M. Night Shyamalan is drawing upon blue-chip talent for the first time since 2002’s Mel Gibson starrer “Signs,” with Will Smith and son Jaden attached to star in Columbia Pictures’ untitled sci-fier that the helmer co-wrote and will direct.
The Smith family, one of Hollywood’s most bankable brands, is taking a chance on Shyamalan, whose creative cachet has declined over the past decade. Though “The Last Airbender” grossed $319 million globally for Paramount, it was widely considered one of 2010’s worst movies, critically panned for its poorly executed 3D conversion.
Since “Signs,” Shyamalan has also directed “The Happening,” “Lady in the Water” and “The Village,” none of which matched the success of his 1999 breakout “The Sixth Sense,” which grossed $552 million worldwide.
The Shyamalan-Smith partnership is comprehensive: The actor and director will produce, along with James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith and Ken Stovitz via Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment shingle.
Project, set 1,000 years in the future, will tell the story of a young boy and his estranged father who explore a vacant Earth after their ship crashes. It’s uncertain whether the film will have Shyamalan’s signature twist, though Sony described the pic as “sometimes scary.”
Shyamalan co-wrote the script with Gary Whitta.
Smith is known for taking chances on relatively unknown helmers (Gabriele Muccino, “The Pursuit of Happyness”; Francis Lawrence “I Am Legend”) or, in this case, a down-on-his-luck director. Sony sparked to the notion of teaming the disparate talents of Shyamalan and the Smiths on the helmer’s first big-budget film for the studio.
“Night is an outstanding filmmaker who has a tremendous vision for this science-fiction adventure story and we couldn’t be more excited to be working again with Jaden,” Columbia Pictures prexy Doug Belgrad said. “We’re thrilled to have the two of them together on this project.”
“The chance to make a scary, science-fiction film starring Jaden and Will is my dream project,” Shyamalan said.
The Smiths have been making a home at Sony, with children Jaden and Willow toplining high-profile projects.
Jaden Smith last starred in Sony’s “Karate Kid,” which grossed more than $350 million worldwide. Meanwhile, Willow Smith also is attached to star in an “Annie” remake for the studio, with Smith producing, as well as rapper Jay-Z via a joint venture with Overbrook and Sony Pictures.
Will Smith and Shyamalan are repped by CAA. Jaden is repped by WME.