M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan Headshot

Writer • Director • Producer

Birth Name: Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan

Birth Date: August 6, 1970

Age: 53 years old

Birth Place: Pondicherry, India

Children: Ishana Shyamalan, Saleka Shyamalan

Director M. Night Shymalan is best known for directing several crowd-pleasing films that are known for their supernatural plots and unforeseen twist-endings. Shymalan, whose birth name was Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan, was born in the Indian town of Mahe. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was six years old, and settled in the well-to-do suburb of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.

Both of Shymalan's parents were doctors, and when he was a young boy, Shymalan's father just assumed that one day his son would follow in his footsteps by pursuing a degree in medicine. The young M. Night Shymalan, however, had different plans. At 8 years old he was given a Super 8 camera and almost immediately began making his own movies. Inspired by his childhood hero Steven Spielberg, Shymalan made dozens of films in his teens (by his count, 45 by the time he was 17), and quickly became determined to make moviemaking his career.

Although Shymalan's father wanted him to become a doctor, it was his mother who encouraged him to pursue his passion. Thus, when it came time to attend college, Shymalan enrolled in film school at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He made his first feature, the drama "Praying with Anger" (1992), while attending NYU. In order to fund the film, Shymalan borrowed money from his family and close friends. "Praying with Anger" was screened at various film festivals, but never received a distribution deal, so it was never widely seen. After graduating from NYU in 1992, Shymalan spent the next few years writing the script for his follow-up feature, a comedy called "Wide Awake" (1998).

For the cast, Shymalan got relatively big names to appear in his film, including Rosie O'Donnell, Camryn Manheim, and Julia Stiles. "Wide Awake" was shot in 1995 but was not released until 1998. The film received lightly positive reviews, but failed to make any kind of significant dent at the box office.

It was Shymalan's third film, however, released the following year, that would truly make him a household name. That film, 1999's "The Sixth Sense," starred Bruce Willis and newcomer Haley Joel Osment, and was the first of Shymalan's films to include the twist ending technique he would later become famous for. In addition to being a massive hit at the box office, "The Sixth Sense" would go on to be nominated for 6 Academy Awards, earning Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nods for Shymalan.

After the huge success of "The Sixth Sense," Shymalan's career really took off. In the 2000s he made one crowd-pleasing hit movie after another, including "Unbreakable" (2000), "Signs" (2002), "The Village" (2004), and "The Happening" (2008), thus establishing M. Night Shymalan as one of the most commercially successful and widely popular directors of his generation.

The early part of the 2010s, however, were not as kind to Shymalan. In 2010 he directed "The Last Airbender," which was panned by critics. But it was his next film, 2013's "After Earth," that would truly prove to be the low point in Shymalan's career. The film, which starred Will Smith and his son Jaden, was universally derided by critics, leaving Shymalan in something of a career funk.

Determined not to allow let the critical backlash of his last two films to get to him, Shymalan put his head down and got back to doing what he loved: making movies. Two years later, in 2015, he directed the found footage horror film "The Visit" (2015). The low budget film, which was made for $5 million, took in nearly $100 million at the box office, thus signaling M. Night Shymalan was back! His next two films, "Split" (2016) and "Glass" (2019), were also huge financial successes, proving once and for all that whatever career funk M. Night Shymalan found himself in in the early part of the decade, it was only short-lived.

"Glass" was the third and final film in Shymalan's "Unbreakable" trilogy (the first two being "Unbreakable" and "Split"), and would go on to make over $240 million at the box office. The film also received mostly favorable reviews from critics. 2019 was also the year that Shymalan debuted his psychological horror TV series "Servant" (Apple +, 2019- ). The series, which Shymalan executive produced, premiered on Apple's brand new streaming service Apple + in November of 2019.

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