Admittedly, “What does M. Night Shyamalan think about
everything going on right now?,” was actually something I was
curious to know. This is a reason why, the day before our
interview, I rewatched Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening, a
film that did not go over very well at the time but, now, well …
look, he gets a lot more right about how a pandemic will go than
people give him credit for doing. It is pretty remarkable. For
instance, a movie like Contagion has a kook like Jude Law’s
character spouting conspiracy theories. In The Happening we all
rolled are eyes at the final scene when a cable news anchor claims
the whole thing is a hoax. Well, unfortunately, it turns out M.
Night was right. And, yes, he has some critical opinions on how the
U.S. government has handled the pandemic.
Shyamalan, who just turned 50 a few months ago (as he explains,
a good portion of his family all had consequential, notable
birthdays during the pandemic), is video chatting from his home in
Philadelphia to talk about the second season of Servant. A married
couple, played by Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell, have their
infant son come back to life after the arrival of a mysterious
nanny – Servant, in its first season, set primarily inside a
house, seemed like a stylistic choice, but now doesn’t seem all
(The first season of Servant also got some unwanted attention
due to a lawsuit filed against it for copyright infringement,
alleging similarities with a film. Not getting as much attention
was that Shyamalan and Servant
won that case, even recouping their legal fees. Shymalan,
ahead, discusses his legal victory.)
We had a little time left over at the end, so after we delved
into The Happening, and we got into a couple of other questions I
had about some of his past movies. The first was why he drowned
Bruce Willis’s character in a puddle at the end of Glass, which
seems almost personal. And the second is if he ever thinks about
what would have happened if Haley Joel Osment had been cast in The
Phantom Menace instead of The Sixth Sense – and this was breaking
news to Shyamalan that Osment had ever auditioned for Star
We are all going to have birthdays during the pandemic,
but I feel some empathy for people with big birthdays and you just
had a big birthday…
I know. And this was the big year for birthdays for our whole
family. I turned 50. My mom turned 80. My daughter turned 21. My
other daughter turned 16.
Oh my gosh.
Everybody ended up just having quiet dinner at home. That turned
out to be, “All right, what’s your favorite meal? We’re just
going to cook your favorite meal.” That’s what it turned out to
be for all of us.
Those ages you just mentioned, those are all huge
Yeah. I know. The sweet 16, I think, hurt the most.
I talked to you for
the first season of Servant and it’s funny to reread that
because the theme was basically, “Ah, this streaming thing, I
think it might take off.” And here we are.
Yeah. Amazing. I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out.
I wonder how it will be at the end of the day? Is everyone going to
have 15 different streaming things that they’re going to pay for?
Or is it all going to get bundled like a cable thing? How is this
going to work out for the average person? I’m not sure.
Well, you had to have thought about it. You have a
streaming show. What do you think is going to happen?
When I think about the landscape changing for streamers? As you
know, everybody’s going to make good content. Everyone’s going
to have, like, if you want to watch that movie, you have to go to
this studio’s streaming service. I like being associated with
Apple and their brand to separate us a little bit. And, hopefully,
people will see us, because it’s going to be so hard to get
people’s attention now that there are a thousand shows being
So I watched seven episodes of the new season. It hit me
a lot different than watching the first season. Because a show set
primarily in a house, yeah, that makes a lot of sense right
I know, that’s just my taste. Nothing to do with pandemics.
That’s what I like. I like isolated, contained stories.
That’s how we all live now.
Yeah. It’s not strange at all now. It’s not unusual.
Your show went from, oh, this is really unusual that
they spend so much time at home to, oh, they’re just like
everyone else. They spend a lot of time in their
That’s true. That’s true. You don’t even think about it
So you just got renewed for a third season. Last year
you said you wanted to make 60 episodes?
I changed my mind on that over the pandemic. I outlined the
whole series over the pandemic and figured out where I wanted it to
go and how many episodes it would be. And it came out to 40.
Okay, so now 40.
Instead of 60. Yeah.
So the pandemic made you want to do less?
Well, it made me figure it all out. Two things happened. Well,
three things. One was I just wrote out all my ideas and it just
came out to that. That was one. Two, I didn’t expect to be as
involved in the show as I am. I mean, I do everything. I put in
every sound effect. Right now, when I finish here, I’m going to
go and listen to a cue. I did the writers’ room right before all
this, for season three. Every color timing I do upstairs. I do
everything. And I like it! I’m enjoying it!
I just don’t know what my life will be like many, many years
from now. So I felt like I can commit at this level through next
year and get us to the finish line on this thing. So it’s a
combination of that. And also what we just talked about: that the
world has changed so much and the streamers are everywhere. And
what used to be a long commitment of six seasons feels eternal in
this world. Whereas now, you see the impact of Queen’s Gambit has
on Netflix, right? It’s powerful – it’s a commitment for the
audience – but not that long. And yet it’s what everyone
wanted. I feel it. And it affected me and it helped Netflix. And
it’s one of the most sticky things that’s happened for them in
a long time. And I feel like if I can do something super high
quality for a burst of time here, that’s probably the best for me
and for them. So it just ended up kind of naturally looking at the
playing field, shifting from 60 episodes to 40. So that’s where
my head went.
So I don’t know if this is a touchy subject or not,
but the show was sued for copyright infringement. I
read the judge’s decision, that you won. Did you feel
vindicated? The judge wrote, “many of the alleged similarities in
the First Amended Complaint are mischaracterizations of one or both
of the works at issue,” and you were awarded your legal fees
It’s so par for the course, too. I didn’t even really spend
any on it. When it happened, I was like, whatever, here’s the
mountain of stuff. Let’s figure it out. And actually, whenever
somebody goes, “Hey, I thought of an alien movie first.” I’m
like, “Please, I know you did, but here’s all my stuff. Please,
please, please just look at it carefully. Look at the dates. I know
you feel like somebody took something from you, but we all have so
many similar pools of ideas and thoughts. Nobody took anything,
that’s not how I run. In fact, if you want to do a game, I bet
you I can come up with movie ideas right now. Right off the top of
my head, ten of them right now.”
And, so, I sent these people that and said, “Please, please. I
totally understand. Just, here’s all the information. Clearly,
clearly, this was done way, way before anything that you were
thinking of. And I wish you the best, I really do.” And they kept
pursuing it anyway. It went exactly as you thought it would. But
yet they never write about how it was ridiculous. They just write
about the negative part of it.
So I rewatched The Happening. As far as the pandemic,
you got a lot right. Have you thought about that recently? It
starts in the Northeast. People are nonchalant at first. It hits
the cities, then it hits the towns, then it goes to rural areas.
There’s a weird MAGA-type gun guy. You can’t be around other
Well, you know what’s similar is I guess it’s an unseen
enemy, right? It’s a conceptual enemy, which is hard to wrap your
head around. And as you can see, by the way the country reacted to
a conceptual enemy, the framing of the storytelling is everything.
Do they give credence to the fear? Do they feel restricted? And
because of the way the administration chose to be ambiguous about
what was happening to all of us, you have all these bizarre
reactions across the spectrum.
I remember when I first saw that movie I rolled my eyes
at the final scene with the newscast calling it a hoax and a
government conspiracy. And then that happened.
Dude, no one would believe what happened here in these last four
years. No one would believe that any of this stuff could actually
play out. No one would believe what we’ve witnessed in these last
four years. No one. I have so many doctors in my family and their
patients, as they’re being told they’re dying or what are they
dying of, “You’re dying from the coronavirus.” They go,
“No, that’s a hoax. What am I really dying from?” That’s
being said to the doctor! “I don’t know what to tell you.
You’re dying from the coronavirus.” And it’s incredible.
Well, that was my long way of saying I think you deserve
more credit for that movie, because you got more right than anyone
gave you credit for at the time.
And you cast both Jeremy Strong and Alan Ruck. So you
were ahead on the Succession craze, too.
Yeah, that’s true!
So, I’m curious, why did you drown Bruce Willis in a
puddle at the end of Glass. Because it seemed almost
[Laughs] Well, in the end, that the simplest thing can take the
strongest person down. That it’s like more of Achilles’ heel
that, in the mythos of it, you don’t need an army to take down
the strongest man if you know their weakness.
It’s been reported Haley Joel Osment auditioned for
the part of Anakin in The Phantom Menace. Do you think about that?
Because chances are then he’s not in The Sixth Sense and
everything would be different.
Oh, really? I didn’t, it’s funny, I never heard that!
You’re the first one actually I’ve ever heard that from.
I’m breaking news to you.
I mean, jeez. I mean, always I’m astonished by filmmaking. The
kind of serendipity involved with filming who’s available at what
time, what person comes to audition for me, all these things. The
particular cinematographer, the sun on that day. That’s what I
love about filmmaking. It is all this happenstance that comes
together and becomes this alchemy of magic that’s caught. I’m
astonished by it, but I’ve kind of learned to celebrate it and
enjoy it. And even this last movie, that I’ve done so much of
that came to the table.
Yeah. So much of that. Like, I couldn’t make that movie now if
I wanted to with the same cast. It would be so hard to do all the
things that we did and it’s just amazing. And that’s what makes
it so precious for me.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.
Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News 2
M. Night Shyamalan On ‘Servant’ And Why He Drowned Bruce
Willis In A Puddle