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Three years ago when Philadelphia-based writer-director M

Three years ago when Philadelphia-based writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (pronounced SHA-mah-lahn) was editing his second film, "Wide Awake," he had a premonition about his next project. He said to his editor, "You know, I'm going to write a screenplay called 'The Sixth Sense.' Bruce Willis is going to star in it." The editor's response was a simple "Yeah, sure." Flash forward to September 1997. Shyamalan recalls, "I was in Los Angeles when my wife and I received the call that Hollywood Pictures was interested in The Sixth Sense. It was a very special time for us.

"I called my 'Wide Awake' editor and told him the news of the sale and the signing of Bruce Willis as the star," Shyamalan says. "He remembered my mention of the script. His response this time was an enthusiastic 'Get outta here.' It was all too eerie that my premonition actually came true."

Thus, the tone of Shyamalan's latest film, Hollywood Pictures' Spyglass Entertainment's "The Sixth Sense," had been set. Eerie, haunting, spine-tingling. It was a tone too irresistible for Hollywood to ignore. The sale of the script transpired in just a single day, a rarity in Hollywood, according to producer Barry Mendel. "Having known Night (Shyamalan) for many years, I was in the unique position of being able to read the script before anyone else in town," says Mendel, whose debut film was the critically acclaimed "Rushmore." "My reaction to the story was one of enthusiasm and hope. Enthusiasm because of the strength of the story and hope because I really wanted to be part of getting this film made. It's a smart and stylish script."

Mendel personally took the screenplay to David Vogel, then-president of Buena Vista Motion Picture Group. "David dropped everything he was doing that Monday morning," says Mendel. "He canceled meetings in order to read the script and, upon finishing it, he was on board. I take my hat off to him for recognizing the potential of this script and for the courage of his convictions in greenlighting the project."

Veteran producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy were the next production entity to respond with interest in the script. It's unusual to get a spec script that is so well written," says Marshall. "It has elements of horror and drama and a spiritual nature that comes alive in very distinct and well-drawn characters. Night refers to it as Ordinary People meets The Exorcist and I think that's an appropriate description. It's a story with vulnerable characters to which an audience can relate an audience that will not only enjoy it but will be surprised by its unique tale of terror.

"Kathy and I like to make movies that we ourselves would like to see," Marshall continues. "Our body of work includes a variety of films, from The Color Purple to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That's a pretty wide swing as far as subject matter goes. We like all different kinds of movies and The Sixth Sense is a script we enthusiastically responded to and that's why we jumped at the chance to produce it."

"The Sixth Sense is frightening, disturbing and horrific in the tradition of films like Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion and The Omen," adds writer director Shyamalan. "It's reality-based fright. It comes from the fears of real people, real children and real adults; fears of loss, the unknown, of having a sixth sense about what lies beyond and fear

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