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“That’s a Disney movie!”: James McAvoy’s ‘Split’ Flummoxed Execs Out of Their Wits After Director Took a Risk With Bruce Willis That Had No Concrete Future

"That's a Disney movie!": James McAvoy's 'Split' Flummoxed Execs Out of Their Wits After Director Took a Risk With Bruce Willis That Had No Concrete Future

Even before DC or Marvel considered a standalone supervillain movie, James McAvoy took on such a role in his 2016 movie, Split. The movie follows McAvoy’s character, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, as he kidnaps and imprisons three young girls. One of his identities is the cannibalistic ‘The Beast’, who manifests superhero powers.

James McAvoy in Split (2016)
James McAvoy as a character suffering from DID in Split

Joaquin Phoenix was the initial choice for the role, however, the role eventually went to James McAvoy. The Wanted actor received praise for his performance, with some calling it one of the best in his career.

Also Read: “I’m not sure what way they’re going to go with it”: James McAvoy is Open to Return as Professor X Under One Reason Despite Marvel Boss Bringing Back Sir Patrick Stewart

James McAvoy’s Split Climax Twist Was Kept A Secret From Studio Execs [Spoiler Alert]

Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis as David Dunn in Split

Split’s climax scene was a shocking reveal to the audience and an introduction to its sequel, Glass. As most fans know by now, the James McAvoy movie ended with the appearance of Bruce Willis’s character David Dunn, reprising the role from his 2000 movie, Unbreakable. This was one hell of a twist, considering Unbreakable and Split were not marketed as connected movies, a genius plan by M. Night Shyamalan.

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Shyamalan appeared on the ReelBlend podcast, where he revealed that he initially didn’t inform the studio executives about the climax. In fact, the scene was not included in the original script by Shyamalan, so it was also absent in the preview screening. However, during the final screening for the studio execs, including the Chairman, Willis’s scene was shown to them, and they were as shocked as the audience.

The issue was that Split was a Universal Studios production, while Disney had the rights to Unbreakable. The latter was produced by Touchstone Pictures, a subsidiary of Disney. Shyamalan revealed how it was a bold move to convince a studio chairman to include a character from another studio’s movie in his own. The Sixth Sense director told ReelBlend podcast:

“They don’t know the ending that they’re watching. They didn’t even know I shot it, because I didn’t even send them the dallies of that (scene). The lights go down. They watch the whole movie of Split. Then this scene comes on, and they’re completely flummoxed. They look at me, and they’re like, ‘What are you saying? That’s a Disney movie!’ [Laughs] And I go, ‘It’s all good. We have the permission to do it!’”

Fortunately, things worked out for Shyamalan, as Split became part of the Unbreakable universe, leading to a sequel.


Also Read: “I can’t move, I can’t see anybody”: Oscar Isaac Went Through Excruciating Pain to Work With His Favourite Stars Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy

M. Night Shyamalan Took A Risk By Including Bruce Willis’s Unbreakable Character

Bruce Willis in Unbreakable
Bruce Willis as David Dunn in Unbreakable

As soon as he had the idea for the climax scene in James McAvoy’s film, M. Night Shyamalan called Bruce Willis to ask if he would do a cameo appearance. He asked the Die Hard actor if he could spare three hours to shoot in Philadelphia. The Signs director further explained to Willis that he had always wanted to make a sequel to Unbreakable, and this movie could potentially lead to one.

Unbreakable received positive reviews upon its release back in 2000, with critics praising it as a realistic take on superheroes. The film even found a place in Quentin Tarantino’s top 20 movies. While a possible trilogy was always in the plans, the story was not developed. Further, Shyamalan’s movies in the 2000s were critical and commercial disappointments. So, it was a pleasant surprise for fans when Split became the official second movie in the Unbreakable trilogy.

The third movie in the trilogy, Glass, was released in 2019, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their roles from Unbreakable, and Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy returning from Split. However, the third installment was considered the weakest among the three.

Also Read: “My body started to cry out”: X-Men Star James McAvoy Put Himself Through Sheer Agony and Torture For His Role in a Disturbing Film

Unbreakable is now available for streaming on Max, while the other two films in the trilogy are available for rent on AppleTV+.

Source: ReelBlend podcast

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Written by Hashim

Hashim writes about movies and celebrities at FandomWire. A Masters degree holder in Sociology, crime investigation thrillers really get him going. He's devoured 15 seasons of Criminal Minds and another 12 seasons of Bones. And the list of shows goes on. Oh, and don't even get him started on the MCU movies and Friends.