Renowned Indian-American filmmaker from Hollywood M. Night Shyamalan, will give the commencement address at Drexel University June 15 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. Drexel will also present Shyamalan with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at the event.
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, using area vendors, and showcasing some of the region’s best-loved attractions and locales, the university noted in a press release.
“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,” John Fry, Drexel president, is quoted saying in the press release.
With six Academy Award nominations to his credit, Shyamalan’s films revolve around other-worldly plotlines, and include 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, according to the university.
Born in Mahé, Pondicherry, Shyamalan emigrated as a child with his parents, settling in Montgomery County. He showed his cinematic inclinations early, when, as a 10-year-old, he discovered his father’s 8mm camera, and went 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.
Last year, Shyamalan was asked by the Philadelphia Film Society 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.