When MTV News' Josh Horowitz last spoke to writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, he was promoting "The Last Airbender" as he wrapped up work on what was supposed to be his next original film. But "After Earth," his new film with Will and Jaden Smith, was not that project. So how then did he end up making a sci-fi action film instead of his usual secrecy-shrouded opus?
"I was like three months from finishing that [original] screenplay," Shyamalan told Horowitz. "I was in my office and I got a call from Will Smith, and he called to say happy birthday... We were joking and then I mentioned I saw 'Karate Kid' and I said I thought his son [Jaden] could really act... He really surprised me because I went in with a lot of cynicism and came out shocked. And we talked about that, and then he was silent for a second, and then he said, I have an idea for him — actually, I have two ideas!"
Shyamalan explained that Smith pitched him the concept for "After Earth," which promptly disrupted any creative momentum he had on his own project.
"He pitched one and I was like, 'well...'," he said, explaining his hesitation. "And he said, 'I've got another one.' He said it was a sci-fi movie, a thousand years from now, and he pitched 'After Earth.'
"I said, 'Will, I'd love to do that!' The second he finished, I knew it was all of the subjects I'm interested in — families, fathers and sons, kind of a cautionary tale about Earth, which always interests me. I got off the phone and I felt like a girl who was like, 'Did he just ask me out?' And I couldn't write anymore on the script that I was writing because I was already starting to think about this movie."