Leguizamo Cast in Shyamalan's "The Happening"

by Paul William Tenny

A bit of news on M. Night Shyamalan's next flick after Avatar: The Last Airbender, where John Leguizamo has been cast as Mark Wahlberg's best friend in The Happening. For those who are not aware, The Happening is supposedly a straight drama/catasrophe film that Shyamalan wrote on spec, shopped around to all the major studios, but didn't couldn't get a deal the way it was written. He took some suggestions back home with him to Philadelphia, rewrote the script, and immediately got multiple offers, finally settling at Fox.

This marks the second time Shyamalan won't be making a film for Disney, after a fallout over Lady in the Water.
As a totally unrelated side note, I came across something I've not heard of before when I was looking for more information on Avatar: The Last Airbender. I didn't remember the subtitle, but did remember the name 'Avatar', and hit up Wikipedia to see what else I could find out about the animation series the film was based on.

Imagine my surprise when I found a movie called Avatar, not written and directed by Shyamalan, but was actually a James Cameron project. I probably would have come across this back in January, had I been following this type of news back then. Although I love almost everything Shyamalan has done in his film career, there's little doubt in my mind - and this is entirely my opinion - Cameron stands at the top when it comes to film writers and directors.

There are personalities in television I think that write better material than Cameron does, but in film alone, there's few better at creating extremely compelling entertainment. Here's a synopsis of the film from Wiki:

..a man tries to make his way as a miner by combining with an alien during an interplanetary war in which aliens can manifest themselves by possessing human bodies -- avatars.

When Avatar was titled "Project 880", a casting call was put out in June 2006 with a plot description provided, saying, "In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture."

In December 2006, Cameron described Avatar as "a futuristic tale set on a planet 200 years hence... an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience... [that] aspires to a mythic level of storytelling." The January 2007 press release described the film: "Avatar is also an emotional journey of redemption and revolution. It is the story of a wounded ex-marine, thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity, who eventually crosses over to lead the indigenous race in a battle for survival."

I love science fiction and there haven't been any really good popcorn space opera these past few years. Serenity, for what it's worth, was more serious than the kind of films I'm talking about. More like Spaceballs with less funny, but Firefly with more funny.

I'm looking more forward to that than The Happening, although that's going to be pretty damn good as well. We won't be seeing either of these films until next year, probably, but they sound worth the wait.

Update: I just came across this in the Hollywood Reporter; Spencer Breslin, a kid I've never heard of before, has signed on to play Mark Wahlberg's son in The Happening. He's been in a few things lately and I guess he's one of the rising child stars now, or something.

As that article notes, The Happening is scheduled to enter production in August.


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