At this point in his career, Indian-American filmmaker M Night Shyamalan says he derives a sense of creative freedom by inducing the feeling of “I can’t believe what I’m watching” and that’s what inspired him to adapt graphic novel Sandcastle as Old.
The acclaimed director, credited for delivering genre-defining thrillers — The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable trilogy, Signs and The Village — says he loved the mystery, philosophy and subtle dark comedy in Pierre Oscar Levy’s graphic novel.
A Universal Pictures production, Old centres on a group of people who find themselves aging with horrifying alacrity on a beach. The film releases in India on Friday.
“Old had three elements that I love. One is the mystery of it, the philosophy that was underneath, and a kind of darkness or dark comedy that I love. I’ve been drawn a lot to it these days. There is a kind of provocativeness about it that’s like, ‘Oh my God! you did that, you can’t do that’,” Shyamalan told PTI in a Zoom interview.
The 51-year-old Puducherry-born filmmaker, whose parent immigrated to the US when he was six weeks old, said the Old story has some great sequences and he thoroughly enjoyed the process of bringing them on screen.
“There is this idea of provocativeness in this graphic novel. There’s a bunch of nice moments of ‘I can’t believe what I’m watching’, and I think those moments stick to your bones. They grabbed me and I liked that. Also the story allowed me to do the drama that I love very much. The kind of the deeper stuff,” he added.
Shyamalan said he was under no pressure to deliver another thriller, but the fact that he has created his own space in the domain allows him to season his films with comedy, romance and pathos.
“The irony is, it’s the most amazing miracle ever because I have made a genre that is me. It’s kind of been a wonderful journey of that and I feel a lot of freedom within that to do comedy or romance or pathos or whatever it is I’m leaning towards.”
Old features Mexican superstar Gael Garcia Bernal, Thomasin McKenzie, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell and Ken Leung in lead roles.
Casting for the film, Shyamalan said, has always been one of the most important aspects of his filmmaking, and with Old he wanted to have a diverse set of actors.
“I take casting very seriously as an art form. It’s like a musician playing musical notes… I had the freedom to cast pretty much whoever I want in each of the roles. I have this freedom to make this collage of actors in this movie,” he said.
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The director, who was born as Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan and adopted Night as his second name while studying at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts in Manhattan, believes as cinema has expanded its reach, race and region of actors no more govern the look of the film.
“Audiences are ready to see themselves in anybody,” he added.
Families have always been part of the filmmaker’s plotlines. Even before he became a huge name in Hollywood, creating stories around families and for them was something Shyamalan immersed in with Stuart Little (1999) and his 2006 movie Lady in the Water.
He said there are two sides to his filmmaker personality — a family guy, who enjoys the fantasy element of children’s stories and a thriller lover who wishes that he was offered “The Silence of the Lambs”.
“I really like children’s movies and family films like I wrote ‘Stuart Little’ and ‘Lady in the Water’ where I told children’s stories. That kind of fantasy element and magic realism I really enjoy.
“And then there’s the darker supernatural thriller side of me. I wish they had offered me ‘Silence of the Lambs’ I wish that. I love thrillers, they’re like my favorite movies of all time,” he said.
Old also features actors Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abbey Lee, Aaron Pierre, Alex Wolff, Embeth Davidtz, Eliza Scanlen, Emun Elliott, and Kathleen Chalfant.