M. Night Shyamalan got his start in Hollywood working with Harvey Weinstein, whom in a new THR interview he calls the industry’s “biggest monster.”
The “Knock at the Cabin” writer-director was scooped up by Miramax following the success of his 1992 film “Praying With Angels,” followed by his 1998 feature “Wide Awake” under the studio. Yet Weinstein’s work methods proved to be a “personal hell” for Shyamalan.
“I started so young in trying to make movies and failing, but they were reps. I made ‘Wide Awake’ for Miramax and Harvey Weinstein. I went through my own personal hell being there, but it was trial by fire,” Shyamalan told The Hollywood Reporter. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started my career with the biggest monster that ever was. I was in that room with him all the time while he would say crazy things, but it built me up because I’m a softie.”
He continued, “I love to play a lot of basketball, but if I get elbowed, I become a different person. And Harvey, clearly, would elbow you, so that created a warrior mentality in this soft kid from a sweet, loving family. But when I looked at the situation at Miramax, it felt like my career was over.”
Shyamalan wanted to leave the studio but realized a contractual loophole could make it possible for him to sell scripts elsewhere.
“My reps said, ‘Miramax owns your directing. You can’t direct anywhere else.’ In those days, contracts were crazy, and Miramax had some really tough contracts,” Shyamalan said. “But by some freak chance, they didn’t own my writing. It was an error by their legal department, so I said, ‘I’ll write the best screenplay ever and try to get out of here.’ So I sat down and looked at the ‘Jaws,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ and ‘Poltergeist’ posters on my wall and said, ‘I’ll just write one of those. I love those.’ So I went into genre and suspense for the very first time, and everything just clicked. I was having so much fun. I had unlimited ideas.”
That script turned out to be “The Sixth Sense,” which was purchased by Miramax parent company, Disney.
“As we were editing ‘The Sixth Sense,’ I was writing ‘Unbreakable.’ I wanted to get the next one going as fast as I could because I was so nervous,” Shyamalan admitted. “I was like, ‘At least let me make one more movie before you stop letting me make movies.’ That was the mentality.”
Despite his career “highs and lows,” Shyamalan opened up about the need to make a “genuine effort to join the system” despite later learning that “the special thing that makes me happy was hard to do within that system.”
He summed up, “It was so wonderful to have that opportunity, but there are so many people who are so much better at that kind of storytelling than I am.”
Now, Shyamalan works with Universal which released his films like “Old,” “Split,” and “Glass.”
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