In 1994, long before M. Night Shyamalan's breakthrough hit The Sixth Sense, the writer-director sold his latest script to Fox with the hopes of making his second feature film. The film, called Labor of Love, never got off the ground, but now talks are underway for Shyamalan to return to his roots and team up once again with Bruce Willis to get the picture made. Deadline reports that production is slated to begin this September, and the plans are solid enough that producers will shop around for an international distributor at next month's Berlin Film Festival. Willis and Shyamalan last worked together in The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2002).
The script for Labor of Love has a lot of buzz; Shyamalan got his start in writing, after all, and this story predates the director's move to sci-fi and surprise-twist endings. The story takes place after a devastating car accident kills a bookstore owner's wife. The husband (Bruce Willis) is a quiet type, and the film centers on his grief over never showing his late wife how much he loved her. To prove his devotion, he embarks on a cross-country walk from Philadelphia to California to fulfill a promise he once made to her.
"It was a story about what I felt about first being married. It was pure."
In an interview with Newsweek at the height of Shyamalan's career, the writer-director called it "a story about what I felt about first being married. It was pure." He says that Fox told him he'd be able to direct the film even though, at the time, he had only one directorial credit to his name. Once the studio purchased the rights they reportedly refused to let him direct, and the inexperienced Shyamalan says he was crestfallen by the turn of events. "I cried" he told Newsweek in 2002. "It killed me."
Now there's hope some 20 years later that Shyamalan will be reunited with his early work: Deadline reports that producers are working to get the script back from Fox. For fans who miss Shyamalan's early work, hopefully the streamlined script focused on characters — not sci-fi twists — will help the director return to his successful ways.