Indo-American bags $10 million deal for Disney movie  

By: Lisa Tsering
Source: India West; October 21, 1999

India-born director and screenwriter Manoj Night Shyamalan has signed a $10 million deal with Disney to write and direct his next film.

Earning a record $5 million for the script alone, the 29-year-old filmmaker is now the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood.

Shyamalan’s current release, The Sixth Sense, has grossed $250 million, making it the US market’s 15th highest-grossing film of all time. The film stars Bruce Willis, Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment. It is generating Oscar buzz for Shyamalan’s script and direction as well as for best picture and Osment and Collette’s performances. Shya-malan also had a small role in the film.

His new film, to be titled Unbreakable, will star Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and will begin production in April for a Thanksgiving 2000 release. Although Shyamalan is keeping the story under wraps, industry sources say it’s a supernatural thriller about a working-class Philadelphia man whose life undergoes a profound change after a devastating accident.

Shyamalan got $3.1 million for The Sixth Sense, the most ever paid for a non-commissioned screenplay. The film opened in August with little fanfare, but word of mouth propelled it to the No. 1 spot for five weeks in a row. This week, the film stands at No. 6 in the US box-office. Only Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has had a higher US gross this year.

Born in Chennai, Shyamalan was raised in the upscale Penn Valley area of Philadelphia and considers the city his home. He’ll shoot Unbreakable there, as he did The Sixth Sense and last year’s Wide Awake.

Although he is the son of two doctors, the young Shyamalan discovered a passion for filmmaking as early as the age of eight when he was given a Super 8 camera. He started to copy his hero, Steven Spielberg, and based his first film, Praying With Anger (1992), on his experiences visiting India. Shyamalan wrote, starred in, directed and produced the film, which earned critical acclaim and helped him to gather the funds he needed to produce Wide Awake. (India Abroad News Service/India-West)