Rupert Grint has become a muse of sorts for you. What do you think he brings to his roles that other actors don’t? Mayfieldblue
I’m always looking for a buoyant actor: someone who naturally entertains, who’s very colourful and beautiful to watch and has as many muscles in humour as in drama and poignancy. That’s rare. Rupert has that, coupled with his kindness and incredible professionalism. He’s just the easiest human being to work with. It’s a tricky thing, what we ask actors to do. Sometimes that comes with complications as human beings. With Rupert: zero. He’s a Navy Seal: comes in and can do anything you ask him to.
I have a theory that you enjoy complete artistic freedom. Am I right that you’ve moved away from huge-budget blockbuster films in order to retain more freedom? balders1
Yes. Maybe it’s the immigrant-Indian-wanting-to-please-everybody thing. There’s something about me that gets triggered by taking a lot of money and then wanting to please the person that gave me that money. That isn’t healthy. So I pay for the movies and we do them with as small a budget as possible. That allows me to take unusual swings, both in the stories that I’m telling and in the way I’m telling them. And that freedom lets me hear myself better.
Have you ever felt or seen telepathy in an acting ensemble? Twist27
I consider stage acting to be the highest form of acting, then film, then television. Because the stage is where you are required to be the most present. That’s why it’s so addictive to be an actor: you’re weirdly present, even though it’s not you. Most of the time we get tired of ourselves because we’re doing a poor performance of ourselves as we walk through life. That’s why it’s so beautiful when you get to be someone else. I think the telepathy part comes in there. Almost without knowing it, actors all do perfect things against each other. Whatever it is, it happens because they’re listening so perfectly that there’s an unspoken energy passing between them.
In a theatrical market of reboots and comic-book movies, how are you able to get original stories greenlit? DrinkYourMilkShake
It’s hard. The system is built to regurgitate itself, to commoditise and put on a shelf many versions of the thing that worked before. That’s a sign that you are on the way out, that the industry is eating itself up.
In the year I released The Sixth Sense, everything was original. The industry was geared the other way, to nourish film-makers. And film-makers were really interested in reaching audiences and not telling stories just to each other. You had The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project, Being John Malkovich, American Beauty, The Insider, Magnolia; all these film-makers making seminal movies at different levels of commerciality, but still all at the highest level of reaching audiences.
That’s not the case now. Yet I believe the health of the industry depends on this. You can repeat the exact same date again because it was so good. But relationships only continue if they’re different and exciting.
Do you have any advice for avoiding spoilers, to ensure maximum enjoyment when watching your films? VerulamiumParkRanger
Don’t ever talk about them. A reporter last night said: “I just want to ask about the ending of Knock at the Cabin; I’m going to do this bit later.” And I go: “By later, do you mean not this lifetime, because even that’s not long enough for me.” And they were like: “Hahaha.” And I go: “Were you there last night at the screening? Did you see how young everyone was in the audience? A bunch of them came up to me before and said: ‘I just watched Signs last night. I just watched The Sixth Sense a month ago.’ I have a new generation that’s discovering my movies. Don’t talk about the endings.”
Are your films in any way influenced by responses to grief? Anonymouscatlady
What a wonderful question. They are. I was reading in a psychology book about the evolutionary necessity of dreaming. Nightmares are there for us to have hyperstrong versions of the scenarios that are disturbing us. Why is that evolutionarily advantageous? When you wake up, you have a better way of handling those complicated emotions in your decision-making, rather than being terrified and then making your decision.
Grief is something I’m always dealing with. I feel very lucky: my father is very ill and fragile and has dementia, but he’s almost 86. I’m constantly trying to deal with grief by making movies like Old. Grief is such a beautiful word. It has such tenderness to it. It gives fear dignity. It’s so lovely that the reader said this. It makes me feel understood.
It’s not a question, but can I say that you were my husband’s favourite film-maker. He died, which is immeasurably painful – but I watch your films and I think of him, and that’s lovely. lexicon_mistress
Oh my God. Don’t make me cry. I traffic in very dark subjects and dark things. But I think the audience understands that the person telling the story is 100% an optimist and 100% believes in humanity. On the other side, something wonderful is there. So at least the audience knows one other person on the planet has hope.
Why Bruce Willis? cutbh
I saw the ability to convey pathos in a package that was handsome and vivacious and funny and physical and strong and everything everybody wants. At the centre, the thing that was really interesting to me was that he was complicated. On my wall, I had posters of Die Hard and Alien and The Exorcist. I was like: just write one of those. So I sat down and wrote The Sixth Sense and I said: OK, put that guy in it. And he said yes! He said yes to a lot of us: me, Quentin [Tarantino], Wes [Anderson]. He was in [Luc Besson’s] The Fifth Element. These are unusual movies by very auteur film-makers, so a risk for a big movie star.
Which films have had the greatest influence on you? Galdove19
I spend my life letting films impact me. When I’m going to write a new movie, I curate very carefully what I watch. It’s not like you can passively come into my life. There is an occasional romcom, because of my wife, which comes into my life against my will. But that aside, it’s supercurated. For Knock at the Cabin, it was Don’t Look Now and Kramer Vs Kramer. Not another home invasion movie.
There are also some movies that for me are like a Rosetta Stone of cinematic answers. The Last Picture Show is one. Quirky and profound and tragic and suffocating. Every scene is about the same thing: all facets of the same diamond.
What scares you the most? Bernie1030
Ideating on how to keep my family safe. Those fears in any form. Not being able to say something before they pass away. Getting old. Protecting the house. Not finding your purpose. Not being a good dad or a good husband. So it’s always about the fragility of the family.
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M Night Shyamalan: ‘A new generation is discovering my movies. Don’t talk about the endings!’
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