when unbreakable was released in 2000, disney told m. night shyamalan, the film’s director, that the words comic book and superhero were not going to be used at all when advertising the film. “the studio said it was too fringe. they said they didn’t want to attract ‘those people that go to those conventions’--that was literally a quote.”
shyamalan thought that not promoting it as such was a mistake, and as it turned out, unbreakable underperformed upon released. it gained a cult following over the years though, and last year at the end of shyamalan’s film split, it was revealed that the two films shared the same cinematic universe.
eighteen years later, universal studios is not making the same mistake. they brought unbreakable’s (and split’s) sequel glass straight to “the people that go to those conventions” -- in this case, the biggest comic-book convention in the world -- comic-con international in san diego, for a packed presentation in the convention’s massive hall h. shyamalan was joined by the film’s stars: bruce willis and samuel l. jackson (the film’s other star james mcavoy, who was scheduled to attend, bowed out due to illness), as well as sarah paulson and anya taylor-joy, who is reprising her character from split. fans there were treated to the world premiere of the film’s trailer.
in the film’s trailer, it is revealed that the three characters david dunn (willis), elijah price/glass (jackson) and kevin wendell crumb (mcavoy), are all under the care of dr. ellie staple (sarah paulson). how they came under her care, and what happens once they are together, has yet to be revealed.
shyamalan said he’s always loved san diego comic con, and while he’s been at the convention in the past promoting things like his fox tv series wayward pines, or his horror film the visit, he has always wanted to promote something in hall h. he then revealed that comic-con played an important part when it came time to cast split. “i was here for the visit and we went to one of the parties here. i had written split and i didn’t know who in the world could play this part,” he said. “james mcavoy walks by me and i grab him and tell him i love his stuff. and he told me he loved my stuff. he was here for x-men and his hair was like three-quarters of an inch long and i thought ‘this is the guy.’”
jackson said he was drawn to the character of mr. glass because of the character’s complexity. “he has a fragile body but his mind is so strong,” jackson said, also noting that the character is quiet. “i don’t actually play the same motherfucker all the time. although a lot of them tend to be the loud ones.”
willis was tight-lipped about the plot of glass, saying he was told that he’s not allowed to say anything about it. he even silently sat when shyamalan noted that willis shot his scene at the end of split for “next to nothing,” which elicited a mock look of puzzlement from jackson.
shyamalan said that disney (which owns unbreakable) graciously gave him permission to use willis’ dunn character at the end of split (which was distributed by universal). the two studios have partnered for the third film. “i don’t think this has ever happened or will ever happen again where two studios have two ips they completely own, and i say ‘can we make a sequel to both and you guys share it?’ and they said yes,” he said.
shyamalan feels that glass is the culmination of a series and director that finally found it’s comic book audience. “at each level, starting with unbreakable, it was you guys that embraced it and really understood it,” shyamalan said, thanking the hall h audience. “this was always meant for you guys. it’s your series.”