It’s fair to say that M. Night Shyamalan and big-budget blockbusters weren’t the most natural fit. While the filmmaker made a name for himself with taut, twisty thrillers like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, when he went on to make films like After Earth and the live-action The Last Airbender, they weren’t nearly as well received. More recently, he’s moved back towards smaller budgets, working with cost-effective horror producers Blumhouse on films like The Visit, Split and Glass, and that continues with his upcoming mystery-thriller Old. The film finds a family trapped on a tropical beach where they begin to age rapidly before each other’s very eyes – and again, he’s opted for smaller spends and a much greater degree of control.
“I want my freedom to be weird,” Shyamalan tells Empire. “I tack towards minimalism and I keep getting asked to do big movies and I’m like, ‘You don’t want me to do this.’ Now, when I get offered something, I go, ‘What is the lowest number so that you have the freedom that you need to make the movie?’ For me, making very low-budget movies, which came directly as a response to that era, I wouldn’t have had that clarity.”
It’s a freedom he’s directly felt on his latest project, one which has its writer-director’s voice loud and clear. “I had an idea for Old yesterday and I just executed it. It’s my movie, I can just do it,” he says. “There was a thing I wanted so I flew to the Dominican Republic, I shot it and I put it in. That’s that. What ultimately will happen is that these movies will have a singularity to them. The crooked nose that makes you beautiful, you know? At least you could see me better.”
Read Empire’s full career-spanning M. Night Shyamalan interview in The Suicide Squad issue, on sale Thursday 8 July with five collectible covers. Old comes to UK cinemas on 23 July.