'Split': M. Night Shyamalan on How His Low-Budget Gamble Set Him Free

The writer-director is enjoying a critical revival thanks to passion projects — but don't rule him out directing the next 'Star Wars.'
Courtesy of Universal Studios; Gary Gershoff/WireImage
James McAvoy in 'Split' (Inset: M. Night Shyamalan)

The M. Night Shyamalan you know and love is back with Split.

The writer-director self-financed Split for under $10 million to retain creative control — and it's paid off, with the film becoming Shyamalan's best-reviewed film since 2004's Signs and projected to open to $23 million-plus this weekend.

Split stars James McAvoy as a kidnapper with multiple personalities and comes as Shyamalan has embraced low-budget films following the success of his 2015 found-footage horror movie The Visit.

"The burden is off of the movie because it's made for such a low budget that it's almost certain everyone has won," Shyamalan tells Heat Vision. "It doesn't have to make hardly any money for it to be successful, and that's a wonderful, wonderful feeling."

Shyamalan's critical revival comes after a string of poorly received big-budget films (2010's The Last Airbender and 2013's After Earth) diminished some of the good will he'd built up from beloved early career films like 1999's Oscar-nominated The Sixth Sense

Despite the good fortune Split and The Visit have brought, Shyamalan isn't necessarily hanging up his big-budget ambitions for good.

"The minute I say, 'Oh, I'll never make a big-budget movie,' tomorrow I'm making Star Wars: Rogue Two by M. Night Shyamalan!'' he says with a laugh. "I'm super enjoying myself. Even if it's in my own head — and it just might be in my own head — the feeling of freedom, the feeling I can do anything I want, the feeling that I can be as quirky or irreverent, or crazy as my imagination."

Split, which also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula as the young women held captive, is the kind of film that you just have to talk about after viewing. (That was definitely the case for those of us at Heat Vision who have seen it.) So there's not much else we can say without spoiling it, but check back Monday for a postmortem with Shyamalan, who will answer some of the burning questions you'll likely have after seeing the film. 

Split opens Friday.

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