What’s Will Smith Doing With M. Night Shyamalan?
Today’s Daily News announced the looming crisis in Philadelphia actor Will Smith’s career, and I for one could not be more depressed. “Will & Jaden meet with Night” blared the headline to Dan Gross’s “Philly Gossip” column. And jeez, he acts like that’s a good thing. But to me, all that can come out of Will Smith and his son Jaden meeting with director M. Night Shyamalan is misery and despair.
Smith seemed to have succesfully shaken off the controversy he generated by lauding some aspects of Scientology. Being clear that he had not actually joined the Church helped. But Shyamalan hasn’t had a hit since Rear Window. Oh wait! That movie was actually directed by Hitchcock!
We all know by now that Shyamanlan’s career is on life support. He made Philly proud with The Sixth Sense, many consider Unbreakable underrated and Signs at least made dollar signs appear beside its name in the box office reports (“Swing away, Merrilll!” Ugh). But the last, I dunno, 40 years of his career—feels like 40 years, doesn’t it?—have featured an unending parade of stink bombs, each seemingly, more portentous and pretentious than the last and replete with “surprise” endings.
What’s next, Will? You gonna keep the tour of damaged Hollywood properties going, from Tom Cruise and Scientology to Shyamalan?
I think the next move is a long night of bar hopping with Mel Gibson. That would be great. Then maybe some hot tubbing with Roman Polanski?
I get it. You’ve made plenty of money and it turns out you’re a big-hearted and open-minded guy. As you put it in one interview on the Scientology kerfuffle, “I am a Christian. I am a student of all religions, and I respect all people and all paths.”
Well, good on ‘ya. I even agree with you, in general terms, that respecting all people and paths is one of those good ideas more of us should follow. But guess what, player? Shyamalan is, in some respects, even more toxic than Scientology.
One telling moment came from a 2010 Gawker item: “In a trailer for the upcoming horror movie Devil,” reads the post, “a title card reads, ridiculously, ‘From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.’ Ten years ago, that phrase meant something. Now the audience just groans and laughs. Wah-wahhh.”
Does the fact that the post got 57,000 page views and 310 Facebook likes—solid numbers, but nowhere near viral—mean people can’t even be bothered to really laugh at M. Night unless his name is foisted upon them all unawares as they sit minding their own business in a movie theater? I don’t know for sure. But I do know I saw the trailer for Devil in two different movie theaters and people did not laugh. They groaned.
So look, I’m a nice guy. I’m rooting for Night to turn this around, which brings me to a quick confession: I loved Unbreakable and I thought Signs was mostly terrific. By today’s standards, I’m in the tank for M. Night. Which tells you just how shallow his tank has become. And now, Will, I’m afraid he’s gonna drag you with him. But if you’re gonna start down, dude, from one of the all-time most happening careers in Hollywood, go out with a serious fluorish.
Some suggestions: Re-make Travolta’s Battleship Earth, and wear a mop—literally—on your head. Let the mop handle just hang down over your face and act like it’s not even there. Like working with M. Night, people won’t know what to make of that. Then, to cement your new reputation, resuscitate Roseanne, put on 175 pounds and take over John Goodman’s role as her husband. Bankroll the whole thing and make sure each episode ends with Rosie’s version of “The National Anthem.” Forget the whole 22-episode season thing, too. Put out a new show every week. To accelerate your descent, do a big screen version of Matlock that ends with you shooting Andy Griffith in the face. Then do a movie called Fresh Prince, starring Mel Gibson as an out-of-work actor who finds his voice again—and relaunches his career—by reading all his lines through a life-size puppet of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” And you, sir, play the puppet.
But at the end, Syhamalan-style, it turns out that Gibson has been dead. The whole time. And the phone call was coming from inside the house!
That ought to do it.