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The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale and Lost Paperback

3.7 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sportswriter Bamberger's frothy though unconvincing account of the tentative making of Shyamalan's latest film, Lady in the Water, won't make a lasting contribution to film history but may appeal to diehard fans of the moviemaker who hit it big with The Sixth Sense. Bamberger meets his fellow Philadelphian Shyamalan and his wife, Bhavna, at a party in 2004, and becomes intrigued with how this Indian- British immigrant came up with the idea that allowed him to persuade all the right people to make his first movie, at age 28, which grossed $1 billion worldwide and earned six Oscar nominations. Bamberger explores the themes of faith and heresy that run through Shyamalan's movies, including Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, and the little-seen coming-of-age dramedy Wide Awake, and reveals Shyamalan's latest inspiration, his original fable about a sea nymph. Essentially, Bamberger follows the secretive moviemaker around and tries to get a sense of his thoughts: "Night was trying to write this ambitious, crazy, inspired screenplay, and a lot of the time he had no idea what he was doing." A soup-to-nuts account of the making of the movie evolves with plenty of flashy names from coast to coast, but the whole isn't all that nourishing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Stands alongside Lillian Ross’s Picture and Julie Salamon’s The Devil’s Candy as that rare inside look at how Hollywood actually works. -- The Philadelphia Inquirer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001G8WKGM
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,796,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By racapowski VINE VOICE on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I love Shyamalan's films, but I cannot lie - this book is a big blight on his image. It portrays him as a very unpleasant personality - the type who won't stand for less than constant adulation, takes everything, inculding professional talk, personally, and makes a ton of nasty personal remarks in retaliation.

Sportswriter Michael Bamberger is the ostensible author, yet the book is Shyamalan's manifesto; it includes countless internal monologues unknowable to a third party. Disingenuous, but the less disquieting of the two options; surely no human being, not even in marriages or cults, has been this fawning, this lavishly and unquestioningly worshipful of another.

"If [LitW] came together, it would be like Dylan and Clapton and Springsteen and Eminem and Kanye West and Miles Davis and Bonnie Raitt and Joan Armatrading and Jerry Garcia and every musician you've ever loved joining George Harrison and belting out the opening chord of 'A Hard Day's Night' at the same time."

[on demanding execs read his scripts on their days off] "[Shyamalan] was comfortable getting in the middle of people's weekend. He felt that the reading of his script should not be considered work. It should add to the weekend's pleasure."

"If you're a Bob Dylan, a Michael Jordan, a Walt Disney - if you're M. Night Shyamalan -"

The book exists to observe Shyamalan do something, then applaud his effortless skill. We learn what a good debator and actor Shyamalan is, what a good basketball player, how good he looks in a suit, how quickly he loses weight, how he has a better ear than the hired band, how perfect the grill lines are on his chicken breasts. (Is he modest? Yes, moreso than anyone the author's met.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not exactly an M. Night hater nor do I think he is the genius that some profess him to be (modern day Hitchcock? Please.). I loved THE SIXTH SENSE, was so-so on UNBREAKABLE, liked SIGNS (until the flawed ending), hated THE VILLAGE, and consider LADY IN THE WATER to be unwatchable (I had seen the film well before reading this book). Nor am I one to turn away from a good movie just because of the filmmaker's personality (I don't care what Woody Allen or Roman Polanski do when filming or not filming, or how big of a jerk a filmmaker is, if the movie is good then so be it). But what made this book so fascinating is the fact that M. Night comes off as essentially a big baby who can't accept any form of criticism. At one point, the book outlines how M. Night isn't looking for "yes" men/women, but he only wants people around him who believe -- but he definitely comes off as someone who indeed is looking for "yes" men/women and anyone who doesn't see his way is "lost".

In terms of M. Night's "fight" with Disney, this is one of the few exceptions where you come out siding with the corporation. Neither M. Night nor his assistant can't accept why the Disney execs won't drop everything in their personal Sunday lives to read the new script -- including taking a child to a birthday party, then settling him down afterwards -- then they get upset when Disney tells him they'll finance the movie and won't interfere with him at all! "We'll give you $60 million then see you at the premiere" offers Dick Cook. Offers like that are extremely rare, and I had no sympathy at all for M. Night during this "plight" when he feels he is betrayed by Disney. Disney's notes are not unreasonable, and actually are pretty much on the money.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is probably most interesting to people who know a fair bit about the film business. I found it fascinating, but think it needs an epilogue to examine the fallout from the movie's very disappointing reviews and box office.

M. Night Shyamalan can be whatever you want him to be here... a genius idealist, a brilliant filmmaker, or more likely, a man whose inflated ego and desperate attempt to do something important cause him to make a terrible career move and a terrible movie.

Shyamalan's arrogance is fascinating, as is his belief in what is clearly flawed material. However, his deep love for film and desire to make a film he believes in are certainly admirable.

Michael Bamberger is an interesting choice to write this book, because he's not in the film industry nor terribly familiar with the process of making a film. But I think that actually works, because he's at once infatuated with M. Night's celebrity and disgusted by the self-indulgence of his process. I think that a writer who knew more about Hollywood would have been tempted to make this an all-out character assassination (because there's certainly enough material to tempt a writer in this direction), but Bamberger's take is actually pretty balanced. This was a very interesting book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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Format: Hardcover
I really had to think about how many stars I wanted to give this book to do it justice.

On the one hand, I wanted to rate it highly since it did entertain me...just not as the author intended. He's a decent enough writer, but he's a sportswriter who's writing about a Hollywood director. You know you're in trouble when the author points out his qualifications in the opening paragraph: he still takes his wife on dates to the movies. Not exactly Peter Bogdanovich or Roger Ebert.

Another huge problem--but a great source of comedy--is his tireless hero worship of M. Night Shyamalan, or "Night" as he refers to him. I knew I was in trouble when the author wonders if Night's incredible talent influences reality because he spots a kid on a horse wearing war paint on his way to a party to meet him. The strange visual must have somehow come from Night....

There are enough comical scenes of an egomaniacal filmmaker who doesn't listen to anyone. That's one of the great funny ironies of this book: THE MAN WHO HEARD VOICES doesn't hear anyone else! There isn't one page of encouragement that Shyamalan gets during the writing and production of THE LADY IN THE WATER...but that never stops him. He comes across as childishly immature and monstrously self-involved, damaging not only himself but everyone who signs on as a disciple. Even the author of this book comes across as incompetent, blinded by his adulation for Shyamalan, or unforgivably forgiving, by ending the book so he doesn't address the box office disaster that Shyamalan's misfire ended up becoming.

I'm not sure which appeared more in the book: 1) Shyamalan's bad behavior and the author's painful twisting to interpret it as part of his genius, or 2) the constant mentions of Bob Dylan.
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