Horror movies only occasionally break into the mainstream. However, The Sixth Sense is one that enjoyed huge international success. Released in 1999, this tale of a child – played by Haley Joel Osment – who communicates with the dead earned $670 million at the box office and an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. You probably didn’t know, though, these 20 things about the movie. Prepare to be amazed.
20. A Disney exec lost his job after buying the movie’s rights
After reading M. Night Shyamalan’s script, Disney’s then-president of production David Vogel paid an unprecedented $2.25 million to secure the rights. However, Vogel’s bosses didn’t share his enthusiasm and, what’s more, they were incensed that he didn’t get their permission before paying the hefty sum. Consequently, the studio let him go shortly afterwards.
19. But Vogel was right all along
Convinced it had a dud on its hands, Disney handed the script over to subsidiary Spyglass Entertainment. The movie, however, became a box office hit when it grossed more than $670 million worldwide. Disney, meanwhile, received nothing more than a meagre 12.5 percent cut.
18. The movie was born after M. Night Shyamalan attended a wake
While The Sixth Sense has supernatural elements, the movie was actually based on M. Night Shyamalan’s real-life experiences. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, the director explained that a child, talking to himself at a wake, inspired the film. Could the boy have been speaking to the dead?
17. It could have been an entirely different movie
The Sixth Sense went through different stages before becoming the movie we know and love. Shyamalan once envisioned it as a serial killer movie, with psychologist Malcolm Crowe being a crime-scene photographer. Meanwhile, necromancer Cole, his son, would speak with a murderer’s latest victims.
16. Bruce Willis was responsible for the movie’s bigger budget
The Sixth Sense’s runaway success can be partly attributed to Bruce Willis, whose star power helped attract a wider audience. Indeed, his casting as Dr. Malcolm Crowe helped the movie in more ways than one. After learning that the actor had signed on, studio execs raised the movie’s budget by $30 million.
15. Bruce Willis was obligated to take the role
Willis didn’t sign up for The Sixth Sense because he was simply impressed with the script. Years earlier, the actor dropped out of Disney’s Broadway Brawler and was forced to sign a three-picture deal to avoid a $17.5 million lawsuit. Alongside Armageddon and The Kid, this was one of Willis’ contractually obligated appearances.
14. Haley Joel Osment read the script three times before his audition
While Bruce Willis helped The Sixth Sense succeed at the box office, Haley Joel Osment was the movie’s breakout star. The role, however, wasn’t easy to land – indeed, Osment only secured it thanks to some serious dedication. Before his audition, the child star read the script three times, which suitably impressed Shyamalan.
13. It could have been Michael Cera seeing dead people
It’s hard to think of anyone other than Haley Joel Osment playing Cole, but it could’ve been Michael Cera. Indeed, the Arrested Development star revealed to Esquire that he’d auditioned for the role. However, Cera – unaware the movie was a horror – played the part “optimistically” and apparently failed to make an impression.
12. Toni Collette didn’t know the movie was a horror
Michael Cera wasn’t the only person unaware that The Sixth Sense was a horror. In fact, Toni Collette – who played Cole’s mom, Lynn – was convinced that the movie was a drama during its production. It was only after she saw the film upon its release that the penny dropped.
11. Weird things happened to Collette off-screen
Although Collette was oblivious to The Sixth Sense’s scary undertones, she kept getting the chills while off set. Speaking to Slant, the actress explained, “In the hotel room I was staying at… I would wake up at night, roll over and look at the clock. And it was always a repeated number – 1:11, 3:33, 4:44. That started to really spook me.”
10. Donnie Wahlberg lost 43 pounds for the movie
Besides acclaimed performances from Willis, Osment and Collette, The Sixth Sense featured former boyband star Donnie Wahlberg. Then best known for being in boy band New Kids on the Block, Wahlberg managed to lose 43 pounds ahead of playing Crowe’s troubled killer, Vincent.
9. Shyamalan hated his part in the movie
After playing the lead in his debut feature Praying with Anger, Shyamalan stuck to a cameo in The Sixth Sense. Though his small part started a tradition of walk-on appearances in his movies, the director actually hated his performance. In fact, he loathed his acting so much that he cut his role down to almost nothing.
8. Shyamalan’s cameo was a nod to his parents
Shyamalan may have hated his appearance, but his role served a specific purpose. Indeed, he cast himself as a doctor as a nod to his parents, both of whom work in medicine. As a child, Shyamalan always assumed that he would follow in their footsteps.
7. Bruce Willis was a meanie on set
Bruce Willis can, apparently, be quite an imposing person on-set, and it seems that the trait dates back to The Sixth Sense. While filming emotional scenes, Willis reportedly yelled at Osment off-screen to bring the young star to tears. This peculiar motivational technique was, in fact, suggested by Osment’s father, Eugene.
6. Bruce Willis was the DJ at crew parties
Willis was, though, apparently a pretty fun guy when filming stopped. During a reddit AMA, Haley Joel Osment revealed that his costar was the go-to DJ during crew parties at the Philadelphia Convention Center. “I wish I had been a little older at the time,” Osment lamented.
5. Horror movies were ruined for Haley Joel Osment
While The Sixth Sense left hardened horror fans with nightmares, Osment was actually unfazed by the film’s grizzlier moments. In fact, he admitted during his reddit AMA that seeing the movie’s makeup effects left him “desensitized” to the whole genre. “I like horror movies but I have trouble getting really scared anymore,” he explained.
4. Bruce Willis uttered the movie’s most famous line four years earlier
Cole’s “I see dead people” has become one of cinema’s most celebrated lines, but this isn’t the first movie in which the words were spoken. In fact, Bruce Willis himself said “All I see are dead people” in 1995’s 12 Monkeys. If that wasn’t weird enough, Willis’ character was called James Cole.
3. Haley Joel Osment’s hair is white for a reason
Osment’s character is seen sporting a shock of white hair on the side of his head. But rather than showing Cole in the throes of premature aging, the patch is actually a symbol of the supernatural. Specifically, it represents the trauma he experiences while talking with the dead.
2. Willis went to ridiculous lengths to stop the movie’s twist from leaking
No twist ending is as shocking as The Sixth Sense’s, and Bruce Willis went to great lengths to hide the fact that his character was a ghost all along. The left-handed actor, for example, learned to write with his right hand to prevent viewers noticing his missing wedding ring – which was removed following his character’s death – during close-up shots.
1. The twist ending was obvious all along
Though its finale took everyone by surprise, The Sixth Sense was still peppered with clues about Crowe’s true nature. The most notable hint is dropped near the movie’s end when Cole and Crowe enter dead teenager Kyra’s room. When the camera pans down, it’s only Cole who projects a shadow on the floor.