THE VILLAGE - Q&A with M NIGHT SHYAMALAN
M Night Shyamalan comes from a medical family. His parents are doctors, twelve uncles and aunts have followed medical careers and Shyamalan was bright enough to have continued this impressive family connection. Instead he decided that a future in making movies was what the doctor ordered. The result has been a series of very original films that have all been box office hits and Night has been hailed as the next Steven Spielberg.
His success story started off with THE SIXTH SENSE, the haunting big screen sensation about a boy who sees dead people. That was followed by his comic book inspired hit UNBREAKABLE and the thought-provoking alien invasion thriller SIGNS.
Now Night is back with THE VILLAGE, which took a remarkable $50 million plus in its opening weekend at the USA box office. Night's latest hit is an atmospheric story set in a 19th century rural community in which the village elders have created an uneasy truce with the mysterious creatures that exist in the surrounding woods.
Why did you decide to make this movie?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: It manifested itself from me wanting to make a period romance. I know my tendencies are to not make something in a genre ultimately. I know the tendency is to put you into a genre and say 'he makes scary movies'. But I'm not going to cater for that. I really wanted to make a romance but suspense comes every time, it's just the way I think. I'm comfortable with that. But I really wanted to make something where I could write the line 'the world moves for love and kneels before it in awe.' I made two choices - one for the moment that you experience in the movie theatre and the one for the shelf...what will make this movie resonate 20 years from now! Of the crop of movies coming out this summer which movie will be watched 20 years from now. Which will have resonance? Which will have something to say? Those decisions that will give THE VILLAGE a chance to be that movie are hard to make. I know how to make a movie for that two more experience when you have a good time. But it's not enough to do that. I have a great opportunity here and if this moment should ever go away I don't want to think that I didn't make courageous choices. When I got the idea for the movie about these people it came inverted. I went hmmm am I able to do this at this point in my career? I didn't know. But to have made the reverse choice would have been dishonest in some way.
Do you think THE VILLAGE has the kind of bittersweet qualities of WUTHERING HEIGHTS?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: There is a bittersweet element, a twisted kind of happiness at the end. I leave you with about 25 per cent of things feeling messed up, even though you are happy. I find it scary when I do that. Every single thing is not right, it's slightly twisted.
What about getting the feeling out of THE VILLAGE that you can run but you can't hide?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: That's cool that you get different feelings from it. I like both sets of feelings.
How did you go about creating the story?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I literally just sat in a room at my farm and wrote THE VILLAGE.
People now expect a twist in your films, don't they?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I'm not sure why after SIGNS because SIGNS didn't really have a twist. We screened this for a bunch of people and they were blown away by it, they had exactly THE SIXTH SENSE experience and more. There were some who couldn't even move at the end of it. I think this is the only movie I have made that is sincerely better the second time. It's better for scenes like the one in which Joaquin is having that conversation with the guy in the tower - what they are talking about and what it means. So much so that I almost took the ending and put it in the front. It is a great ending but I didn't want it to sacrifice the fact that it is a greater story. There will be a lot of razzle-dazzle about the ending, obviously. But that will all go away. It will ultimately be a story as time goes on about people escaping.
When you sit down to write a story are you pressurised because of prior success?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Well, I have this really cool idea for another movie and there are two elements that give me pause. One of them I have decided to just go ahead with and I know when I make the movie I'll be asked about that. I know it can either go bad or good and I'm willing to take that risk. The other element I can organically keep thinking about it and it will start twisting the story. That's what I would have done if no one was paying attention to my movies. That's what normally would have happened and I'm stopping myself. I have to decide whether I'm being intelligent. That's a problem because I feel it stops me from being me. I remember a studio head called me and said 'Enjoy THE SIXTH SENSE it's never going to happen again.' And I said 'Why, I made it up! I'll just make up another one.'
You are a big fan of comic books so what about doing a Marvel Comics film?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: They have asked me. I have been offered every single one. I love comic books a lot. But I don't know if they would come out in a way that people would entirely dig them. I enjoy the becoming the comic book character part of the comic book.
What about you doing a movie that's not original material because you are said to be planning a film on the best selling book Life Of Pi?
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN: That's the only book I have ever been offered. Someone gave it to me and I read it and a couple of days later I said 'It's great! I could make that move!' And so I got in touch a couple of days later and everyone went crazy. It gives me comfort that I did it with no agenda at all. It scares me to death to spend two years not doing something I wrote. But I will write the adaptation. A lady in the street came up to me in the street and said 'I know you wrote this book under a pseudonym...you can't fool me.' That was cool. And no one can yell at me for the ending of it.
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