M Night Shyamalan has told the story of how he protected Bruce Willis from Disney execs who wanted him to do publicity.
As the cast and crew geared up for production, Shyamalan was thrilled. “It was going to be so much fun to work with them,” he says now. But then things started to unravel. Willis became increasingly vocal about what he perceived as Shyamalan’s poor leadership skills, griping about everything from his choice of haircut (it made him look like a “retard”) to his insistence on filming scenes in the rain (he thought it would make him sick).
M.Night Shyamalan Calls Bruce Willis Big Brother
In an interview with GQ magazine in 2015, Willis said it had been “an absolute pleasure” working with Shyamalan, who had come off as a “very nice guy and gentle soul.” But two years later, when asked by Variety if he thought Shyamalan had matured since making Unbreakable, Willis said: “No…no…he hasn’t changed at all…He’s still exactly who he was before…and I don’t want [his] help anymore.”
The director claims that he tried everything possible to keep things from falling apart but felt powerless against the egos at play: “I’m not saying that any one person is bad or wrong,” says Shyamalan. “Everyone has their own perspective.” He adds: “Somehow those perspectives aren’t aligned.”
“I got to direct my first movie, and it was a big deal because Disney had given me $6 million. But no one knew what I looked like — I was just this kid with long hair,” Shyamalan says.
“So when The Sixth Sense came out and became a hit, [Disney] said, ‘Okay, now we’re making a sequel for Bruce Willis!’ And they wanted him on the publicity tour.”
Willis didn’t want to do it, but Shyamalan told him that if he didn’t do it then he would get fired from directing his next project as well. “And so Bruce Willis decided not to go on this press tour,” he adds.