12 things that you (probably) didn't know about about The Sixth Sense

  • 12 things that you (probably) didn't know about about The Sixth Sense

Just over 16 years, an unsettling horror starring Bruce Willis, written and directed by the co-writer of the Stuart Little film, was released in the UK.

As the title gives away, it was, of course, The Sixth Sense, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar and was rented out by 80 million people.

We all know what subsequently happened to lauded director M. Night Shyamalan, but here are a few things that you may not have known...

[Warning: If you are one of the five people in the world who doesn't know the twist at the end of The Sixth Sense, this is full of spoilers]

1. Haley Joel Osment got the lead role because he was wearing a tie

According to director M. Night Shyamalan, there were three reasons why Haley Joel Osment landed the role of Cole Sear.

Firstly he was the best of all that was cast, secondly he was the only boy at the auditions wearing a tie and lastly because when asked, Osment said that he'd read the whole script three times the night before his audition.

Michael Cera revealed that it was the first role that he ever auditioned for, while Liam Aitken, who starred in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, turned down the role.

2. The Disney executive who bought the script was fired because of it

When Walt Disney Studios president David Vogel went ahead and paid $2.25 million for the rights to The Sixth Sense without consulting his superiors.

When his bosses found out he'd agreed to let newcomer Shyamalan direct the big-budget flick, they were furious and demanded Vogel relinquish some of his power.

When Vogel refused, he was sent packing.

Vogel since explained that after the film's massive success, no-one from Disney contacted him to congratulate him on the decision.

3. Donnie Wahlberg lost 43 pounds for his role

To play Bruce Willis' inconsolable former patient Vincent in the opening scene, Mark Wahlberg's older brother and member of New Kids On The Block, Donnie Wahlberg lost over three stone.

The role of Vincent was actually meant as a 13-year-old boy, but when Donnie met with Shyamalan to discuss obtaining the Sixth Sense rights for a theatre production, he managed to secure the role of Vincent for himself

4. Bruce Willis changed his writing hand to prevent viewers spotting the twist

In a scene where Bruce Willis' character is looking over his notes, he circles a passage with his right hand.

Willis is actually left-handed, but he learned how to write with his right hand so that eagle-eyed viewers wouldn't spot he wasn't wearing his wedding ring any more.

5. M. Night Shyamalan took the idea from a kids' TV show

A more well-known fact is that writer and director Shyamalan was 'inspired' by an episode of childrens' horror fantasy TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark? called The Tale of the Dream Girl, where a teenage boy is ignored by everyone except his sister and a strange girl, only for it to be slowly revealed to him that he died in a car accident.

6. Toni Collet, who played Cole's mother, didn't realise she was filming a horror movie

Toni Collette, who played Cole's mother revealed that she was so moved by the emotional resonance of the story while filming that she didn't even realise she was in a horror movie until after she saw the film on its release.

Colettte, who beat Marisa Tomei to the role, had her eyes on a role in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Bringing Out The Dead (which went on to bomb at the box office), so she was unsure whether to take the Sixth Sense role.

7. Haley Joel Osment's dad told Bruce Willis to shout at the child star until he cried

In the emotional scene where Malcolm tells Cole that he can't be his doctor any more, Osment was having trouble with crying on cue.

The child star's father Eugene recalls: "Haley's always good at getting the tears, but that day he was having trouble getting there.

"So I walked up to Bruce, because I knew how to push Haley's buttons."

Pushing Haley's buttons included standing off camera and shouting his lines at the 11-year-old until the tears came flooding out.

"Bruce was uncomfortable with it, but I said, 'Bruce, he knows you're acting. If you yell at him like you're angry, he's going to start crying,'" Eugene explained.

It worked, and Osment reached the emotional level that the scene warranted.

8. The producer thought the "I see dead people" line would give the twist away

In the scene where Cole famously says: "I see dead people," producer Frank Marshall was worried that when the line is delivered, the camera then does a close-up on Bruce Willis' face, and it would give the game away to audiences.

His fears were unfounded, as test audiences didn't pick up on it while watching, or after the film and it was explained to them.

9. Bruce Willis' character was written with Willis in mind (not expecting him to take the part)

When M. Night Shyamalan wrote the screenplay for The Sixth Sense, he wrote the lead role with Willis in mind.

Due to the project's tight budget, Shyamalan didn't expect to land the A-list actor, but when Willis read the script, he was very excited about the project and instantly agreed to play the part.

10. The soundtrack ruins the twist ending

Of course, most people who bought the movie's soundtrack had enjoyed the atmospheric score so much while watching the film that they purchased it to listen to it again and again.

With song names like Mind Reading, Hanging Ghosts and Kyra's Tape, the final song on the album just straight gives away the twist, because it is subtly named 'Malcolm is Dead'.

11. Shyamalan used red as a plot device for repeat viewers

Director M. Night Shyamalan used red to symbolise the ghost world in the real world.

Shyamalan explained that all the red things in the film are”anything that’s tainted from the [ghost] world or has a connection to the other side

The red things include the doorknob to the basement, the dress of the murderous mother at the funeral, the box holding the dead girl’s videotape, Osment’s tent, Cole's jumper at the party and the balloon that he follows up the stairs where his sweater is slashed.

12. All the clothes Malcolm wears in the film were worn by him on the night he died

Throughout the film, all of the clothes that Malcolm wears after the opening scene were those that he wore or touched the evening that he died.

The filmmakers initially feared that it would be too obvious and audiences would guess the twist, but just like the "I see dead people" zoom on Bruce Willis, no-one noticed it.

The clothes Willis' wears in the film include his overcoat, his blue rowing sweatshirt and the different layers of his suit.

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