The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t really slowed M. Night Shyamalan. EW visited the set of his Apple TV + show Servant days before the lockdowns across the United States began, but it was only a few months before production resumed (resulting in a very dark and fun TV season). Shyamalan didn’t stop finishing Servant season 2, however. He was also one of the first directors to shoot a movie in the midst of the pandemic: Old, which stars Gael GarcÃa Bernal, Thomasin McKenzie, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff and others in a story about vacationers ending up on a beach that makes them age quickly. On Friday evening, Shyamalan and Wolff discussed the pandemic production of Old at a conference for this year’s Tribeca Festival.
As one of the first pandemic productions, Shyamalan explained that he had to create unprecedented security protocols – but they worked! Shyamalan paid for everyone in the cast and crew of Old stay in the same hotel for 10 weeks, and they all went between the hotel and the beach. They also had their own testing lab and never had a single positive case throughout production.
But COVID-19 was one thing, and storms were another. Shyamalan wanted this specific casting for Old, but their limited availability required them to film during hurricane season.
âOf course there was a hurricane. He took the sets and just destroyed them,â Shyamalan said. âThe biggest concern was that the beach had been eroded. There was no beach for our movie on the beach. We had rehearsed, then three days before we got there I learned that it did there was no beach. “I didn’t know what to do. Making movies is a leap of faith, and that’s what makes it magical. There are so many things that can go wrong.
âBut it was extreme,â Wolff said. “I remember you were just totally calm, but then I saw you get some water and you thought ‘yeah, I think we lost the beach, and I think that’s it. do good’.”
Cindy Ord / Getty
It was not the worst case. By the start of filming, part of the eroded beach had returned and would continue to reform over time. Shyamalan said that “we became very familiar with nature, tides and storms 100 miles away” so that they could plan the shots they needed depending on the weather. When it worked in the end, Shyamalan and his collaborators couldn’t help but feel grateful.
“We were on this beach, and honestly we were permit be on this beach. Mother Nature made it possible for us to be on this beach, âsaid Shyamalan. âWe had 40 days when we needed good weather, and we had 40 days of good weather. We couldn’t afford a single rain. The local crews told me about a ritual to thank Mother Nature, to thank the beach. So we all had flowers, it was 3 am when we finished shooting the last shot. The crew and cast all went down to the water, we all made wishes and expressed our gratitude, and put our flowers in the ocean. “
In this vein, Shyamalan also mentioned that some of his main influences on Old were Australian New Wave films like Nicolas Roeg’s Wandering and that of Peter Weir Picnic at Hanging Rock, which are also tales of humans struggling against the overwhelming power of nature. But ultimately, he said Old was one of his most personal movies, comparing it to Unbreakable and Lady in the water in this regard.
âMy father is very old right now, he has dementia, he comes and goes,â Shyamalan said. “Sometimes he’s at a train station. I could tell him I’m coming here to the Tribeca Festival, but I’m not sure he understands what I’m saying. My kids now conduct and sing concerts. When did that happen? So I made a movie about that feeling, on wow, you blink and everything changes. The person who changed your diapers, you now change their diapers. I think that concerns everyone. “
âEspecially at the moment,â added Wolff. âComing out of COVID, it feels like time has stood still. And that’s what the movie is literally about. When I tell people about it, they think to themselves, is this COVID? I say no, it’s just a coincidence, it was kismet.
Old hits theaters on July 23.