What happened to M. Night Shyamalan?

The director was once crowned "the next Hitchcock." Today, he's an awfully long way from The Sixth Sense. Here's an in-depth look at what went wrong.

M. Night Shyamalan
(Image credit: Reuters/CORBIS)

Sony Pictures doesn't want you to know that M. Night Shyamalan directed After Earth. The new sci-fi blockbuster, which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden, hits theaters tomorrow after a marketing campaign that has buried Shyamalan's name so far down that you probably didn't know he had directed it. It is, I imagine, an inauspicious position for Shyamalan — a director who was once widely and hyperbolically hailed as "the next Hitchcock" — to find himself in.

Let's go back to 1999, when Shyamalan first broke into the Hollywood mainstream. He was the writer and director behind the supernatural drama The Sixth Sense, and the screenwriter for the family film Stuart Little. (The Stuart Little script is less remarked upon.) When The Sixth Sense hit theaters in August 1999, the word of mouth was so good that the movie actually grossed more in its second week of release than its first, and it stayed at the top of the U.S. box office for five consecutive weeks, earning $293 million domestically and another $379 million abroad, as well as a nomination for Best Picture.

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