It must be a sign.
First Pixar, then the Weinsteins, then Michael Eisner--now M. Night Shyamalan has decided to ditch Disney.
The Oscar-nominated helmer has announced he's leaving the Mouse House, where he built his reputation as one of Hollywood's most bankable directors, to make his next spookfest at Warner Bros.
As usual, the movie, Lady in the Water, is a fantasy thriller set in Philly--this one about a building superintendent who discovers a sea nymph living in his apartment complex's pool. Shyamalan penned the screenplay and will coproduce Lady via his Blinding Edge Pictures production banner.
Losing Shyamalan to rival Warner Bros. is a big blow for Disney, which is reeling from the loss of Pixar, the pending departure of Miramax bosses Bob and Harvey Weinstein and a shareholder revolt that forced Eisner to hand over the keys to the Magic Kingdom to his number two, Robert Iger. The writer-director's first four films for the studio--The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village--were all blockbusters, having grossed a combined $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales.
His most recent feature, last summer's The Village, capped a two-picture, first-look deal Shyamalan had with Disney. But apparently, the studio that brought moviegoers The Little Mermaid wasn't so keen on sea nymphs.
After recent talks broke down over Lady, both sides mutually decided to go their separate ways.
"We have a terrific relationship with Night, and although we didn't agree creatively on this particular project, we look forward to working with him in the future," a Disney spokesman told E! Online, stressing the parting was on good terms.
For its part, Warners was pleased to sign Shyamalan to its roster of big name talent.
"I hope that it is the first of many outstanding films that Night makes at our studio," studio president Alan Horn said in a statement.
The filmmaker concurred.
"Lady in the Water is a personal movie with a big idea, and it seems just perfect for Warner Bros.," said Shyamalan. "I'm thrilled they responded to the story, and we all can't wait to get started."
Shyamalan will shoot Lady in his hometown of Philadelphia, where he's shot his previous flicks, beginning in August; the film is slated to hit theaters on July 21, 2006. Casting has just begun.
The writer-director has also been developing a big-screen version of Yann Martel's best-selling lost-at-sea novel, Life of Pi, but there's no production timetable--or studio home base--set for that project.