Comic-Con 2018: ‘Glass’ Is the Movie M. Night Shyamalan Wanted to Make For Comics Fans

In 2000, when writer-director M. Night Shyamalan released Unbreakable, comic book movies weren’t a sure thing: Iron Man was still eight years away, and the larger-universe model that the X-Men franchise hinted at had yet to be fully realized. So even though he’d made a movie with strong comic book themes, no one wanted him to emphasize that point.

“I was on a conference call with the studio, and they were saying we can’t mention the word ‘comic books’ or ‘superheroes’ because it’s too fringe,” Shyamalan told the crowd at Comic-Con International’s Hall H on Friday. They didn’t want to, he continued, attract “‘those people that go to those conventions’—that was literally a quote.”

As turned out, Unbreakable faltered when it was released. Despite starring both Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, it garnered about a third of the box office take of Shyamalan’s knockout studio debut, The Sixth Sense. “It was disheartening,” Shyamalan said. But over the years, as hero narratives ascended, it found its fans. And Shyamalan never forgot about it. Years later, he took a character—Crumb—that he’d discarded from the Unbreakable script and turned him into a character, one that would be played by a guy he met at Comic-Con.

“I came here for The Visit and we went to one of the parties here,” he recounted. “And I’d written Split and I didn’t know who in the world could play this part. James McAvoy walks by me, and I grab him. I go, ‘Hey, I love your stuff,’ and he was like, ‘I love your stuff.’ He’d just come back from X-Men and his hair was like three-quarters of an inch long and I was like This is the guy.”

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That movie became Split, a film about a man struggling with the 23 personalities in him. Made for $9 million, it went on to make $138 million at the US box office—and contained just the slightest hint that it was connected to the story Unbreakable had started 16 years before. Moviegoing audiences, and the rest of the world, had finally caught up with Shyamalan and all those people who go to conventions.

And on Friday, the writer-director for the first time showed footage of Glass, the completion of the trilogy that started with Unbreakable—and a reunion of sorts that brings together Samuel L. Jackson (Elijah Price/Mr. Glass), Bruce Willis (David Dunn), and all the various characters embodied by McAvoy in Split. (He has 21 in the current edit, Shyamalan said.) Glass’s conceit, per the trailer released Friday, is that the three men have all come under the care of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). What will then happen to them, and how they’ll affect each other, remains to be seen. (Though has any director ever hired American Horror Story alum Sarah Paulson for a genre film and asked her to keep it light?) What is known is that it’s the culmination of the work of a director who finally got to find his audience.

“At each level, even Unbreakable, it was you guys that embraced it and really understood it,” Shyamalan said. “This was always meant for you guys; it’s your series.”

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