Disney Wasn’t Convinced M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable Would Appeal To Audiences

Shyamalan would eventually, like many modern superhero blockbusters, begin constructing an expanded cinematic universe with Dunn and Price. The end of his 2016 film “Split,” a pulpy thriller about a kidnapper with multiple personalities (James McAvoy), featured a post-credits stinger that revealed Dunn to be investigating villainy. The characters of “Unbreakable” and “Split” would unite in the 2019 film “Glass,” a shabby, low-budget affair that, sadly, doesn’t pay off in any interesting ways. It would later be revealed that Willis had long been suffering from aphasia, which affected his performances. 

When Shyamalan first pitched “Unbreakable,” though, comic book movies and interconnected cinematic universes were years away from being in vogue. In a 2021 interview with Variety, the filmmaker admitted that Buena Vista Pictures, the distributor of “Unbreakable,” were a bit squirrely about its subject matter. The studio wanted Shyamalan to lean into the film’s horror aspects so that it resembled the director’s previous hit “The Sixth Sense” more closely. Shyamalan did indeed make “Unbreakable” feel bleak and horrific, and noted that the higher-ups were concerned a comic book movie wouldn’t be accessible:

“If I could go back, I would underline the differences between the movies more than we did. […] You know, ‘Unbreakable’ is not scary. It’s strange. It’s a comic book movie. That’s the irony, right? The thing that we were running from the thing they stay with scared most of, is that it’s about comic books! That’s the thing that they were so worried about, that no one would come to see a movie about comics. This is Disney. Would they know this many years later that they would bank the entire thing on that same thing that they were so scared to even talk about?”

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