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Apr 19 17 11:20 PM
Updated March 25, 2017 at 11:59am EDT
Spoiler alert: Get out of here — right now — if you don’t want to know anything about the final revelation of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.
Over the last two decades, no filmmaker has established himself as more of a professional plot-twister, rug-puller, ending-upender than M. Night Shyamalan. Sometimes that’s been to his detriment, and after the release in 2008’s The Happening (in which a wave of mass suicide was caused by trees and plants), his name began to fall from favor in the public imagination.
That’s been changing lately, thanks to the success of Shyamalan’s creepy TV series Wayward Pines and his 2015 sleeper hit The Visit. Now, with Split, which stars James McAvoy as a man with at least 23 personalities, Shyamalan is continuing that hot streak.
Here is a trailer for Split, before we jump into the game-changing revelation that’s stitched brilliantly onto the film’s very last scene.
So you get the premise. A man with multiple personality disorder has kidnapped three girls, who fight him as his personalities wrestle each other for control. Here’s the twist: Split actually takes place in the same cinematic universe — in the same city of Philadelphia, in fact — as Shyamalan’s fantastic 2000 thriller Unbreakable. How do we know this? The movie concludes with McAvoy’s character, who has gained the ability to transform into a 24th personality with supernatural strength called the Beast, on the loose, having escaped capture by the authorities. We then join the action in a busy diner as patrons are watching a TV news report about this man, who the media has dubbed “The Horde” because of his multiple personalities. One woman says that the story reminds her of another case, from years ago, involving “a funny guy in a wheelchair, what was his name?”
The camera turns and we see Bruce Willis, wearing a security guard work shirt that says “Dunn,” as he utters while looking up at the TV screen, “Mr. Glass.” That’s the nickname, of course, of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Unbreakable, who in that movie’s surprise finale revealed himself to be a supervillain — in contrast with Willis’ David Dunn, a superhero.
And before this final “tag” scene even beings, those with good memories and good ears will recognize composer James Newton Howard’s dark, lush score to Unbreakable playing in the last scene involving McAvoy, before we even get to the Philly diner.
And that raises the question: What’s next? Will there finally be a sequel to Unbreakable? In EW’s 2015 oral history of that film, the follow-up fantasies were discussed with aplomb by Shyamalan and Jackson.
“People have approached me about continuing the story,” Shyamalan said at the time, “but the idea of doing a traditional sequel doesn’t inspire me. It has to be organic and has to come from the right place — otherwise, it’ll smell of artificiality. But it’s fascinating how much it’s stuck around. I do think about it a lot.”
Jackson added, “Night’s still around. Bruce is still around. I’m still around. And I’d love to break out of the asylum.”
A representative from Blumhouse Productions, the studio run by Jason Blum that’s produced Shyamalan’s last two movies, told EW, “We love supporting Night and hope to be able to do it again soon.”
In the interview below, Shyamalan talks about his long history with the antagonist of Split and his ideas for tackling the character — or having Bruce Willis do so — in the future.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you strike upon the idea to set Split in the same story universe as David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) and Unbreakable? M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Oh, it was always there. Always. This character, Kevin from Split, was in the original script of Unbreakable. The original draft of Unbreakable focused on David Dunn and Elijah as his mentor. Elijah tells him, “You’re a comic book character, go try it.” And instead of bumping into the Orange Suit Man, David bumps into one of Kevin’s personalities and goes to save the girls. So you’d have been watching the girls side of it the whole time. That was the outline.
And how much of that screenplay had you written?A lot. Some of the Kevin Wendell Crumb [James McAvoy’s character in Split] scenes were already completely written, all the way back then. One of the “Patricia” scenes, the Hedwig introduction scene, those were written over 15 years ago. I have them written by hand in my notebooks.
So when you began writing the full script for Split, you knew it was going to reference Unbreakable?Yes, for sure.
It’s very effective where it comes in the film — all the way at the very end, after just the film’s title has been flashed on the screen. But did you toy with when to do it?It was always at the end. But there was a question whether it would be one scene from the end, like within the pocket of the movie, and then have James’ scene in the mirror? Or run credits and put it at the end of the end credits? I tried all those variations but this was the best version.
Right, finding a sort of middle ground?Yeah. The movie’s over, you all know that in the audience, but now I’m playing you Unbreakable music, James Newton Howard’s great score. A third of the audience is like, “Wait, what’s happening?” Their minds are kind of reeling. I screened it in Austin in September at Fantastic Fest and when the woman says the word “wheelchair,” the place freaked out. Some people in the audience were screaming out “Mr. Glass” before Bruce Willis even appeared.
So now hypothetically this seems like a perfect segue into a third film. That elusive Unbreakable sequel.Yeah. I agree with that.
Will it be?I hope so. The answer is yes. I’m just such a wimp sometimes. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I’m going to start writing.
Do you have an outline?Yeah, definitely. A really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I’ve won already. I’m almost there but I’m not quite there.
What did James McAvoy say when you told him this? And did he knew when he signed on that this was going to be the ending?Oh yeah, he knew from the beginning. And he was pumped. He was like, “Oh, man, I might get to do another movie with Bruce? My God!” He was excited, but again, this was well over a year ago. Our job was to make Split a great psychological thriller with supernatural overtones. We weren’t worrying about the tag [movie lingo for a short scene at the very end of a film].
Have you been worried about the news of the ending spilling out?Yeah. Actually, in fact, I didn’t put the ending on when we first test screened the movie. I wouldn’t do it, somewhat out of fear that it would get out. But on top of that, I wanted it to win as its own movie. You like Split as its own movie? Well, guess what? You weren’t even watching what you thought you were.
You must be smiling a bit. This is a redefinition of the twist ending. This is something you’ve never done before.No, that’s correct. But basically it’s similar to Unbreakable. Can you make an origins story that the audience doesn’t know is an origins story until the last image of the movie. In Split, you really thought you were watching a psychological thriller. And you were. But it’s actually a comic book movie. And when the moment comes, when you’re watching it with an audience, the place just goes insane. It’s pandemonium. It feels great.
Apr 19 17 11:47 PM
Spoiler Warning: This post is going to spoil the $+@% out of the Split twist (which is awesome), so turn back now unless you’ve seen the film or want to be denied a delightful moviegoing experience.
M. Night Shyamalan knows a thing or two about twists. Sure, he hasn’t always hit the mark, but there’s a reason his name has become synonymous with cinematic surprises. The writer-director promised a return to form with his 2015 found-footage thriller The Visit, and with the release of Split, he’s officially sealed the deal. Shyamalan is back and he’s doing some of the most entertaining work of his career (You can read my full review here).
And boy did he stick the “twist” landing this time around. Folks have been buzzing about Split’s ending since it debuted at Fantastic Fest last September, where I can confirm from being in the audience that people completely lost their minds. I’m serious. There was screaming. It was a lot of fun. If you had a chance to catch Split and you’ve been waiting for some answers, good news. Shyamalan talked to EW about the ending and he was pretty candid about where the twist came from and what’s coming next.
Here’s a picture wall and one last spoiler warning. See that face James McAvoy is making? That’s a “you’ve been warned” face.
So the big “twist” in Split kind of stretches the term a bit, because the only thing it changes about the story we just watched is the context. The short version: Split is set in the same universe as Unbreakable and Bruce Willis‘s David Dunn is onto The Horde.
In case you missed Unbreakable, the 2000 film starred Willis as an everyman security who comes to realize has superpowers after he walks away the lone survivor of a devastating train crash. His mentor, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), actually turns out to be his archnemesis, Mr. Glass, who committed acts of terrorism (including that train crash) in the name of being a worthy rival to David. It’s a fantastic movie, which only makes Split’s shared universe reveal all the more delightful.
So how long has Shyamalan been planning this one? For a very long time…sort of. McAvoy’s character originates from an early draft of Unbreakable, so the universe connection was always inherent to Split’s story.
Oh, it was always there. Always. This character, Kevin from Split, was in the original script of Unbreakable. The original draft of Unbreakable focused on David Dunn and Elijah as his mentor. Elijah tells him, “You’re a comic book character, go try it.” And instead of bumping into the Orange Suit Man, David bumps into one of Kevin’s personalities and goes to save the girls. So you’d have been watching the girls’ side of it the whole time. That was the outline.
Shyamalan says some of Kevin’s scenes were completely written all those years aga, as well as one of the Patricia scenes and Hedwig’s introduction. But what does it mean for a future Unbreakable film?
Presented with the observation that now would be the perfect time to get that long-discussed Unbreakable sequel off the ground, Shyamalan told the outlet, “Yeah. I agree with that,” before expanding his answer to something a bit more illuminating.
I hope so. The answer is yes. I’m just such a wimp sometimes. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I’m going to start writing.
How far along is he on this would-be sequel? The filmmaker says he has “A really robust outline, which is pretty intricate.” Even better, Split comes from the bustling horror studio Blumhouse who has demonstrated loyalty to their filmmakers time and again so long as the properties are profitable. So if Split makes some moolah this weekend, I’d bet we’re in a pretty good spot to finally get that Unbreakable sequel
What did you think of the twist? Are you ready to see David Dunn square off against The Horde? Sound off in the comments.
Apr 20 17 12:01 AM
Apr 20 17 12:08 AM
Apr 24 17 10:22 PM
This article contains major Split ending spoilers. Don't read until you've seen the movie.
As sure as the sun will rise and America’s new commander-in-chief will tweet, inevitably an M. Night Shyamalan movie will have an ending that twists, bends, and contorts its narrative into unexpected shapes—often while dividing audiences in the process. Shyamalan returned to form with 2015’s The Visit, but in spite of Split being even more straightforward in its narrative than its direct predecessor, its multiple third act developments, complete with one doozy of a ‘post-credit’ scene, is sure to leave plenty of folks scratching their heads.
Luckily, we’re here to put it in perspective and explain just why Bruce Willis is sitting in that diner at the close of Split (and what Shyamalan says it means for the future). But first, let us take a step back and explain how we got to that point by addressing the rhinoceros-skinned beast in the room: how did James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell start climbing walls?
Despite what some internet confusion and rumors have already suggested, Kevin’s ability to withstand a knife attack to his skin, or later a shotgun blast, is not necessarily supernatural, even if it is obviously impossible. Rather, Shyamalan is extrapolating real research into dissociative identity disorder (DID) for his own pulpy, exploitative pseudoscience, like all the best (and worst) science fiction writers.
As Dr. Karen Fletcher (wonderfully played by Betty Buckley) repeatedly stresses, there is evidence that individuals with multiple personalities can change their body chemistry. This is based on recent studies in the last 20 years that indicate individuals diagnosed with DID have shown physiologic differences between their ‘alters’ (personalities), including dominant handedness, response to the same medication, and allergic sensitivities. Further, alters have demonstrably shown differences in visual parameters, including corneal curvature and pupil size.
Now, does this mean that an individual who lives with DID could will themselves into having the power set of Spider-Man? No, but hence the aforementioned pseudoscience, which is the refuge of many creators in the genre, going back to its progenitor, Mary Shelley and her obsession with medieval and renaissance alchemy in Frankenstein.
So the alter Dennis is convinced that the elusive 24th personality, the Beast, has skin as hard as a rhino’s and fingers strong enough to dig into stone, allowing it to climb walls. And apparently it did, hence the Beast being able to dismiss the shotgun shells that Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) fires at him in what at first appears to be a traditional thriller showdown between a proverbial monster and his final girl prey.
However, upon Casey’s shirt being ripped off in their final struggle, it is revealed that she has scars on her stomach—scars caused by self-inflicted harm and cutting. As it’s been confirmed earlier in the picture, Casey was abused repeatedly over the years by her uncle. This is first discovered during one of several intensely disturbing flashbacks to Casey’s childhood. After being beckoned to take off her clothes on a hunting trip, the film cuts away from the unimaginable evil to some time later when Casey attempts to shoot and kill her uncle. Tragically, she is unable to pull the trigger and all too realistically says nothing to her father about the abuse… which only continues for the rest of her adolescence after her father dies of a heart attack and she is forced to live with her abuser.
Undoubtedly, Shyamalan broaching such heinous and heartbreaking subjects will be challenged and critiqued for weeks to come. Intentionally, the filmmaker is working from the analytical research that suggests DID is sometimes borne as a form of neurological protection or relief from the neurotoxic effects of traumatic stress. In other words, because Kevin Wendell was abused by his mother, he’d empathize with Casey’s signs of similar abuse.
Still, there is an obvious argument to be made that this is exploiting real-life traumas for genre thrills. And while I believe the film is open to that reading, I would argue that McAvoy and Taylor-Joy are both so good in their roles—with the Scottish actor being exceptionally brilliant in a scenery-chewing tour de force—that they ground the ugliness with some semblance of truth. Also appropriate to the material, there is a steely authenticity to the way Taylor-Joy underplays her often mute heroine.
In context, Casey’s defeated reaction to Dennis breaking into her car, and later her disconnect with the other girls upon waking up inside Kevin’s dungeon, makes more sense. And in the present of the ending, Dennis/the Beast’s thinking is crystallized because they chose the other two girls to be food; they were ‘impure’ due to the fact that they never ‘suffered’ in life. Their untroubled childhoods and happiness were why he stalked and ultimately killed them. Seeing that Casey has her own psychological demons is enough to spare her.
There is a bit of ambiguity as to what happens to Casey after her horrific ordeal. She is told by a police officer that her uncle has arrived to pick her up, but Casey does not leave the squad car. While this is more open to interpretation, the intent of the scene is clearly that Casey has stopped being passive in her victimization. Whereas earlier she allowed a classmate’s father to gently shepherd her into his driving her—with no more resistance than she had when watching Dennis knock out the two girls in the backseat and then come for her—she is now done with letting herself get wordlessly pushed into one prison after another. She couldn’t pull the trigger on her uncle as a child, but as a young woman she’ll fire the shotgun at the Beast. Likewise, she refuses to be escorted back to hell with her uncle. The authority figure’s attention, like our own, is instantly drawn to the fire in Casey’s eyes.
The implication is that Casey will confirm the already clouding suspicion about something being rotten in the state of her proverbial Denmark, and with an evil, lecherous uncle no less.
As for the actual final scene: it is a direct reference to Unbreakable, of course. As Willis’ David Dunn sits at a counter, many remark at the television screen, wherein reporters breathlessly espouse that Kevin Wendell is now to be known as ‘the Horde.’ This is for all intents and purposes a comic book-styled revelation, just like the end of Unbreakable. Someone at the counter even makes the suggestion by saying this is like that crazy guy in a wheelchair who was arrested about 15 years ago.
If you don’t recall or have never seen Unbreakable, that film ends with Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, a comic book enthusiast suffering from Type I osteogenesis imperfecta, which renders him painfully fragile, revealing that he caused the train crash that opened the movie (and that same crash seems to have some kind of ties to Kevin's past, as well, based on the flowers he leaves on an Amtrak platform). In fact, he’s caused three acts of terrorism that killed hundreds of people simply so he could find a man who was the opposite of him, his nemesis who completes him like all the best frenemies of comic books. And right before Willis’ heroic David leads the authorities to arrest Price, he muses that as a child, they called him Mr. Glass. Presumably that will be his supervillain name.
Similarly, Kevin’s alters Dennis and Hedwig reveal in Split that they were made fun of by children, and then other alters within their body, by being nicknamed ‘Horde.’ The phrase has taken off, and as the television says, Horde is the new villain in town that David Dunn will have to stop, just like Mr. Glass all those years ago.
Admittedly, this is an entire riff on the now omnipresent superhero movie craze that Shyamalan’s Unbreakable predated by some years in 2000. In essence, this is his own version of a Marvel Studios stinger. Does that mean we’ll finally get an Unbreakable 2 as a consequence? Well, that remains to be seen. This might just be a nice wink by Shyamalan to his fans who have been clamoring for his long teased sequel for over 15 years now. Or, like Marvel, it might be a promise for stories to come. Time will tell on that one.
"This was originally in the Unbreakable script, this character," M. Night Shyamalan told Den of Geek UK. "So most of what you saw was written 15, 16 years ago. I slid it out, always intending to make it another movie. My intention is to make a final movie for these two movies, so their stories finish [...] It will be a sequel to Unbreakable, but also a sequel to Split."
At Den of Geek UK's screening of Split in London last week, the director also explained how he had to get permission from Disney (who produced Unbreakable) before using these characters in the Blumhouse film Split. If that cooperation continues, we might finally get the third Unbreakable movie one day.
Apr 24 17 10:33 PM
Night Shyamalan's newÂ movieÂ SplitÂ is now in theaters, and as with so many of the director's films, there are plenty of twists and big reveals that change the shape of the story, and our perception of it.Â
WithÂ Split, there has been particular secrecy about the film's ending. It's understandable, given the stakes established in the film: young Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two other girls from her school are abducted by a mysterious man (James McAvoy) who begins to exhibit multiple, sometimes conflicting, personalities. As the girls learn, they only have hours before one the man's most powerful personalities, "The Beast," will finally manifest and slaughter them.Â
So how does it all end? And what was the bombshell "Shyamalan Twist" ofÂ Split's final scene? It's such aÂ MASSIVE SPOILERÂ that we've hidden it safe on the next page!Â DO NOT READ ONÂ if you do not want to be spoiled!Â
NEXT: Split's Big Ending Reveal...Â
The Reveal:Â Split'sÂ big ending reveal is that itâs a story set within the same universe as Shyamalan's hit 2000 film,Â Unbreakable!
What Happens:Â The final scenes ofÂ SplitÂ see Kevin/Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/The Beast still on the loose after consuming young teen girls Claire and Marcia and killing his therapist Dr. Fletcher - yet sparing abuse victim Casey Cooke. Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig (now known as "Horde") is marveling at the Beast personaâs superhuman power, and vows to show the world what it can do.
...Meanwhile, as news reports spread word of this veritable new supervillain out in the world, we come to a remote diner, where people are listening to the tragic story. Two patrons are overheard discussing how this case reminds them of the man in the wheelchair who was terrorizing the city years ago, and they wonder aloud what his name was.
That's when none other than Bruce Willis'sÂ UnbreakableÂ character David DunnÂ leans forward at the end of the counter, whispering, "They called him 'Mr. Glass,'" with a look of concern and new purpose in his eyes.
What It Means: This reveal does fundamentally reframe the events and themes ofÂ Split. While at first thinking we're seeing a standard thriller, it's clear afterward that the storylines between Casey, Kevin, and Dr. Fletcher are continuing themes fromÂ UnbreakableÂ about human potential, and how significant trauma affects that potential. However, whereasÂ UnbreakableÂ is a meditative story of a superhero's rise,Â SplitÂ is the darker origin story of a supervillain â with darker character arcs and themes to go with it.Â
Behind-the-scenes, there's not (yet) been an official announcement aboutÂ Unbreakable 2Â going into production; however, in terms of the larger storyline to this emerging "Shyamalan Movie Universe" there is meaning to take from what we see at the end of Split.Â
For one thing, there's the state of David Dunn. He seems alone, yet is in a workman's uniform (almost like a mechanic or gas station attendant), and still seems quiet and sullen. The immediate conclusion is that time hasn't been necessarily kind to David, which is a starting point that M. Night can take in many great directions (did heroism wearÂ him down? Cost him his family after all? Etc...).
In any case, the determined look in David's eye upon hearing that Horde exists and is on the loose suggests that Mr. Dunn's vigilante hero days may not be done...
Finally, one motif ofÂ SplitÂ was that The Beast's manifestation was part of a larger flashpoint in humanity, where human potential is being onlocked, via the trials and traumas the world inflicts. With "Mr. Glass," and now "Horde," one wonders what other Shyamalan villains David Dunn may have to face; orÂ what other extraordinary allies are out there to aid him...
Apr 25 17 12:18 AM
January 22, 2017 6:00am PT by Aaron Couch
[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the ending of Split.]
The final moments of Split were more than 15 years in the making, a secret so guarded that writer-director M. Night Shyamalan didn't allow it to be included in test screenings of the film.
Just to reiterate the above warning (because seeing Split spoiler-free is such a fun experience), spoilers below:
After Kevin Wendle Crumb (James McAvoy) makes his escape, the film moves to a bar, where a news broadcast recounts some of the events of the film. A man with multiple personalities kidnapped three young women and held them captive — and police have given him a name: The Horde. Someone in the bar remarks, didn't authorities have a nickname for that man in a wheelchair who caused trouble 15 years ago?
Pan to Bruce Willis' Unbreakable character, David Dunn, who says yeah, "Mr. Glass."
Yes, Split is set in the same world as 2000's Unbreakable, which starred Samuel L. Jackson as the villain. For years, fans have hounded Shyamalan about a potential sequel to Unbreakable, and here, he can finally speak publicly about it, revealing he hopes for a film that would feature characters from Unbreakable and Split in one movie.
Did you always conceive of this a being part of the Unbreakable universe?
This was always part of the Unbreakable world. Kevin Wendle Crumb was a part of the original, original script for Unbreakable. I pulled him out because it just wasn't balancing right. But a bunch of the scenes that are in this movie, I wrote 15 years ago. They were as is. Patricia opening the door. Hedwig's first scene. Those were all written already. And it's literally from the same moment that I created all the characters, all three of those characters. But I knew I wanted to do a movie about him because I just loved him so much, and I thought it's a rich world for storytelling, so I was super, super excited to finally make it.
You've teased an Unbreakable sequel for years. Was this it? Or are we going to see another one with Bruce Willis as the star?
This is down the line, but my hope is to make one final movie that combines the two.
How did you keep Bruce's cameo such a secret?
He was a secret from everybody. I didn't test the movie with the ending. I just tested it without it.
This movie was satisfying on its own, even without Bruce showing up at the end.
Absolutely. It should just work on its own. At least half the audience hasn't seen my other [work]. They were too young to see it and they'll get educated after it. But they have to totally be seeing a story that works all on its own.
Anya Taylor-Joy's career is really taking off. Did you cast her before The Witch got her on everyone's radar?
The Witch hadn't come out. I hadn't even heard of it. And she was just one of the many girls that auditioned and just popped. But that's not a coincidence that sometimes actors get multiple lead roles at the same time, one after the other after the other. They are just kind of in a sweet spot. They are kind of in an elevated area of their life and they have a confidence and a connection to their emotions that is just exploding when the camera comes on them and then they get one lead after the other. Boom. Boom. Boom. And that's what happened.
Where did the philosophy of The Beast come from? The idea that you are only pure if you've suffered?
In a horror movie, normally if you're going to get killed, it's because you had sex. This is, you are going to get killed because you are good. It's like the reverse. It's like the flip. And for me, this philosophy that the traumatic things, the things that have happened to us in our life, they definitely have changed us and changed people, but we tend to make it a pejorative, and say now you are broken. Now you are not whole. Now you are not like us. You are not normal. I'm not sure that's the case. Yes, they are different. And yes, we are different when something traumatic happens to us, but is it less now? Are we less? Or is the different possibly stronger? Is it something more? We tend to think if nothing happens to you and you have the normal life, then everything's perfect, but the Beast is kind of saying you are asleep.
Update: A few weeks after our conversation, the director teased a little more about his Split followup, tweeting, "I have an 11 page outline for my next film in my bag. I can't tell you what it is, but If you've seen #Split..."
Apr 25 17 12:21 AM
January 25, 2017 9:30pm PT by Hilary Lewis
[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from M. Night Shyamalan's Split.]
In the final minutes of M. Night Shyamalan's Split, viewers become aware that the new movie about a kidnapper with multiple personalities, played by James McAvoy, is connected to one of Shyamalan's earlier films.
A well-timed surprise cameo from Bruce Willis reveals that Split exists in the same world as Unbreakable. At a recent press screening, that moment earned cheers from the audience.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, McAvoy was reluctant to divulge too many spoilers, but he did talk in vague terms about the twist, revealing that he learned about it as he was making the film. He added that he thinks the movie works without the surprise ending.
"When I first read the script, that wasn't there, so I actually didn't know there was ever going to be anything like that," McAvoy said of the Unbreakable ending. "When we were rehearsing the film, [Shyamalan] revealed to me the fact that the character I would be playing was originally a character in one of his other films, and it just didn't work in that film. And he always wanted to make a film in which this character featured heavily. I then became aware of it. But when I originally read the script and accepted the role, I thought it was a stand-alone thing. And that's true of the film as well. Yeah, it's got a thing at the end that transforms everything you've seen before, but I think the film stands without it, and it benefits from having it, definitely, but I don't think it relies upon it."
The twist being left out of the script is consistent with Shyamalan even leaving it out of test screenings of his film. But after keeping Split's connections to Unbreakable under wraps for years, the filmmaker told THR that he would be interested in both a proper Unbreakable sequel and a film "that combines the two."
So if Split has kick-started a franchise, how would McAvoy, who recently wrapped up three X-Men films, feel about joining another series?
"If it's good material, I don't mind if it's a franchise," he said. "If it's good work and I'm getting to work with good people and I'm getting to do interesting things with my day, then yeah, I'm bang up for it. I don't care if it's a franchise or not. I'm all up for a good old franchise if it is a good old franchise."
Apr 25 17 12:26 AM
January 21, 2017 2:32pm PT by Hilary Lewis
In M. Night Shyamalan's new supernatural thriller Split, James McAvoy plays a creepy kidnapper with multiple personalities — a number of which emerge over the course of the film. At least two of McAvoy's lead character Kevin's "23 identities" have been teased in the trailers for Split: Hedwig, a 9-year-old boy, and someone who wears women's clothes.
As fans of Shyamalan's films might expect, the movie features a number of twists and surprises, but McAvoy wasn't about to reveal any of them in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, sharing his own experience with Black Swan as an indication of the importance of seeing something unexpected.
The actor, who's perhaps best known for playing Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies, did reveal how much he enjoyed working with Shyamalan and addressed the challenges of trying to inhabit various identities onscreen.
What attracted you to this role and working with M. Night Shyamalan?
It was the opportunity. Getting to play one of the characters would have been a fun and interesting thing for me to do as an actor, but to get to do that nine times, with nine different, interesting and dynamic characters, seemed like a great opportunity. I thought it was really well-written, and it kept doing that thing of, every time a question was answered, it was answered with another question, so there was constant reveals all the way along, which I thought was a really fun way of storytelling, and I just thought it would be a challenge, to be honest with you. It would either be something either really good or really bad, but it probably wouldn't live somewhere in between and kind of in that place where I'd like to be as a performer. Add in to that, talking to Night, we got along very well, and we had very similar ideas about what the characters would be like, but also our approach to storytelling and how we go about our day, so we were quite in sync with each other. It seemed like it would be a good experience, so I jumped in, and thankfully it was, it was an absolutely fantastic experience.
How involved were you in terms of coming up with the personalities and working with Shyamalan on that?
Night had already finished the script. [And] I got [involved with the project] fairly late, so it was my job to realize and execute what he'd done on paper. I took a couple of the characters in a slightly different direction to what they were on the page, but it was a solid script. And he's the kind of director where he wants to make his movie as it is on the page — he doesn't want you improvising your way through the film. He wants it done like a play. He wants the words respected, and I really enjoyed that. Because most movies you're on, the director — at various points, if not quite often — is asking you to make some #$*$ up and improvise your way around the scene and hopefully come up with something else that might help elevate it. … Your job when you're an actor onstage, although you've got to respect the words pretty religiously, your job is to forget the script exists and make it feel like it belongs to you completely.
You said you took a couple of the characters in a different direction, can you elaborate on that?
I wanted Hedwig to be, nothing major, but I wanted Hedwig to be — he's a 9-year-old boy, right? But I wanted it to be that he was actually in a state of arrested development. So he was constantly trying to grow up. So unlike the rest of the personalities that reside within Kevin's body, he's not been allowed to grow, he's not been allowed to age, really. He's not been allowed to have a fulfilling adult life, so what makes him funny is actually that, as well. It's funny when a kid tries to act older than they are, but for me, it was actually quite sad because he's not allowed to grow up. And there are reasons for that that are quite strong. Nothing really becomes apparent to the audience, but it was important for me playing the part. Someone like Barry, I don't want to give too much away, but it's not really Barry, you know what I mean? It's someone else playing Barry. I just got really into the idea of a straight guy trying to play a gay guy and actually the truth of that not being that subtle.
How much of the appeal with this project was due to this being a villainous role, which is sort of a departure from what we usually see from you?
I don't know if that was part of the appeal, to be honest with you. I don't really see him as a villain. But I'm probably being blanker than ridiculous in saying that. I had massive sympathy for him. It wasn't due to him being a villain. But it is fun to play the antagonist and to play the aggressor and the guy that's trying to upset the status quo.
This movie has been very mysterious — there are a lot of twists and turns and spoilers. How much of a challenge was it for you, personally, keeping the secrets and all of those things under wraps?
It's difficult doing a press junket when you're talking about a film that you're not allowed to talk about. That's always a challenge. But you've just got to stick to your guns, really. You've just got to stick to your guns and say, "Nope." Even if people say we won't release this until months after the movie's out of the theater — screw that. No way. I saw Black Swan like nine months after it came out in the cinema, and I just thought it was a film about a ballet dancer, so I was so amazingly lucky to get that experience. And I think that experience should be protected. A major part of storytelling is keeping stuff a surprise.
Was there one personality or scene that was more challenging than other parts of making the movie?
I'm not trying to be reductive here, but wandering around in high heels playing [one of the characters] was really f—ing hard. And everybody had assured me that I was wearing very comfortable high heels, and all the women on set were like, "You're actually wearing really comfortable high heels, dude." They were killing me. That was difficult physically. And artistically, the hardest part was playing the character that comes up at the end — the much-talked-about, avenging character at the end. He was difficult because he couldn't just be a bad guy, but he also couldn't be an over-the-top, monstrous villain. He had to be somewhat in between that. It was just hard to find that balance that would make it definite that he wasn't a normal guy, but he wasn't so mental that we would think, "What is he? Should he put on a costume and have superpowers?" So that was pretty tricky. [That character] was probably the most difficult. And also giving him a voice that was other, that was a bit different from that of a normal human being. At the same time, he's not just going "mwahahaha." That was challenging.
You've done a fair amount of stage work in the past. Do you have any plans to return to the theater?
Yep, definitely. I was meant to play something this year, but we quickly discovered, the director and I, that there were like a million other productions of it happening in London this year as well, so we put that on the back burner, and we'll save it for a few years. I'm thinking of doing something else next year, a modern translation of a classic piece. So, yeah, there are a few plans. And I love being onstage. When you're in a good play, it's the best thing to be in. A good production of a good play is the purest form of what I get to do as an actor.
What do you hope people will take away from this movie?
I hope they're entertained for two hours. I hope they're scared out of their wits. Because that's what it is, it's a piece of entertainment. But it's got a fairly strong message in it, as well, that Night's pushing pretty hard, that is pretty much the backbone of any superhero or supervillain movie, which is: Terrible things happened to me, and then I became Batman, or terrible things happened to me, and then I became the Joker. And then, I think, this film just explores it in a back-to-front way. He's superhuman, show the tragedy, and then show the genesis of the superhero and the backstory of the superhero. We kind of do that backwards. We reveal the trauma at the end, and we reveal that the villains and the heroes and the antagonist and the antagonized are actually way more similar than we thought. And yes, I hope they get that, and I hope they enjoy that message.
Apr 25 17 12:34 AM
But while audiences have grown to anticipate a trademark Shyamalan twist, the prolific shock maestro still managed to pull the rug from under them, with not so much a traditional narrative twist at film's close, but rather one best described as... twist-adjacent.
For while Split plays like a traditional thriller for much of its runtime, it's only after the final title card appears that things get a little more complex.
WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW
After McAvoy's villain, Kevin, flees the authorities, the film cuts to a diner, where a crowd are watching the drama unfold on a TV news report. One woman explains that he reminds her of another serial killer from the local area, a man in a wheelchair, but struggles to remember his name. All of a sudden, a man sat nearby, played by Bruce Willis, reminds them: his name was Mr. Glass, therefore Split exists in the same story universe as the 2000 M. Night Shyamalan thriller Unbreakable.
Unbreakable, Shyamalan's follow-up to The Sixth Sense and often considered some of his best work, saw Willis play the sole survivor of a Philadelphia train crash, who is shocked to discover he is literally indestructible. He is quickly contacted by Samuel L. Jackson's wheelchair-bound comic book dealer, who has been struck down with a rare disease that has made his bones incredibly fragile.
The film's twist ending revealed that Jackson is the fragile ying to Willis's superheroic yang, Jackson having been committing mass murders around the city in order to find his polar opposite, believing the two of them are destined to be the hero and the villain of their own real-life comic book story. Jackson's villainous alter ego: Mr. Glass.
Shyamalan has quickly moved to confirm that he indeed intends to mount an Unbreakable sequel as his next project, and that James McAvoy's Split character was originally created in one of the very first drafts of the 2000 movie.
In Unbreakable, Willis's character rescues kidnapped children from a villain known as Orange Suit Man, who has broken into a home and murdered the children's parents. Shyamalan told Entertainment Weekly that Orange Suit Man was originally conceived as one of McAvoy's many personalities in Split.
"Instead of bumping into the Orange Suit Man, David [Willis's character] bumps into one of Kevin's personalities and goes to save the girls," he said. "Some of the Kevin scenes were already completely written, all the way back then. One of the 'Patricia' scenes, the Hedwig introduction scene, those were written over 15 years ago. I have them written by hand in my notebooks."
To keep the ending a secret, Shyamalan left the Willis scene out of test screenings, and miraculously the audience who viewed the film as part of a "secret screening" at last September's Fantastic Fest managed to keep the plot twist under wraps.
While Shyamalan hasn't started writing the script for the Unbreakable sequel, he has revealed he has a clear outline of the project, while McAvoy and Willis have both been confirmed to return.
"I don't know what's going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script," Shyamalan said. "But I'm going to start writing. [I have] a really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I've won already. I'm almost there but I'm not quite there."
Apr 25 17 7:00 PM
#HonestTrailers Commentary: #SplitMovie is now watchable: http://sj.plus/HCOM_Split
Everyone had a different experience with this one!
Video in the link is worth the click - https://twitter.com/screenjunkies/status/856962039364722688
Apr 27 17 12:47 PM
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