20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Sixth Sense

While The Sixth Sense has become a cult classic, the movie faced a lot of issues during production.

The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis Hayley Joel Osment

It’s incredible to think that The Sixth Sense reaches the milestone of 20 next year. What started off as a cult classic gradually spread through word of mouth and became the second highest grossing movie of 1999.

The film has now become synonymous with one great child actor, one visionary director’s debut, and one fantastic plot twist.

The director himself, M. Night Shyamalan, has enjoyed incredible highs and lows in his career. His debut The Sixth Sense earned him comparisons with Spielberg, but this pressure may have been his undoing.

After a slew of stinkers in the form of The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, Shyamalan was effectively blacklisted from Hollywood.

It was only after the mediocre success of found footage movie The Visit and his resurgence with Split that he has recently been taken seriously again.

With this new found respect, people have cast their minds to back to his beloved debut film and reminisced fondly over his merits as a director and a writer. No longer is he the butt end of Hollywood jokes, he is a director who has an exciting film on the way with Glass.

However, there are many pieces of The Sixth Sense behind the scenes trivia that most are unfamiliar with.

From an Arrested Development cast member auditioning for a leading part to an esteemed newspaper criticizing the movie upon its release, there are many previously untold secrets about The Sixth Sense.

With this in mind, here are the 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Sixth Sense.

20 Bruce Willis was forced to be in it

Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense

This was the first of two movies that Bruce Willis owed Disney after he shut down another production: The Broadway Brawler.

Tales of Willis’s difficult nature as an actor are legendary in Hollywood such as his drama with Kevin Smith. However, according to IMDb, on the set of The Broadway Baller he ended the movie for good after firing the director.

As part of his Disney contract, he was signed on to The Sixth Sense and another less successful movie in 2000 called The Kid.

Another thing Willis had to sacrifice, along with his freedom to choose projects, was his usual salary. He was paid a measly ten million dollars for The Sixth Sense, half of his usual salary at the time.

Indeed, it’s incredible that one of Bruce Willis’ most iconic roles, some say his defining role, only came to be due to a contract dispute.

19 Donnie Wahlberg lost 43 pounds for his role

Donnie Wahlberg may be known as the less successful older brother of Marky Mark but in The Sixth Sense he gets a chance to prove himself.

So committed to his role as the disturbed Vincent Grey was Donnie that he told Shyamalan that he was going to lose some weight.

Little did Shyamalan know that Wahlberg would lose, as reported by Hollywood, 43 pounds for his breakthrough role.

While many actors have lost significant amounts of weight for films since, Wahlberg was one of the first actors to do so in a mainstream movie.

Also considering that he is in the movie for less than 10 minutes, it makes the weight transformation even more extraordinary, and perhaps pointless.

Shyamalan may have not known what to expect when Wahlberg lost all the weight but he managed to capture a fantastic performance out of his actor.

18 Michael Cera auditioned for Cole

Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim

Everyone’s favourite man-child Michael Cera may have made his name from cult classics Superbad and Arrested Development but he nearly coined another iconic role.

However, we know that Cera originally read for the part of Cole in front of M. Night Shyamalan.

While the role eventually went to Haley Joel Osment, Cera has had the more successful career compared to Osment’s career which faded after Spielberg’s A.I: Artifical Intelligence.

It is possible to note, however, that Cera has fallen into a relatively typecast role as a socially awkward teenager/man.

It is hard to imagine the mainly comic actor Cera playing the troubled Cole in The Sixth Sense but maybe in another world he could have secured an Oscar nomination for the film like Osment did.

17 Haley Joel Osment’s hardest scene was in a car

While it may be hard to imagine Osment not being traumatised while filming The Sixth Sense, he actually enjoyed it.

Having said this, it was by no means a trouble-free time filming Shyamalan’s debut movie.

Osment revealed to Syfy that the hardest scene he filmed was when “we're in the car, me and Toni Collette, and she finally learns my big secret, that was a technically tough day. It was raining, we were in a car and I remember being kind of rushed on that one and the tone of the scene is really delicate.”

He went on to note that “We did seven takes of it and we just felt like we weren't getting it, and by the seventh one we felt like we had gotten some good stuff but there was still this unsureness.”

16 One scene was deemed too scary to keep in

10 Movie Clues Sixth Sense

While most of the original script for The Sixth Sense made it to film, one scene in particular was deemed to horrific to be in the movie.

As revealed in his Reddit AMA, the cut scene involved Osment looking out the window to see a hospital full of “horribly disfigured and mutilated people.”

Most likely it was cut to ensure a PG-13 rating and so it could be more widely available to audiences.

This may have been for the best as it proves that The Sixth Sense does not need to rely on gore to genuinely scare audiences.

Instead, The Sixth Sense is an intelligent psychological drama which manages to chill an audience to the bone without blood.

M. Night Shyamalan shows here that restraint in horror is sometimes scarier than showing the audience the 'horror' itself.

15 M. Night Shyamalan wasn’t happy with his cameo

Many great directors love a cameo in their own movie. From Alfred Hitchcock’s clever cameos to Quentin Tarantino’s self-indulgent cameos, there is no shortage of this satisfying device in Hollywood.

M. Night Shyamalan is no different but unlike Tarantino (and his terrible Australian accent in Django Unchained) he is aware he cannot act.

His cameo as Dr. Hill in The Sixth Sense is a loving homage to both his parents’ professions and is relatively brief.

However, the reason for its briefness is because he was unhappy with his own acting and cut it down considerably.

This does beg the question of why he still keeps appearing in his films though. In Lady in the Water he even cast himself as a brilliant author who has the potential to change the world.

14 Bruce Willis DJ’d most crew parties

Shocked Bruce Willis

Although Willis is often cited as one of the most challenging and demanding actors to work with, Osment highlighted another side to him.

In a Reddit AMA, Osment noted that Willis was the regular man behind the music at most crew parties.

This shows a different side to the man who often comes across as difficult in all interviews he does.

Osment shining light on Willis’s more genial side all these years later fleshes out the previously one dimensional character we saw before.

Considering Osment was only 11 at the time, it is no surprise that he told those on the Reddit AMA: “I wish I had been a little older at the time”.

Well, when the inevitable sequel The Seventh Sense comes out in 2030 hopefully Osment and Willis can finally share a drink and a dance.

13 Two studios that produced it no longer exist

Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment as a child in The Sixth Sense

So obscure were the studios behind getting The Sixth Sense to the big screen that two no longer exist.

Hollywood Pictures, a division of Disney, sadly went defunct in 2007.

While The Sixth Sense managed to rake in millions, poor investments in duds Breakfast of Champions and Gun Shy marked the end for Hollywood Pictures.

The other company, Spyglass Entertainment, went under in 2012, which is a surprise when you look at the studio’s résumé.

In the noughties, they churned out comedy cult classic Bruce Almighty, Oscar-nominated Invictus and the immensely popular Star Trek reboot.

However, the likes of Love Guru, Dinner for Shmucks and The Tourist which tanked at the box office and were slated by critics brought the studio to its knees.

However, luckily the two studios both had faith in M. Night Shyamalan’s vision and The Sixth Sense was born.

12 The movie’s soundtrack spoilt the ending

The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis Hayley Joel Osment

One constant through the films of M. Night Shyamalan is James Newton Howard’s beautiful music that has enhanced them.

Howard’s music has completed a masterpiece like The Sixth Sense and even made After Earth and The Last Airbender bearable.

However, Howard cannot be commended for his subtlety when naming the tracks of his The Sixth Sense soundtrack.

The final song of the soundtrack gives away the ending with its rather on the nose title: "Malcolm is Dead".

While the soundtrack was not as readily available before release as a film soundtrack would be today, anyone who happened to buy it before seeing the film in 1999 would have had the film’s biggest plot twist spoilt for them in a matter of seconds.

11 The color red is important

The color red is an important part of this seminal 1999 movie as any film studies student will tell you. Its absence from the movie is of particular interest, as is its rare inclusion in the form of particular objects.

The third act of The Sixth Sense in particular sees the focus on red a lot more, perhaps representing the fact that the protagonist has been dead for the whole film.

There were many notable red objects, such as the doorknob on the locked basement door, the red balloon, Cole's sweater at the birthday party, and the door of the church where Cole seeks sanctuary.

Considering this is Shyamalan’s debut film, his eye for detail is extremely impressive and shows those who dismiss him that he is a director who should not be disregarded in a hurry.

10 There were problems with one of the most iconic lines

While the famous line “I see dead people” has taken on many forms in parody, memes and top 10 movie quotes, the original direction of the quote caused a lot of stress.

As can be seen in the film, when Cole says “I see dead people,” the camera cuts straight to Bruce Willis.

According to Yahoo, producer Frank Marshall thought this obviously gave away the twist ending.

However, test screen audiences who viewed the movie for the first time appeared to not notice the implication that Willis was one of these deceased people so it was kept in.

This is an incredibly brave example of Shyamalan pointing the audience towards the twist ending but without making it obvious.

9 Casper nearly ruined it

One movie that almost scared Shyamalan from releasing and actually writing The Sixth Sense is an incredibly unlikely movie.

The year 1995’s Casper also happened to focus on a ghost (albeit a friendly one) and reportedly nearly ended The Sixth Sense before it begun as Shyamalan was afraid it would be an oversaturated market.

Now it seems incredibly laughable that people would think of Casper and The Sixth Sense in the same breath but there weren’t many ghost movies of the 1990s.

Apart from the aforementioned two and 1990’s Ghost there was little market for ghost movies.

In some ways the release of Casper may have turned The Sixth Sense into a more dramatic and serious drama as Shyamalan was desperate not to be accused of copying the friendly ghost.

8 Kevin Bacon has a grudge against it

The Sixth Sense managed to overshadow another horror film from 1999 starring a child who could also see dead people and an A-list actor.

The movie ruined by the success of The Sixth Sense was a small horror film called Stir of Echoes. It was made on a budget of $12 million but only just broke even, making $21 million.

The prospect of seeing Kevin Bacon, the A-list name the movie was relying on, didn’t entice audiences compared to The Sixth Sense.

While time may have buried this Kevin Bacon movie it may not be a tragedy considering the numerous mixed to bad reviews it gained.

Ultimately the audience managed to prove that if a film is good then they will see it demonstrated by The Sixth Sense’s $672 million box office haul.

7 The iconic quote is also in another Bruce Willis movie

Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys - 10 Crazy Movies About Mental Asylums

While the quote “I see dead people” has in many ways outlived its movie (along with the shocking plot twist), The Sixth Sense is not the first film to use it.

It’s not even the first Bruce Willis film to use the chilling sentence.

Willis uttered the quote from The Sixth Sense in 1995’s 12 Monkeys when he uttered to his co-star: “all I see are dead people.”

While admittedly the phrasing is a bit different, it defies belief that Willis was in two movies where this sentiment was apparent.

One other big coincidence that both Sixth Sense and 12 Monkeys share is their character's names.

Willis’s character is called James Cole, his last name being the same as Haley Joel Osment’s character's first name. Spooky.

6 Bruce Willis only wears one outfit throughout the movie

Eagle-eyed fans of The Sixth Sense may notice that Willis always wears a slight variation of the same clothes throughout.

However, this is far from the wardrobe department being lazy, this is another instance of Shyamalan’s attention to detail.

It is possible to notice that Willis is wearing the same clothes he wore on the night his life was taken.

The grey shirt, the smart trousers, the jacket and the waistcoat make multiple appearances in various combinations.

This is one of many clues that Shyamalan gives the audience to tell them that Willis is in fact deceased the whole time.

This clue only makes the reveal more satisfying as we are given the information to work it out from the start.

5 The New York Times slated it upon release

While The Sixth Sense largely relied on word of mouth from audiences which helped it achieve a staggering $672 million, the positives reviews played a part in its success.

However, while across the board The Sixth Sense secured universal acclaim, there was one esteemed publication that criticised it.

The New York Times gave it a terrible review with the reviewer noting poor acting and a basic plot.

Stephen Holden particularly criticised leading actor Willis as having "only one basic facial expression." He concluded by calling it an "insufferably coy drama of another wee Philadelphian searching for proof of god’s existence."

In hindsight, Holden may realise that he is in the minority of the population and that the review has not aged well.

4 Haley Joel Osment no longer finds horror movies scary

The Sixth Sense has the honour of being one of six horror films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The others are The Exorcist, Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, Black Swan and Get Out.

However, despite being an undeniably scary movie, Haley Joel Osment claims that he is no longer scared of horror films.

He told IMDb of his experience making Sixth Sense: "there is something desensitizing (not necessarily in a negative way) about seeing the whole process of making a horror movie that prevents you from being too scared going forward."

Similar to the idea that after working at a candy shop you would eventually get bored of candy, this proves true as the horror movie that propelled Osment to fame has made him immune to the scares of other such films.

3 Bruce Willis became ambidextrous to not spoil the twist

While Shyamalan was keen to give his audiences the occasional hint towards the final plot twist, he did his best not to explicitly spell it out.

One example that Suggest noticed is how Bruce Willis learned to write with his right hand for a close up of him writing.

While this sounds trivial, it is worth noting that he did this so viewers wouldn’t spot his missing wedding ring on his left hand.

For eagle-eyed viewers this missing wedding ring would have heavily hinted that something was wrong.

Willis learning to be ambidextrous was the only way to ensure that the cat wasn’t let out of the bag. Thanks to this dedication to the role many people were surprised by the shocking plot twist.

2 Haley Joel Osment read the script three times before auditioning

Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

There are various reports on what got Haley Joel Osment the role of Cole. One supposed reason was due to his obvious talent, as not just a young actor but as an actor.

However, what may be the clincher was the fact that 11-year-old Osment read Shyamalan’s 107 minute screenplay three times.

This supposedly impressed Shyamalan so much it led to the witty, and hopefully true, conversation between the two.

At the audition, Osment claimed "I read it three times last night" to which Shyamalan replied, "Wow, you read your part three times?" and Osment corrected him, "No, I read the script three times."

Whether this exchange really happened is up for debate but it certainly adds to the legacy of the young and phenomenally talented Haley Joel Osment.

1 It's 2000’s most rented VHS

In 2000, Netflix was an inconceivable idea, DVDs were a strange new device just being introduced in Japan and the VHS reigned supreme.

The Phantom Menace was the 1999 highest grossing movie, The Sixth Sense became the most rented VHS of 2000.

Eigthy million people travelled to their nearest VHS shop and revelled in the final plot twist one more time.

This solidifies, all these years later, how The Sixth Sense has stood the test of time compared to Phantom Menace.

The infamous prequel’s CGI now looks clunky, the plot is boring and it ultimately failed to live up to expectations.

However, the opposite can be said for the other 1999 release. The Sixth Sense exceeded any expectations (mainly because it had none) and has a fantastic plot with a universally remembered plot twist.


Can you think of any other secrets behind the making of The Sixth Sense? Let us know in the comments!

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