M Night Shyamalan writes, directs and produces SPLIT

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Apr 1, 2018, 12:22 am IST
Updated Apr 1, 2018, 12:22 am IST
Watch this nail biting thriller on April 5 at 9 pm only on Sony PIX.
James McAvoy as ‘Kevin’
 James McAvoy as ‘Kevin’

When was the last time you saw a thriller that not only shocked you but the story made your spine tingle? Here is one movie where a guy named Kevin kidnaps 3 young girls and traps them into his basement. Eventually, these girls realise that there are 23 different personalities living within him and they try to find a way to escape using one of them! Watch this nail biting thriller on April 5 at 9 pm only on Sony PIX.
 
Q Do you remember the moment when you started to think about this movie? What was the seed that made you think of a character as complex and fascinating as Kevin?
It all started as part of another screenplay about 15 years ago. I remember writing it and realising that this character of Kevin was so electric. I didn’t want it to be anywhere else and everything else felt dull next to it. It was throwing the movie off. I couldn’t write him out long enough, it needed it to be fleshed out. Who is he, how does he think? Let me just imagine taking this out and concentrating on these other two characters. What would this film be like? And that’s what happened. So it sat there for a bit, then I realised it would be a great contained movie to make. I like making these contained movies and I was like, “My God, it would be awesome.”
 
Q In a way it’s almost like they have more than one consciousness.
For example, you and I are here talking now. That is not what is happening with them. One of their consciousness is doing this, the other one is thinking about the Russian textbook. Another one is practising karate and they are really doing all those things at the same time. So that when one personality comes to light, they are well versed in Russian and they can do karate, whatever it is. It is unbelievable and all these existences are constantly going on and they shift into
the light.

My question at the centre of the story is this: What if one of these people that has this disorder, that has this ability to control their body that much with their belief system, what if they believe that one of their personalities was supernatural? What would happen then?
 
Q You have a compassionate look at a serious condition. You ask questions, and you are able to have a sense of humour, too.
 I feel great compassion for these individuals, and I cast James, who has great empathy for the characters that he plays. So we both bring a lot of compassion to those characters. But the humour, that is the thing I am feeling with The Visit and this, I feel like, I don’t know what to call it. That angle into storytelling is really working for me, this humour angle to it. I do feel that is the way I enjoy talking, and I think that is the way that audiences need to hear stories now. For example, I think of what Robert Downey did with the first Iron Man. He was a compassionate character and he played it with that angle. In Split, there are situations that are at the same time terrifying and funny.
 
Q What made you choose James McAvoy to play Kevin and his multiple personalities?
In retrospect I am not sure anybody else could have played the part. James played it and he was amazing in every aspect of it. The comedy, the emotion, the fear, the physicality, the dexterity, the specificity. I am very tough on the actors and I am very specific. I am like a theatre director and he is a theatre actor. James is such a courageous actor. I met him at Comic-Con and I thought this guy is so sweet. I want someone incredibly sweet to play this part to defend all of these characters. Then I sent him the script and I skyped with him for an hour. I immediately knew that he was the guy. So I am very, very lucky.
 
Q You wrote some beautiful female characters for this movie.
Look, I have daughters, only daughters. I have their point of view, the way they talk, the way they think, what they are scared of. I like making complex female characters and for me it’s easy because there’s no male in my house, other than me. We even have a female cat. There are no men anywhere.

 

Q And what about working with Jason Blum again? Besides the low budget it’s more and more clear that he has a different approach and philosophy of filmmaking.
I hire the producers, I have an idea and I look for the right person to make it possible. Jason is the producer of low budget movies, but that is almost a coincidence. I approached him because he is the champion of original movies and he believes in smaller movies reaching a large audience. He has convinced other people that that can happen. And he’s also such a gentle guy and he and I relate so well. I like the version of myself that I am with him. I can get panicky and neurotic during production. He is not that way. Therefore, I am not panicky and neurotic when I am around him. I start to act like him and be like him. He has the vision of the bigger picture. And I think that when we make movies for Universal together, they want both of us to succeed so much, we are both important to them.

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