'Split': M. Night Shyamalan Explains an Ending Years in the Making

Split -James McAvoy- inset of M. Night Shyamalan-H 2017
Courtesy of Universal Studios; Gary Gershoff/WireImage
The writer-director went through great lengths to keep the finale a secret.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the ending of Split.]

The final moments of Split were more than 15 years in the making, a secret so guarded that writer-director M. Night Shyamalan didn't allow it to be included in test screenings of the film.

Just to reiterate the above warning (because seeing Split spoiler-free is such a fun experience), spoilers below:

After Kevin Wendle Crumb (James McAvoy) makes his escape, the film moves to a bar, where a news broadcast recounts some of the events of the film. A man with multiple personalities kidnapped three young women and held them captive — and police have given him a name: The Horde. Someone in the bar remarks, didn't authorities have a nickname for that man in a wheelchair who caused trouble 15 years ago?

Pan to Bruce Willis' Unbreakable character, David Dunn, who says yeah, "Mr. Glass."

Yes, Split is set in the same world as 2000's Unbreakable, which starred Samuel L. Jackson as the villain. For years, fans have hounded Shyamalan about a potential sequel to Unbreakable, and here, he can finally speak publicly about it, revealing he hopes for a film that would feature characters from Unbreakable and Split in one movie. 

Did you always conceive of this a being part of the Unbreakable universe?

This was always part of the Unbreakable world. Kevin Wendle Crumb was a part of the original, original script for Unbreakable. I pulled him out because it just wasn't balancing right. But a bunch of the scenes that are in this movie, I wrote 15 years ago. They were as is. Patricia opening the door. Hedwig's first scene. Those were all written already. And it's literally from the same moment that I created all the characters, all three of those characters. But I knew I wanted to do a movie about him because I just loved him so much, and I thought it's a rich world for storytelling, so I was super, super excited to finally make it.

You've teased an Unbreakable sequel for years. Was this it? Or are we going to see another one with Bruce Willis as the star?

This is down the line, but my hope is to make one final movie that combines the two.

How did you keep Bruce's cameo such a secret?

He was a secret from everybody. I didn't test the movie with the ending. I just tested it without it.

This movie was satisfying on its own, even without Bruce showing up at the end.

Absolutely. It should just work on its own. At least half the audience hasn't seen my other [work]. They were too young to see it and they'll get educated after it. But they have to totally be seeing a story that works all on its own.

Anya Taylor-Joy's career is really taking off. Did you cast her before The Witch got her on everyone's radar?

The Witch hadn't come out. I hadn't even heard of it. And she was just one of the many girls that auditioned and just popped. But that's not a coincidence that sometimes actors get multiple lead roles at the same time, one after the other after the other. They are just kind of in a sweet spot. They are kind of in an elevated area of their life and they have a confidence and a connection to their emotions that is just exploding when the camera comes on them and then they get one lead after the other. Boom. Boom. Boom. And that's what happened.

Where did the philosophy of The Beast come from? The idea that you are only pure if you've suffered?

In a horror movie, normally if you're going to get killed, it's because you had sex. This is, you are going to get killed because you are good. It's like the reverse. It's like the flip. And for me, this philosophy that the traumatic things, the things that have happened to us in our life, they definitely have changed us and changed people, but we tend to make it a pejorative, and say now you are broken. Now you are not whole. Now you are not like us. You are not normal. I'm not sure that's the case. Yes, they are different. And yes, we are different when something traumatic happens to us, but is it less now? Are we less? Or is the different possibly stronger? Is it something more? We tend to think if nothing happens to you and you have the normal life, then everything's perfect, but the Beast is kind of saying you are asleep. 

Update: A few weeks after our conversation, the director teased a little more about his Split followup, tweeting, "I have an 11 page outline for my next film in my bag. I can't tell you what it is, but If you've seen #Split..."

Update 2: In April, Shyamalan revealed the details of his next project, a proper sequel to Split and Unbreakable entitled Glass that is set for a 2019 release and will star Willis, Jackson, McAvoy and Taylor-Joy. (Read all the details here.)