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Friday, 29 December, 2000, 08:12 GMT
Unbreakable sense of success

M Night Shyamalan with Bruce Willis on The Sixth Sense
Unbreakable, the eagerly-awaited follow-up to The Sixth Sense, hit cinema screens in the UK on 29 December.

The film is the second major release from M Night Shyamalan, who received huge accolades for The Sixth Sense, one of the most celebrated films of 1999.

It reunites Shyamalan with Bruce Willis, as a man on a spiritual journey and features a young boy who plays a key role in that journey.

Bruce Willis
Willis plays the sole survivor of a train crash in Unbreakable
But 30-year-old Shyamalan - who wrote and directed both films - is at pains to point out that Unbreakable is not a sequel, although he does admit that it has similarities.

He puts this down mainly to the fact that Unbreakable was conceived while he was completing The Sixth Sense.

"I had the idea while we were finishing The Sixth Sense. So there was a kind of symbiotic thing going on between the two ideas and the two films, and they were very close together, so that's why they were very similar in feeling," he told BBC News Online.

When the movie opened in the States last month, Shyamalan says he felt many people were expecting Unbreakable to pick up where The Sixth Sense left off.

"I did feel a sense of 'Wow. People are bringing a lot of baggage from The Sixth Sense into this movie - they're not viewing it as a separate movie, they're viewing it as a continuation of the last movie'.

"I'm definitely not the kind of guy who wants to do sequels, and just be known for one type of movie. I want to make each movie to be very, very original."

For Shyamalan making both movies was an intensely personal affair, an almost cathartic experience.

Haley Joel Osment
Haley Joel Osment in Shyamalan's first hit The Sixth Sense
"For me, The Sixth Sense is me finding my way and understanding the boundaries between work and family. 'Am I good in my work? Am I a good parent?'

"Unbreakable is really about your destiny. Some people have said some really amazing things about me and The Sixth Sense, and really it is about me dealing with the fact that if someone says you're extraordinary, do you believe it?

"It's me trying to find what my destiny is, what my purpose is, what I'm supposed to do."

The creative freedom he was given to make Unbreakable meant he could take his artistry to a new level.

But coming off the back of such a successful film as The Sixth Sense, didn't he feel a sense of extra pressure to come up with another huge hit?

"You know I felt we had a great opportunity, that the world was going to want to see what we did next.

"We took that opportunity to take advantage of the fact that they're going to come based on their love of the last film."

He says the opportunity also instilled a "little sense of rebellion".

Samuel L Jackson
Samuel L Jackson plays the mysterious Elijah Price in Unbreakable
"I wanted to be edgier and darker and more dangerous a film-maker."

Part of that was because he wanted to be taken seriously by the industry.

"I felt like I was being taken like a little bit of a soft film-maker with The Sixth Sense... that I got kind of lucky."

But he is keen to point out that he does not just want to push the boundaries of film-making for himself. His goal is to find a balance between his artistry and commercialism.

"I definitely have on my mind the idea that I have to satisfy a large audience."

And satisfying his audience means challenging them.

"I really demand a lot from them - to be interactive, stay with me, and keep thinking. I'm counting on them thinking. I leave out important factors, I keep changing what their expectations are.

"And slowly playing with their expectations is a fun thing to do."

It might well be a fun thing to do, but fun is not a word you would associate with either The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable. Deep, dark, disturbing, but certainly not fun.

His involvement with children's fantasy film Stuart Little - he was one of the writers - proved he has a lighter side

"I feel like having some fun - staying in the suspenseful, supernatural place - but having a lot more fun with it.

"This next time I just want to enjoy the ideas and the flow... so I think you'll find the next film will be lighter."

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