Glass is the sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) – cumulatively, these films form the ‘Eastrail 177 Trilogy’. Glass stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard (playing their original characters from Unbreakable), James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy (from Split) and also introduces Sarah Paulson, who plays a quack specialising in treating ‘delusional’ people who believe they have superpowers.
In Glass, security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis) uses his supernatural abilities to pursue Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), who suffers from Dissociative Personality Disorder. David is pursuing Kevin’s most villainous personality – ‘the Beast’ – who has superhuman strength and some pretty nasty plans for the world. Meanwhile, Mr Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) emerges with answers that are critical to the lives of both men.
James McAvoy’s character is a former Philadelphia Zoo employee with 24 different personalities. Although playing so many characters was challenging for James, the length of the shoot made the process much easier. “We take such a long time to make the movies, so everything’s quite compartmentalised. The hard part – especially when you’re doing scenes where you’re maybe playing five or six in a very short period of time – is making sure that the characters don’t bleed into each other or become too similar. Lots of them could conceivably be very similar, but that wouldn’t have been very helpful from a storytelling point of view, or a performance point of view, so we had to make them all very different.
“Then you’ve got the decisions like, ‘okay, they’re all very different, but they have to be all very different for a reason’. They can’t just be different for the sake of it – I can’t just play one with a high voice then one with a low voice just because it will make them different. So, even if it’s a character speaking for five lines you’ve kinda gotta do a fair amount of work and try and be as specific as possible, otherwise you’re just creating characteristics arbitrarily and that would be, I think, short-changing the condition and the movie.”
When it comes to Shyamalan’s direction, McAvoy is all praise. “He is one of the most efficient directors I’ve ever worked with. His planning and his preparation are second to none. Quite often in movies, you have months and months and months of rehearsals, or preparation, and yet you get there on the day and there are still things that haven’t been decided, and you’ve still got departments chasing their tail because important decisions haven’t been made. It happens a lot, and it costs a lot of money, because somebody didn’t have the ability, or the foresight, to be able to make a decision months ago.
“I’ve been on so many films where you’re working 16-hour days and nobody’s got a life, and everybody’s feeling sick. And you should be able to make art without fucking destroying your health. Night knows how to do that. We all work hard, and we work long-ass days, but they’re reasonable long-ass days, and that is testament to him, because he knows how to make a movie. He’s not just sitting there going, ‘let’s just shoot everything, because I don’t really know what I want, and then I’ll edit it together later, because I’ll have every shot under the world.’ He knows what he wants – he doesn’t need to do 20 takes, because he knows when he’s got it. And he can get it within one or two takes a lot of the time, because he knows how to communicate with actors, and he knows how to impart to them exactly what he wants to happen. He’s very much in possession of his craft.”
Making Glass gave James the opportunity to work with two of the industry’s icons – Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. “Samuel is a brilliant, brilliant actor. He’s got a verbal dexterity which I just find amazing and educational to be around. He loves acting, and when he’s involved in a scene where he’s excited, you can tell, he’s kinda geeking out for it, and I love that. He’s also playing a character who is a bit of a fanboy of the very thing he is, he is a supervillain, but he’s a fanboy of this culture as well, and there is a big element of that in Sam as well… Mr Glass is a very ‘broken’ character, at least physically, and therefore my character the Beast sees him as part of his flock. I think he thinks Mr Glass is one of his children, one of the people that he’s been sent to protect and avenge.”
James is also a huge fan of Bruce Willis. “I’ve been watching Bruce since I was a kid. I loved Moonlighting, when I was probably too young to really enjoy it, but I found it really funny and I found the connection between him and Cybill Shepherd just really affecting as a young, young boy. So, getting to work with him was really interesting – to share scenes with somebody who’s been such an icon for my entire life.
“In this movie, Bruce is the epitome of – not a reluctant hero, because I don’t feel like he has a reluctance – but he is a tired, older man, you know what I mean? He’s still having to absorb people’s sins and he’s still going out there trying to do what nobody else can do, and the weight of that is on his shoulders and is so evident in his performance. In real life he’s still a very vibrant guy – he can still go to the bar and have a really good time – but on camera, the weight that he brought to it, the heaviness that he put on his shoulders, was just palpable. It was amazing.”
Like Unbreakable and Split, Glass has a ‘down to earth’ comic book style. Although James is accustomed to acting in comic book style superhero films (thanks to his role as Professor Charles Xavier), he didn’t grow up reading them. “I didn’t really have a huge relationship with comics growing up, just didn’t have any access to them. It wasn’t something that I was denied, it was just something that I didn’t have around me, and I don’t think my friends did either. I saw people read comic books in American movies, so I was just like ‘Oh, it must be an American thing’. Now it seems like I might have been wrong about that, in that maybe there were lots of people reading comic books in Glasgow when I was growing up. And there’s actually quite a few really good graphic novel and comic book writers from Glasgow as well, Mark Millar being one of them, who I’ve worked with on Wanted. But, it was something that completely passed me by really, but as I’ve come into the X-Men world and the world of Wanted, I’ve been exposed to it massively.”
We’ll leave you with James’ rather interesting take on his ideal superpower. “I’ve always wanted my superpower to be that I could make people feel sexually stimulated. And feel love, and fall in love. So, kind of like… A more sexualised cupid.”
Glass hits cinemas January 17, 2019