Following the $672 million success of "The Sixth Sense," M. Night Shyamalan found himself in a series of meetings with Warner Bros.
Studio execs asking the young director if he might consider helming a "Superman" or "Batman" movie.
Some would call it the opportunity of a lifetime. But Shyamalan has always harbored a contrarian streak. He turned the studio down.
"That instinct to do something more original came out," he told MTV News at New York Comic Con last weekend.
That "something" was "Unbreakable," his utterly original take on the superhero genre. Guess the guy knew what he was doing, because he and a packed house assembled at the Con to celebrate the film's 10-year anniversary.
During the chat, Shyamalan revealed how he got the idea for a movie about a man who realizes he is indestructible. He was reading a newspaper when he struck on the idea of someone who is the only survivor of a plane crash. But Tom Hanks' "Cast Away" was already in the works, and Shyamalan thought the two films might be too similar.
So, he steered his idea to a horrific train crash. And that's what stuck when Bruce Willis stepped into the lead role.
At the time, studios were unsure of the broad commercial appeal of comic book adaptations, so the filmmakers turned away from the idea of presenting "Unbreakable" as a superhero movie.
"The idea that we didn't sell the movie on — I'm sad in retrospect — this idea that the only survivor of a train wreck doesn't have a scratch on him, and a stranger taps him on the shoulder and says, 'I think you might be a real-life comic book hero,' was the idea," Shyamalan explained.
"[The studio] went on and on about how comic books were a fringe market, and 'We can't sell this as a comic book movie: We have to sell it as an eerie movie from the guy that made that other movie.' "
That's a laughable concept these days, when adaptations of "Batman"
and "Iron Man" have become some of the most successful films of the past several years. But, that's the way it was back then.
At least Shyamalan got a chance to make the truly excellent "Unbreakable." And for that, we have to thank the folks at Warner Bros. for planting the superhero seed in the director's mind.
"If they hadn't called, I probably wouldn't have done 'Unbreakable,' "
Would you have liked to see Shyamalan direct a "Superman" or "Batman" movie? Tell us in the comments!
Check out everything we've got on "Unbreakable."