The Sixth Sense, which was released in 1999, brought a different approach to the horror genre. But did you know the controversy behind the film’s script and David Vogel’s involvement with it?
The former Disney executive, David Vogel, was fired after obtaining the right to Sixth Sense’s script for $3 million without permission. During this time, he was the company’s President of Production at the time of the purchase.
The Bidding for the Sixth Sense Script
M. Night Shyamalan flew out to Los Angeles with his wife and infant in 1997 to see if any studios were interested in his script for a psychological horror film called The Sixth Sense.
Shyamalan had just finished directing the comedy Wide Awake at the time. He was better known in Hollywood circles as the writer of screenplays such as Labor of Love and Stuart Little, which he revised in 1996 before the family film garnered $300 million when it was released in December 1999.
Before Shyamalan’s agents began calling around to studios to gauge interest in the Sixth Sense script, he set a few ground rules. Shyamalan intended to direct it, and the script was available for a minimum bid of $1 million.
Bids began to pour in almost instantly, with many studios interested. The film was acquired by Disney’s now-defunct genre label Hollywood Pictures in a transaction of $2.2 million to $3 million, beating out contenders such as Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks, and New Line Cinema. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)
David Vogel, then-president of production at The Walt Disney Studios, reviewed the script and in order to avoid the bidding war. He purchased the rights to the script without gaining corporate consent. Disney was not pleased with his rash decision-making, so they requested that he rework his contract and relinquish some of his presidential powers.
In July of 1999, he was sacked for his refusal to agree with corporate. Disney was so dissatisfied with the film that they sold production rights to Spyglass Entertainment while keeping distribution rights and only 12.5 percent of the box office profits. (Source: E Online)
The Sixth Sense
Following Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense was the second most successful film of 1999. The film grossed $672.8 million worldwide.
The Sixth Sense is structured as a collection of short ghost stories. Child psychologist Malcolm Crowe examines 9-year-old Cole Sear, who can see dead people, spirits strolling around and bidding him help them resolve their unfinished business.
At the end of the film, Malcolm only understands that he is dead and that Cole has been assisting him in processing his demise in the same way he has been helping the other phantoms.
The film was a hit because it was masterfully promoted, with trailers and TV advertisements that centered on the memorable line I see dead people and finally revealed the twist. The ad campaign also generated excitement about Willis’s return as a serious actor and Osment and Collette’s star-making work. (Source: The Atlantic)