Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Samuel L Jackson pestered director M Night Shyamalan for a sequel to ‘Unbreakable’

'I needed the cheque, I was broke,' says Jackson

Samuel L Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis star in M Night Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’. Courtesy Universal Pictures
Samuel L Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis star in M Night Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’. Courtesy Universal Pictures

When director M Night ­Shyamalan decided to make a sequel to his 2000 superhero thriller Unbreakable, he knew one cast member would definitely be on board. Samuel L Jackson has spent the past two decades pestering Shyamalan about a follow-up, even stopping The Sixth Sense director in Los Angeles traffic to yell: “When we doing the sequel?”

“I needed the cheque, I was broke,” Samuel L Jackson said in London. “He [Shyamalan] promised us a sequel. When we did Unbreakable he said this [is] part of a trilogy and then nothing happened.”

While the financial incentive might have been a motivating factor, Jackson’s continued commitment to reprising his role as villain Elijah Price in Glass came from his desire to give the character “closure”. “I knew he [Elijah] had been locked up in that institution,” he said. “It was a matter of figuring out what was going on while he was in there, what they were doing to him and how he was manipulating them.”

Revealing Elijah Price as the criminal mastermind behind the train crash which gave David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) his superhuman powers was the big twist at the end of Unbreakable. But arguably an even bigger twist was to come in the second film in the trilogy, Split, which was released in 2016. Starring James McAvoy as Kevin ­Wendell Crumb, aka “The Horde”, a man with 23 different ­personalities and a penchant for kidnapping teenage girls, Split was never marketed as a sequel to Unbreakable. It wasn’t until the final scene when Willis ­appears in an uncredited cameo that fans realised it was a follow-up.

Shyamalan invited Jackson to see a screening of Split, which at the end includes a reference to Mr Glass, the nickname of his character Elijah in Unbreakable. “Sam came out and asked me ‘what does this mean?’” said Shyamalan. “And I replied ‘we’re making the movie’.”

In Glass, all three main ­characters (The Horde, Elijah and David) end up at Raven Hill Memorial Institution under the care of psychiatrist Dr Ellie Staple, played by Sarah Paulson.

Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Paulson and James McAvoy with director M Night Shyamalan at the London premiere of Glass. EPA
From left, Samuel L Jackson, M Night Shyamalan, Sarah Paulson and James McAvoy. PA

Paulson, who shot to fame in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, jumped at the chance to work with Shyamalan. A huge fan of his previous work, she didn’t even read the script before accepting, instead saying yes after Shyamalan described the role. Luckily Murphy, who Paulson credits for her ­astronomical rise over the past seven years, allowed her time off from projects to work on Glass. “I’m very lucky with Ryan in that he lets me out to work with other people,” she laughed.

McAvoy too was happy to reprise his role (or roles), and this time was more prepared for Shyamalan’s ­uncompromising directing style. “Night has got a pretty specific way of working,” ­McAvoy said. “He is really prepared and has a strong point of view of what he wants. So even if you disagree it’s easier to get going.”

Shyamalan is adamant that the long-awaited Glass will be the final instalment in the film series. “I have no interest in making the same movie again and again and again,” the director said. There are high expectations for the film’s release as Unbreakable is considered a cult classic among superhero movie fans.

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Now regarded as one of Shyamalan’s best films, ­Unbreakable’s release 19 years ago garnered mixed reviews. The director wanted to ­promote the film as a comic book movie but was told by studio directors that this would attract a niche audience. Instead its portrayal as a psychological thriller led to unhelpful comparisons with his 1999 hit The Sixth Sense, leaving reviewers disappointed.

The initial reaction weighed so much on Shyamalan that it took him almost two decades to make a sequel. “Why did it bother me so much that it took me 15 years to come back to it?” he said. “It was because I was so hurt by their not understanding the thing I was trying to do. It was about me becoming OK with myself.”

Glass is in cinemas across the UAE from January 17

Updated: January 13, 2019 06:50 PM

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