Following the smash success of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” at the box office, we now know how the movie pulled off its shocking final moments. And it turns out it involved the rare cooperation of a studio not involved with the movie.
Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Split.”
At the end of “Split,” we find that the character with 24 split personalities played by James McAvoy lives in the same cinematic world as a character from another Shyamalan movie when Bruce Willis suddenly appears, playing David Dunn, the main character from 2000’s “Unbreakable.”
The appearance by Dunn hints that Shyamalan is planning a sequel that will feature characters from both movies. The director has also fed that theory on Twitter.
But behind the scenes, getting Willis to appear as that character for a very short cameo in “Split” was a remarkable feat, and not just because of Willis’ fame. “Split” was released by Universal and “Unbreakable” is a Disney property. Studios rarely ever allow characters they own to jump to competing studios’ films.
According to the Wall Street Journal, it was Shyamalan’s relationship with Disney that made this possible. In 2015, he called Sean Bailey, head of production at Disney, about using the “Unbreakable” character in “Split,” which he was writing at the time. After some back and forth, Bailey agreed to let the David Dunn character be in the movie for free. Shyamalan promised Bailey that if a sequel were made, a new deal would be struck.
Bailey and Disney may not have thought much of the decision at the time. “Split” was a thriller made for $US9 million under Blumhouse Productions, known for its low-budget genre titles, but Disney sure wants in on the sequel now, since “Split” has earned over $US172 million worldwide so far.
According to the WSJ story, Disney expects to work with Universal as a partner in the sequel and share in the profits.
Shyamalan is currently writing the sequel.
Blumhouse and Universal declined to comment for this story. Disney did not give an immediate response.