M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Split’ hits cinemas today, and if you’re a fan of his early films like ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Unbreakable’, and ‘The Village’ we’re happy to report it’s a return to form for the thriller director.
It tells the story of Kevin Wendle Crumb (James McAvoy on terrific form), a man who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, a mental health condition that splits his mind into 23 distinct personalities. Each personality has its own traits, mannerisms, and physical attributes but a newly emerging 24th personality is starting to cause havoc with the others.
At the start of the film he kidnaps three teenage girls who must work together to escape from the man’s snare as final personality begins to take over… and that’s where the ‘Unbreakable’ connection comes in.
Beware, SPOILERS INCOMING…
In a brilliantly realised sleight of hand, The final moment of ‘Split’ reveals that the events of the film have all taken place in the same movie universe as ‘Unbreakable’, M. Night Shyamalan’s stealth-superhero film from 2000.
We don’t want to completely spoil it, but let’s just say: Kevin and Mr Glass have a lot in common.
Fans of that film, which starred Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson as unwitting superhero David Dunn and his nemesis Mr. Glass respectively, have long clamoured for ‘Unbreakable 2’, but little did they know Shyamalan had already made a quasi-sequel in the shape of ‘Split’.
Speaking to Yahoo Movies, Shyamalan confirmed the idea for ‘Split’ originally began life as a subplot of ‘Unbreakable’, AND that he’s working on a third film “to finish the story of that movie and this movie” describing its initial outline as “long and complicated”.
Here’s everything we learned from M. Night Shyamalan about the link between ‘Split’ and ‘Unbreakable’…
Yahoo Movies: The ending of ‘Split’ suggests you’re ready to revisit one of your big hits?
M. Night Shyamalan: I’ve analysed this to really understand why I’m even considering doing this, or why I did what I did with the ending. This character [Kevin Wendle Crumb] was in the original ‘Unbreakable’ script. The original outlines and first drafts [of ‘Unbreakable’] were David [Dunn, played by Bruce Willis] and then we kept cutting to this storyline that you see in ‘Split’. Then he meets Elijah [Price, Samuel L Jackson’s character] and Elijah says ‘you’re a superhero’, and he’s like ‘you’re crazy, that’s not true’.
Eventually he bumps into – at the train station – one of the [‘Split’ storyline] characters like Dennis [one of Kevin’s “personalities”], and he follows him back and they have it out, that kind of thing. That’s what [‘Unbreakable’] originally was. But it wasn’t working because the Kevin part was so electric it made the other part so boring, so I pulled him out.
Then for me the reaction to ‘Unbreakable’ was very odd. It was like ‘this is slow’ and ‘nobody makes comic book movies’, ‘nobody likes comics’, this was when Disney didn’t want to sell comic books. So it was a very wonky moment for me and I was just like ‘aah, let’s move on, let’s make something else’, so I wrote ‘Signs’.
I was really confused, and I think time went on and I had kids and all this other stuff and it just didn’t feel like it was [right time to revisit it]. But now when I came back and I’m doing these kinds of movies [‘The Visit’ and ‘Split’] and my kids are grown up and I’m doing smaller, contained, weird thrillers. And this tone that I’m really loving, this kind of dark humour, in a thriller tone, I was like ‘oh my gosh… that idea in my notebook for Kevin… let me make a movie about him’.
And then I was really excited about the format of making a movie that you have to satisfy [the audience] as this genre, as a psychological thriller, but then can you make a movie in one genre then in the last moment of the movie you realise you weren’t in that genre, you were in another genre? Wouldn’t that be fun for an audience to be like ‘wait, what?!’ So for me when I saw ‘Being There’ [Hal Ashby’s 1979 comedy with Peter Sellers], the idea is something like that happens, and I’m like ‘what did we just watch?’ I remember feeling that, so it felt right.
Does this mean we’re getting more ‘Unbreakable’ in the future?
I want to make a final movie to finish the story of that movie and this movie, then a final conversation of that would be great.
So the Shyamalanverse begins here?
The Shyamalanverse began with ‘Unbreakable’ then… It began there, then we’ll see. I have an outline.
Is it close to being made?
I gotta go back to it after I get home. I have one more week to open the movie, and then I can really just sit in a room alone for 3-4 weeks and see where we’re at. It’s long. It’s long and complicated, so I don’t know what that means. It’s probably because I know the characters so well, I’ve never done a movie where I already know the characters, so this is a weird feeling for me.
So the ending was always in the script?
Yeah. I didn’t really distribute that part of it, and then when we did screenings as we were making the movie I didn’t put the ending on. When they were reviewing it at Fantastic Fest they had the ending, and the whole world has kept the secret up ‘til now.
Are there any other of your films that you’d be keen to revisit?
No. That’s it.
‘Split’ is in cinemas from today. Read the rest of our interview with M. Night Shyamalan here.