Since that article four years ago, Shyamalan's movies--namely "The Village" and "Lady in the Water"--have certainly become more artificial and less engrossing. The success of "The Sixth Sense" gave him total creative autonomy, and he has isolated himself in Pennsylvania, where all his movies are made. "When someone is given total artistic freedom," says one blockbuster producer, "the result is usually bad."
The Cure: No one doubts his talent, or believes he has done irreparable harm to his career. What remains to be seen, though, is how he will react if "Lady in the Water" fails. "Will he be one of those guys who self-destructs," asks an Oscar-nominated producer, "or will he pick himself up and reinvent himself?" The solution, most suggest, is for him to break out of his self-imposed cocoon. "The smaller you make your world, the less of an artist you can really be," says an indie exec. "Look at Stanley Kubrick. If you see 'Eyes Wide Shut,' it's clear he hadn't left the house in 20 years." Others think Shyamalan should take a break from writing screenplays. "He could direct some big, great script that a studio is trying to get to someone like Spielberg," says the agent. Interesting thought, but this time let's leave the real Spielberg out of it.