What you should know about Night Shyamalan
Presenting Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter
Arthur J Pais
Will M Night Shyamalan be lucky for the third time? With two supernatural hits The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, earning $1.3 billion (video and DVD sales factored in) worldwide, there is intense speculation where Signs is headed.
Shyamalan, who turns 32 on August 6, has worked with Mel Gibson for the first time, having teamed up with Bruce Willis in his previous films.
Signs is a stirring, suspense film about the loss and regain of faith and an eerie threat to a family headed by Gibson. Gibson plays an Episcopal priest, who has given up on prayers. The film opened on more than 4,000 screens in North America on Friday.
Here is a quick look at Shyamalan, who is currently on the cover of Newsweek. The cover story makes a prediction: Shyamalan is the next Steven Spielberg. He is the first South Asian moviemaker to be on Newsweek cover.
Given name: Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan
The reason he does not use his first name: According to his mother, he got fed up with the school teachers who mangled his names. So Manoj was abbreviated to M, and Nelliyattu became Night.
His screen names: In his first film, Praying With Anger, he was Dev Raman. In The Sixth Sense, he appeared for a few minutes as Dr Hill. He had no name in Unbreakable but he played, for a few seconds, a drug dealer. In Signs, he has about ten minutes of screen time as Ray Reddy.
Family: Father Nelliate is a cardiologist and mother, a gynaecologist. Wife Bhavna is pursuing a PhD degree in child psychology. They have two children.
The profession he was expected to go in: Medicine.
The school he graduated from: New York University
The cost of his first two films Praying With Anger and Wide Awake: $3.5 million, with the first one costing $500,000. Their worldwide gross was $400,000.
The cost of his third film: $48 million. Worldwide gross: About $670 million.
Major nominations: Oscar nominations for The Sixth Sense in many categories, including Best Film and Best Director. It came empty handed.
Why some people and magazines, including Newsweek, think (wrongly) that Unbreakable misfired at the box-office: Because it made $93 million in America. On the other hand The Sixth Sense had grossed $297 million. However, Unbreakable grossed about $160 million abroad, sold very well in video and DVD and was a solid profit-maker.
Current paycheck: For writing and directing, at least $12.5 million. It could considerably higher if Signs becomes a substantial hit, say, grosses about $350 million worldwide.
He is the most successful of directors in the age group, 30-35. The group includes Christopher Nolan, whose last two movies, Memento (worldwide gross, $50 million) and Insomnia ($65 million in America and yet to open abroad); Wes Anderson (Rushmore, $10 million worldwide, The Royal Tenenbaums, $100 million).
His favorite movie location: In and around Philadelphia, where he has spent most of his young life. Except for his very first film, Praying With Anger, which was shot in the southern Indian city of Chennai, he has set his next four films in and around his home city.
His only filmed script directed by someone else: Stuart Little, which Shyamalan co-adapted from an E B White classic. It was a smash hit, earning about $300 million worldwide
The biggest project he has turned down, as a writer: Stuart Little 2 script. He was offered about $3 million, but his preoccupation with Signs was one of the reasons he said No.
One company that has produced all his American films: Disney. Miramax, an arm of Disney, put up the money for Wide Awake. Though the Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein took Wide Awake off Shyamalan's hands and edited it on his own, Shyamalan managed to convince the Disney bosses that he should have the final say in his films.
And he got the assurance because the top brass at Disney loved his script for The Sixth Sense.
Some of his favorite directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
Watch the Signs
Tributes to misfits
'I try not to do the wink, wink'
Signs: Off the web