiana Jones and the Curse of Development Hell", By Ann Donahue.
  17. ^ Science Fiction Weekly,[volume & issue needed]
  18. ^ Otto, Jeff (14 July 2006). "Potter in the Water? Shyamalan interested in magical franchise". IGN.
  19. ^ Schwawrtz, Missy (3 May 2006). "'Water' Bearer". Entertainment Weekly.
  20. ^ Fleming, Michael (21 July 2008). "Night falls for Media Rights". Variety. 
  21. ^ Fleming, Michael (28 October 2008). "MRC, Shyamalan dance with 'Devil'". Variety. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  22. ^ "Details on Shyamalan Story 'Devil'". Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  23. ^ M. Night Shyamalan And Bruce Willis Will Reteam For Labor Of Love
  24. ^ "Profile of M. Night Shyamalan goes sour: Sci-Fi Channel is still planning to air the documentary". Associated Press. 16 June 2004. 
  25. ^ "Sci-Fi Schedules Controversial Shyamalan Doc". zap2it.com. 17 June 2004. 
  26. ^ Collins, Dan. "Sci-Fi Channel Admits Hoax, 'Documentary' On Reclusive Filmmaker Is Bogus", Associated Press via CBS News, 20 July 2004. WebCitation archive.
  27. ^ The Christian Science Monitor (28 July 2004): "A Different Take: "Self-directed filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan forges his own sub-genre: suspenseful movies with revealing twists. How a confident Hollywood outsider keeps his focus on family and faith", by Stephen Humphries.
  28. ^ "herndon1.sdrdc.com". herndon1.sdrdc.com. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  29. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Wide Awake''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  30. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Sixth Sense''". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  31. ^ "Metascore of ''The Sixth Sense''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  32. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Stuart Little''". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  33. ^ "Metascore of ''Stuart Little''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  34. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Unbreakable''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  35. ^ "Metascore of ''Unbreakable''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Signs''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  37. ^ "Metascore of ''Signs''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  38. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Village''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  39. ^ "Metascore of ''The Village''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  40. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Lady in the Water''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  41. ^ "Metascore of ''Lady in the Water''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  42. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Happening''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  43. ^ "Metascore of ''The Happening''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  44. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''The Last Airbender''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  45. ^ "Metascore of ''The Last Airbender''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  46. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''Devil''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  47. ^ "Metascore of ''Devil''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  48. ^ "Tomatometer Rating of ''After Earth''". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  49. ^ "Metascore of ''After Earth''". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  50. ^ 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". dailybulletin.com. 
  51. ^ The Radford Reviews (2 August 2004)
  52. ^ "The case against M. Night Shyamalan". slate.com. 30 July 2004. 
  53. ^ "The 5-minute Interview: M Night Shyamalan, Writer and director". The Independent (London). 31 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  54. ^ a b Grossberg, Josh (August 10, 2004). "Shyamalan's "Village" Villainy?". eonline.com. 
  55. ^ a b "Is Shyamalan a copycat?". Rediff Entertainment Bureau. August 11, 2004. 
  56. ^ a b Susman, Gary (10 August 2004). "It Takes a Village". ew.com. 

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