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"In the Director's Chair with M. Night Shyamalan"


Bryce Dallas Howard Stars in The Village

Bryce Dallas Howard stars in "The Village"

Photo © Touchstone Pictures
Where do the ideas for your films come from and do you look to other stories from past movies to gather ideas for writing your movies?
You mean like just to get inspiration or something?

Well, I try not to because I keep getting asked… Like today, today was foreign press and they had all the countries in the world – all their journalists – and they say, “What do you want your name to mean in the future?” And I say, “Originality.” That’s what I want it mean. Not scared or anything. You don’t know what you’re going to come see.

If I saw a movie that was in the genre or in the vein of something that I liked, I’d probably get discouraged and not write it. I swear to God, I remember I had “The Sixth Sense” idea years before and I put it away because I heard they were making “Casper.” I swear to God. I was like, “There goes that. They’re already making a ghost movie so…” You can totally kill yourself that way so I don’t listen to other movies like that. But you know, right now I’m kind of opening myself up to ideas and so maybe something will happen here. Or this feeling of getting watched from the back… Something might affect me and it might come out in something. A lot of times it will be like the kernel of an idea, like “The Village” was. I had this “King Kong” idea, which was you come across this group of people who are doing their chores and incorporated in their chores are these rituals to keep them safe from creatures. Then they go back to doing their chores and it’s very normal. And it made me very curious about those people. So I had that, and then they offered me “Wuthering Heights” with these two amazing actors to do. Triple-A list actors in both roles. And I read the book again and I was like, “This is the greatest book ever! No to the movie, but I’m going to write my own period piece.” And so in a way, I guess I get inspired by books a lot. You know, like if I read a book I go, “Wow, this is kick-ass.”

So you were inspired by the book “Wuthering Heights” rather than the film “Wuthering Heights?”
Right. Then I went and saw the movie, but it was the book that got me. A kind of angst-ridden emotion. So I said, “I can take that idea – ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘King Kong.’ Perfect.”

You generally work with relatively smaller casts than you had on “The Village.” Was it at all challenging to balance the screen time between them?
Yeah, that actually was a big concern because it was a staggeringly good [ensemble]. These are the easily the best actors in the world in each of their roles. [These] are some of the best theater actresses. Even in the smaller roles, you know for one scene we have like the best theater actresses in the world in there.

These were formidable talents and I was seriously concerned about that I was going to have to, as you normally do, cut away and cut away until somebody gets [it]. I’d have to make that call and go, “You know, we really cut down your role.” It didn’t turn out that way, luckily enough. I did a couple of spontaneous scenes with Adrien [Brody], kind of impromptu stuff that we didn’t rehearse that we didn’t end up putting in. As written, his was completely in more [scenes]. So I got really luckily with the balance of that because that could have easily happened. It was a big worry.

It’s so funny that I had an ensemble cast like that because I said I’d never do an ensemble cast – ever. My theory before that was one star, and then surround them by unknown faces so it becomes real. Of course, I totally disregarded that. I did the reverse: an unknown face surrounded by all these people you know.

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