How M. Night Shyamalan and James McAvoy decided to ‘Split’

But Shyamalan’s specialty has long been making us believe in what he shows.“There’s a tone that I’ve really been interested in, this kind of humor/thriller tone,” the writer-director says. Which may be hard to believe in regard to a movie about severe Dissociative Identity Disorder and young women in extreme jeopardy. If you look at the big scene where the abductor is revealed to have different identities and the woman comes through the door, that scene can be done in a very straight scary way or the way I thought, with weirdness and humor. “I think they can work for each other, the two tones, if you get the balance right. That was really the kind of tone that I wanted to set for the whole film.”

So I ended up resorting to firsthand accounts of people who live with DID. Their diaries were amazingly helpful to me, and they’re quite easy to find online, but also video diaries and YouTube blogs and things like that. I am here and I exist. “The clinical definitions are pretty much in dispute constantly,” McAvoy says of DID. “They’re sort of tailor-made for somebody with DID, because you actually get to present yourself to the world and say, ‘I am here, I’m not a figment of some poor person’s imagination, I’m not just trying to pull the wool over your eyes and gain attention. And look at this: So does my friend here who lives in the same body as me.’ That was very valuable for me, because I could see people being completely unguarded, free and open, not in a medical situation.” “It’s generally experts arguing with each other, and it’s fairly difficult to pinpoint, anyway.
On the heels of 2015’s surprisingly funny, my-grandparents-are-psychos hit “The Visit,” M. The solemn tone that marked Shyamalan’s signature twist-ending thrillers “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable” and “The Village” has clearly been replaced by an emphasis on the kind of playfulness that popped up occasionally in another one of his early hits, “Signs.” Night Shyamalan continues his creative resurgence with “Split.” It’s an expertly nerve-wracking story of three kidnapped teenage girls trying to fend off an abductor who acts like nine people at any given time.It’s also a lot fun for both audiences and, apparently, lead actor James McAvoy and Shyamalan himself, if not the poor captives played by Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”), Haley Lu Richardson (“Edge of Seventeen”) and Jessica Sula (British TV’s “Skins”).

He’s engaged in many discussions of DID with his wife, Bhavna Vaswani, a psychologist, but she didn’t kibitz on the script.However, the real work of presenting Dennis, Patricia, Hedwig, Kevin and more of the central figure’s 23 personalities fell to McAvoy. Fascinated by it, Shyamalan says he’s wanted to make a movie on the subject for 15 years but just got obsessed enough to write a screenplay two years ago. The stage-trained Scottish actor, who plays the younger Professor X in the current run of X-Men movies, researched the role(s) as assiduously as he could in the time he’s usually allotted for preparing a single characterization – and despite a lack of expert consensus. The Philadelphia auteur studied DID, formerly called multiple personality disorder, while he was learning filmmaking at New York University.