M. Night Shyamalan cast James McAvoy in Split after running into the actor by chance at a San Diego Comic-Con party. After going through a rough stretch that saw flops such as The Last Airbender and After Earth, the director has bounced back in a major way in recent years. Split is widely cited as Shyamalan's big comeback vehicle, but his professional redemption actually started a couple years earlier with low-budget horror film The Visit. In an effort to spread word-of-mouth early, Shyamalan brought it to San Diego Comic-Con 2015, where it was screened.
As fate would have it, that trip to California ended up being beneficial for Shyamalan in more ways than one. Not only was The Visit well-received, he found a solution to a particular problem that was bothering him. After writing Split and the complex character of Kevin Wendall Crumb, Shyamalan wondered who could portray the role. A run-in with McAvoy is all it took for the director to find his man.
During the Glass portion of Universal's Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, Shyamalan revealed the amusing anecdote, which coincidentally took place at Comic-Con a few years prior. The two met at a party and remarked how they enjoyed each other's work. McAvoy, who was just coming off X-Men: Apocalypse at the time, was sporting a buzz cut look that Shyamalan thought befitting of the character. One thing led to another, and McAvoy was cast as Crumb.
McAvoy possibly would have landed the part regardless, but in retrospect, it great that things worked out this way. McAvoy's performance is arguably the most acclaimed aspect of Split, and now it's difficult to imagine anyone else as Kevin. Fans are very excited to see him return for Glass, where he could have an even more dynamic turn. During the panel, Shyamalan revealed the current edit includes scenes of 21 of Kevin's 24 personalities - a few of which were shown in the recently-released trailer. McAvoy is great at bringing multiple layers to each individual character, making every one stand out. Some felt he was deserving of an Oscar nomination in Split, which is about as high of praise an actor can receive. In someone else's hands, Kevin Wendall Crumb may not have been as effective.
It's funny to consider that the seeds for this unlikely franchise were planted at Comic-Con and it was one of the biggest events at this year's convention. For Shyamalan, it had to have been a surreal instance of the journey coming full circle, especially since he always dreamed of being in Hall H for a panel. Hopefully, Glass can live up to the hype and rounds out the trilogy on the highest of notes.
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- Glass (2019) release date: Jan 18, 2019