You typically write, direct, and even appear in your own movies, but
you’ve also adapted other material, like 1999’s ;°±;®°;;¥;¨¡. Which do
you prefer? It’s more of a challenge to adapt stuff because I want to please everyone. I feel bad changing anything. My first draft of Stuart Little was a straight
adaptation of that book. I didn’t want to change it because it was by E.B. White.
I thought, I’m just an Indian kid here writing. Then [the producers] were like,
it’s too quaint. I thought I would rewrite it and just see where my mind went.
There was a line in the book: “He looks somewhat like a mouse.” That told me
the tone of the movie, which was the answer to everything. I used that line, and
that humor, as the North Star. I prefer to go through the torture from scratch.
The Visit was a low-budget horror movie. Glass is a superhero movie. It
seems like these are the only two types of bets studios are making now.
Why do you think that is? [Watching] a drama can be an insular experience. It’s
harder to get you out of your house because, for example, I would want to experience something like [seeing] a couple getting divorced in
private. I don’t need 500 people to have that experience. But
being scared or surprised or having an “aha” moment are
things you don’t want to see alone.
Glass stars two stalwarts from the Marvel universe—
Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and James McAvoy
(Professor X). Do you feel like you’re competing
with Marvel and DC? Our movie kind of comments on
all of that. It’s very self-aware. I want to believe that we
have come to a place where originality is again going to
be a marketable thing.
Do you find yourself pushing back
«;¡ª;;It’s more about following my instinct. If I say, “I’m thinking about doing
this, what do you think?” and [the other
party doesn’t get it], that will actually reinforce my first thought. I’ll think, I know
you can’t see it yet, but I can see it. Whereas
when what [the other party says] resonates
[with me], I know I need to change something. I remember when I wrote The Sixth
Sense, I told my agent, “We’re going to put
this on sale on Monday for a minimum bid
of a million dollars, and I’m attached as
director. If we don’t get a million dollars,
I’m shelving it.” We didn’t have any money, so can you
imagine? But I was dead serious.
and did not meet expectations at the box office.
How do you deal with professional setbacks? I’m in
a good place on all of that. I don’t read a lot of that stuff.
I get a general idea from people who tell me whether a
movie was well reviewed or not. . . . I’ve been surprised
by the passion of the hatred sometimes. I tend to look
for unifying theories. I had a relationship with my audience that was specific in terms of making thrillers. Then
I wanted to go make other stories. I tacked toward kids’
movies mid-career and I’m sentimental, I get it. That’s
not your cup of tea. I wanted to make kids’ movies at
that time. Now I’m cool with making thrillers again, and
there’s an expectation and reward that’s more in alignment for the audience.
The “M. Night Shyamalan twist” has become a trope
of sorts. Has that made you rethink anything when
you’re writing a script? The pejorative part of that question is that it seems like it’s a dance move, like the moon-walk. That’s not what it is. There’s always, by the nature of
making a thriller, going to be a revelation. All stories have
an, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened” moment,
but mysteries have a more defined [one].
Creative Conversation N
I’VE BEEN SURPRISED
BY THE PASSION OF THE
YEARS AT COMPANY
FIRST JOB Director