Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan became one of Hollywood's hottest directors with the release of 1999's The Sixth Sense. Since then, Shyamalan has made a number of critically and commercially successful movies, which have sometimes come under criticism for being too serious and joyless for general audiences. In a new interview, Shyamalan revealed how his issues with inserting levity into his scripts led to 2000's Unbreakable being a more somber affair than he had intended.
"I had a complicated reaction to the reaction to Unbreakable. I wanted to make a movie about comic books ... and it wasn't a time when anybody was interested in seeing movies about comic books. In fact, it was not seen as a legitimate subject matter. I wanted to do it in a very kind of dramatic way, and I think my somberness at the time of Unbreakable came off in the film. If you see it, it's a very burdened movie."
Unbreakable took the comic book concept of normal people gaining superpowers and becoming superheroes, and turned the premise into a character study of the film's central character David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis. Today, the movie is considered a cult classic, but back then, Shyamalan was very conscious of the 'burdened' movie he had made with Unbreakable, and it was a conscious attempt to move away from such narratives that led him to write the script for Signs.
"There was this weird moment where, strangely, I went to Denny's. I was sitting there and seeing a family that was silent, and they were eating. I saw a couple that was quiet, and they were eating. And I was saying to myself: I can make movies that are burdened, and that's honest for me. But I was looking at those people in the Denny's, and I knew they were coming to my movies, and I wanted to make them feel better. So I called Disney and I said, "I want to make a movie that is just joyous, and doesn't have that lens of burden on it." It can have a lot of conflict in it, but the voice, the angle, I wanted it to be inspired and childlike, almost. And so Signs was born that way."
The decision to make something more lighthearted ended up being a blessing for M. Night Shyamalan, as it allowed him to move away, in a professional setting, from the heavy and serious subject matters he had tackled with The Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable. And so Signs ended up being one of the most fun filming experience of Shyamalan's career.
"I wouldn't write unless I was feeling lighthearted. If I started to get tight, I would walk away. And what ended up happening was really interesting. It was a psychological experiment. Because it was the easiest script to write in my career. It's on my shelf over there. ... It was just lighthearted and fun."
"The shoot was the easiest shoot that I've ever been on. And my shoots are torturous for me. Every day I question whether I should have become a doctor, you know. But it wasn't that way on that movie. It was really fun."
These quotes originated at The Ringer.