(From official press release) "Signs is a thriller set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania focusing on the mysterious appearance of crop circles carved into a family farm. Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, the family patriarch and town reverend, whose faith is tested in the journey to find the truth behind the circles. Joaquin Phoenix is Merrill Hess, brother to Graham and a former minor league baseball star."
We've posted it on a separate page just in case you'd rather not know what happens. But, as far as we can tell there is no trademark Shyamalan twist this time around, so this isn't a spoiler.
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Director/Writer: M Night Shyamalan
Executive Producer: Kathleen Kennedy
Producers: Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer
Cast: Mel Gibson (Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess), Patricia Kalember (Colleen Hess), Rory Culkin (Morgan Hess), Abby Breslin (Bo Hess), Cherry Jones (Officer Caroline Paski), Jose L. Rodriguez (Radio Host), Michael Showalter, Lanny Flaherty, Nelson Machado
Cinematographer: Tak Fujimoto
Editor: Barbara Tulliver
Composer: James Newton Howard
Special Effects: Industrial Light and Magic
Tag Line: It's not like they didn't warn us
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Production Company: Blinding Edge Pictures
Project Phase: Completed
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Release Dates: USA - 2nd August 2002, UK - 13 September 2002
Duration: 106 minutes
It's been a long time coming but Hollywood has finally smelt the coffee and decided to bankroll a blockbuster movie about the crop circle phenomenon. Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan aka M Night Shyamalan (pictured above on set with Gibson), the writer/director behind the blockbusters "The Sixth Sense" and more recently "Unbreakable" which collectively grossed more than one billion dollars worldwide presented Disney with his new script titled "Signs" - which is centered around the crop circle mystery - on Saturday 21st April 2001 with the ink still drying. The studio bosses were so impressed with the script that they preemptively closed an eight-figure deal with Shyamalan the following Sunday morning (haven't they heard of the day of rest?) Shyamalan received $10 million upfront for Unbreakable, and it's safe to assume that "Signs" would have been bought for an equivalent - if not larger - sum. The "Unbreakable" deal, which included $5 million for his script, broke the script auction record previously held by Shane Black, who received $4 million from New Line Cinema for "The Long Kiss Goodnight."
At this stage little is know about the plot of the movie which is being closely guarded but, like "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable", the film is a thriller set in Shyamalan's home state of Pennsylvania. "Signs" takes place in Bucks County and revolves around the sudden appearance of mysterious crop circles at a family's farm. Mel Gibson (pictured right) will star in "Signs" as the farmer whose land the circles appear on. Rising Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo (pictured below) has also been asked to co-star alongside Gibson. He has just completed work on "A View From the Top" alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and John Woo's new movie "Windtalkers" alongside Nicolas Cage. (Update: Ruffalo had to drop out of the project in late August 2001 due to illness, he's been replaced by Joaquin Phoenix.) Filming started in Philadelphia in mid-September with a nine-week shoot. The current estimated release date for the movie is August 2002.
This won't be the first time a crop circle has appeared in a movie. The 1999 Danish film "Mifune's Last Song" featured a crop circle but it was by no means central to the plot. Also, there have been several near misses: the directors of the 1997 feature "Contact" starring Jodie Foster collected crop circle information but decided not to use it in the final cut of the movie. Crop circle makers Doug Bower and Dave Chorley were in talks with an unnamed famous British director in the early nineties about bringing their story to the screen but the project never came to fruition. The Circlemakers have also been approached several times over the years by representatives of Fox and Barry Levinson asking if they would be interested in helping develop a script.
Crop circles have already made it to the small screen, beyond the numerous documentaries and news items made about them over the years, they've also been fictionalised and featured in Sci-Fi series. "The X Files" featured circles during its seventh season in an episode called 'All Things'. (Pictured right is the 'virtual' formation that appeared in the show). Circles also featured prominently in the cult Sci-Fi series 'Dark Skies' cropping up in several episodes including the pilot 'The Awakening" - directed by Tobe Hooper of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fame' - 'Inhuman Nature' which ties the crop circle phenomenon into the macabre practice of cattle mutilation and in "Shades of Gray" in which some of the shows characters decide to create their very own crop circle in the hope of luring an alien spaceship to land!
So, twenty five years after the circles started appearing here in the UK, it's good to finally see a film project based around the circles get the green light.
Photo Credits: © Touchstone Pictures, WireImage, Fox.
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© John Lundberg / SignsMovie.co.uk 2001