Hollywood legend M. Night Shyamalan will address the class of 2018 at Drexel’s University-wide commencement ceremony on June 15 at Citizens Bank Park.
The director, producer, screenwriter and actor — whose breakout hit, “The Sixth Sense,” appeared nearly 20 years ago — is known for filming and setting his movies in and around Philadelphia, hiring locally and utilizing area vendors, and showcasing some of the region’s best-loved attractions and locales. Drexel will present Shyamalan with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
“For our graduates, I’m sure that M. Night Shyamalan’s insights into his stunning success as a filmmaker will serve as the equivalent of a fascinating, final seminar, offering inspiration for their own academic, professional and personal journeys,” said John Fry, Drexel president.
With six Academy Award nominations to his credit, Shyamalan mines other-worldly plotlines, even as the camera pans familiar sights to any Philadelphia-area movie-goer. His movies also include “Unbreakable” with superstars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, “Signs,” starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, “The Village,” with Phoenix and William Hurt, “The Happening,” with Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, the recent “Split,” with James McAvoy, and more. On the small screen, he has produced “Wayward Pines” and an upcoming psychological thriller series for streaming by Apple.
Though his work is firmly rooted in the region, Shyamalan traveled a great distance to become Philadelphia’s best-known contemporary filmmaker. Born in Mahé, Pondicherry, India, Shyamalan emigrated as a child with his parents, settling in Montgomery County. His love of filmmaking started when, as a 10-year-old, he discovered his father’s 8mm camera, going on to make dozens of short films before he even had a driver’s license. After graduating from Episcopal Academy, Shyamalan majored in film at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
A New York Times article described Shyamalan as “an A-list Hollywood legend whose work is ablaze with beauty and wisdom.” He has been honored on numerous occasions, appearing on the cover of Newsweek. Shyamalan’s films have grossed over $3 billion worldwide, and he has the rare distinction of having a number one original film in three consecutive decades.
Generous with his support for the local film industry, he was asked by the Philadelphia Film Society last fall to present its Lumiere Award, named in honor of early filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumiere. The award went to Bruce Willis, with whom the director has worked on several movies. Shyamalan lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife, Bhavna, and their children.