Forget Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees — growing older is the boogeyman that scares moviegoers the most. And M. Night Shyamalan cannily exploits those collective fears in his latest spooky yarn, Old, in which a group of vacation-goers visit a beautiful tropical beach that has an unexpected side effect: rapid aging… extremely rapid aging. In a manner of hours, married couple Guy and Prisca (Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps) go from the cusp of 40 to the precipice of 50, while their children (Alexa Swinton and Luca Faustino Rodriguez) transform from pre-tweens into full-fledged teenagers.
That premise is guaranteed to chill the blood of any parent… or child for that matter. But Shyamalan — who celebrates his 51st birthday in August — insists that he’s not personally freaked out by the passing of time. “[Aging] doesn’t actually scare me,” the director tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I’ve had a weird relationship with aging because in school … I looked so much younger than everybody else. And I got married very young, and had kids very young, so it’s actually been nice. I mean, I listen to Bad Bunny and so do my kids!” (Watch our video interview above.)
That said, there are aspects of growing older that do unnerve the director of such horror favorites as The Sixth Sense and The Village — namely what it means for the loved ones around him. “The scary part for me is my parents, and seeing how fragile they are,” he explains. “Something you thought was permanent, you can see is not permanent. And seeing your children [grow up]: you could keep them safe by tucking them in, but now they go off and I can’t protect them. So those those things really scare me.” (Shyamalan has three daughters with his wife, Dr. Bhavna Vaswani, ranging in age from 16 to 25.)
Adapted from a graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Lévy, Old is also inspired by Peter Weir’s 1975 cult classic Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which a group of Australian schoolgirls mysteriously disappear over the course of one languid afternoon at the titular landmark. “That was a huge inspiration,” Shyamalan says, adding that he had America’s “dysfunctional relationship with time” on his mind as he sat down to write the screenplay. “We’re just trying to beat [time],” he explains. “We’re trying to be younger than we are, or if you’re younger you’re trying to get to somewhere older than you are. You’re always not OK with where you are.”
“In the movie, I tried to talk about how your thinking process changes and you get more perspective [with time],” Shyamalan continues. “When I go over to my parents’ house and I talk to them, they’re seeing everything in much larger [ways]. My anxiety is silly to them, because they’ve seen so much. And they’re right! Whatever I’m anxious about today is meaningless and they’re right and I’m wrong, you know, this, whatever I’m anxious about today, it’s meaningless in a week.”
Unlike his characters, doesn’t need a magical beach to experience the rapid passing of time. All he has to do is walk into his office, where photos of his three daughters — Saleka, Ishana and Shivani — provide a visual reminder of how much they’ve grown while he’s been making movies.
“First they’re in diapers on the Unbreakable set and I’m holding them,” he marvels. “And then they next they’re in their own chair with headphones on and then they’re over my shoulder watching me direct. And now there’s pictures of me over the shoulder of Ishana as she’s directing! You literally see it swap. It’s amazing, just watching the shelves.”
Old premiers July 23 in theaters.
— Video produced by Kat Vasquez and edited by Luis Saenz
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