He goes by "Night," but it's hard to dispute his sunny disposition. Just a few minutes into a conversation with M. Night Shyamalan in a New York City hotel room yesterday, it was obvious to me that the director has managed to occupy such a unique niche in the Hollywood landscape because he's immediately likable. Of course, a little movie released in 1999 called The Sixth Sense didn't hurt, either.
After landing two Oscar nominations and international acclaim for his masterful ghost story, Shyamalan continued to market himself as a brand. Since then, the results have been mixed. Signs was an indisputable hit. Unbreakable has its supporters. Lady in the Water? Not so much. But that failure hasn't prevented the filmmaker from dealing with audacious material: His latest movie, The Happening, finds a married couple (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) thrust into a world where people inexplicably become suicidal after getting struck by an ominous, unseen toxin. Forces of evil usually remain unseen in Shyamalan's films, and The Happening is no exception to that rule. I spoke to the 37-year-old Philadelphia resident about the personal philosophies guiding his career choices, the polarized reactions to his work, and what the future will bring.