M. Night Shyamalan is back on everyone's radars with his latest flick, Old, which revolves around the horrors of a beach which prematurely ages you. But hey, if you're without sun cream, don't all beaches do that anyway? *badum tisch* Alright, I've hit my one joke quota.
Years before Old, and before Glass, but just after his criminally-underseen The Visit, Shyamalan dropped a dynamite thriller in Split, and as it turns out, the studio behind the movie were blissfully unaware of its ending until they saw the finished product.
The James McAvoy-starrer landed in theaters, generating a ton of buzz immediately for its multi-pronged top notch performance from McAvoy, yes. But most of the hype circled on its twist, its final cherry on top of the sundae: its connection to his 2000 movie, Unbreakable.
In the fading post-credits sting, it's revealed that Bruce Willis' Unbreakable character David Dunn exists in the same world as McAvoy's Split character, Kevin.
Jaws dropped. Voices shrieked. Fingers pointed. "BUT THIS MEANS SPLIT IS A SEQUEL," someone might have correctly blurted out to a theater of shocked faces.
As it turns out, Universal execs were also greeted by that same exact surprise during a test screening. "I go to the Universal Studios chairman, (the) marketing team, everyone’s in the theater. We pull down the lights and we play them Split. They don’t know the ending that they’re watching. They didn’t even know I shot it, because I didn’t even send them the dallies of that (scene)," Shyamalan told the ReelBlend podcast.
"The lights go down. They watch the whole movie of Split. Then this scene comes on, and they’re completely flummoxed. They look at me, and they’re like, ‘What are you saying? That’s a Disney movie!’ And I go, ‘It’s all good. We have the permission to do it!’ Can you imagine? You are the chairman of the studio, and the guy shows you that it’s a sequel to a movie from another studio?"
In order to maintain total secrecy from the studio, Shyamalan adopted several tactics to prevent Universal from catching wind of his plans. "When I wrote that movie, I didn’t put the end scene on. I handed it to the studio without that end scene on. We shot it without that end scene on. We previewed it without that end scene on. And then the best part was… I said, ‘Let’s just go for it.’ Lemme call Bruce and say, ‘Hey dude, would you just come to Philly for, like, three hours and shoot this thing for me?’ And he was like, ‘Why, what?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I did this movie, and it’s kind of in the “Unbreakable” world. I don’t know if we’ll ever shoot a sequel. Do you just want to just come for three hours, bro?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll come.’"
The ending of Split set the stage for a bona fide Unbreakable sequel, the resultant movie, Glass, failing to strike the same chord as its predecessor at the box office and with critics. It's not a terrible movie, but overall, it didn't quite land with the same force as Split.
You can catch Old in theaters now and scope out our exclusive with Shyamalan on the possibility of an Old 2.