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“Everything is about the characters,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York premiere Tuesday. “How I shoot a movie is based on the main character. Unbreakable represents David Dunn’s personality, Split represents the Horde, and Glass represents Elijah, so it’s very specific to who they are, their quirks.”
In the film, Samuel L. Jackson reprises his Unbreakable character Elijah Glass, a genius and comic book aficionado who suffers from brittle bone disease. He’s joined by Bruce Willis as vigilante do-gooder David Dunn and James McAvoy, who plays Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with dissociative identity disorder and the focus of 2017’s Split.
While Willis and McAvoy both appeared in the second chapter of the trilogy, audiences have long-awaited Glass’ return.
“He’s been locked up for 18 years, people have been trying to block his mind and break his spirit,” Jackson said. “I think it’s a very different person than the first one we had, or he needs to look that way.”
As for Shyamalan, Jackson said the filmmaker has grown since the first installment.
“He’s mellowed, a little more open to suggestion than he used to be,” Jackson told THR. (He previously has noted how exacting the filmmaker was on the set of Unbreakable).
Unbreakable actors Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard and Split star Anya Taylor-Joy also return to finish the trilogy, joined by Sarah Paulson as psychiatrist Ellie Staple.
Paulson told THR she hopes her first project with Shyamalan is not her last.
“It was extraordinary, just the first time he said ‘action’ to me, I had to pinch myself,” said the actress, who starts production for Ratched, Ryan Murphy’s star-studded Netflix series, in three weeks.
The film picks up as Staple (Paulson) explains that she’s a doctor specializing in delusions of grandeur, such as in those who believe they are superheroes. Scorned by the denial of their powers, Elijah sets out to persuade Kevin and David to reveal their supernatural abilities to the world.
While Shyamalan told Jackson from the start that Unbreakable would be one part of a trilogy, his character’s storyline wrapped much later than Jackson expected.
“I figured in around two years there’d be the next one, and two years we’d do the last one, but it never happened [until now],” Jackson said.
For the first time in the trilogy, McAvoy shares a single screen with Jackson and Willis. The actor, who also stars in June’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, said he tried to learn as much as he could while working with them.
“They’re not just older than you, they’re senior because they got rank on you, you know,” McAvoy said. “So you defer to that, but at the same time you’ve got to live in that room as well, so there’s a balancing act.”
In classic comic book fashion, Shyamalan’s fictionalized Philadelphia community (also the director’s hometown) coins superhero aliases for the men, with Kevin and his many identities collectively known as “the Horde” and David named “the Overseer.”
Unlike the plethora of superhero films out today, Glass, distributed by Universal, directly confronts its comic book origins while still attempting to remain grounded in present day.
“I thought about making a movie about comic books, and at that time no one thought that was a valid idea,” Shyamalan said. “It reminded me, even if you’re not accepted at that moment, whatever you thought was valid and moved you as an artist, you really have to double down on that and it will all work out.”
Although the film expands the Shyamalaniverse conceived in the first two films, the filmmaker, who also produced the film alongside Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock and Ashwin Rajan, said he tried to make Glass as insinuative as possible, keeping the story’s conclusion “a little bit incomplete.”
Nevertheless, fans can expect deleted scenes in the Blu-ray edition, according to Shyamalan.
Glass opens in theaters nationwide Friday.
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