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Old - What We Know So Far

After a brief break from the big screen to work on "Servant" for Apple TV+, writer, director, and producer M. Night Shyamalan has finally returned with yet another eerie psychological horror. 

The filmmaker's newest venture bears an odd title and an equally strange premise: It's called "Old" — bringing new meaning to the term "old movie" — and centers around a family vacationing on an isolated beach. Doesn't sound too scary, right? Time away from a computer screen, social media, and the never-ending stream of terrible news that breaks every day? That would be most people's dream! But for this family, it's ultimately anything but. What begins as an idyllic getaway quickly devolves into a nightmare as each member of the family starts rapidly aging. Shyamalan really likes to play with ideas that force audiences to imagine themselves in terrifying situations, and "Old" is no different. (What are the odds that there'll be a shocking, plot-ripping twist by the time the credits roll?)

The first teaser for the mysterious new horror debuted at the 2021 Super Bowl on February 7, instantly capturing the attention of millions of viewers. It's definitely a step away from Shyamalan's last cinematic outing, "Glass," which offered a critique on the superhero genre in a typically twist-filled manner. But "Old" looks to deconstruct one of the most relatable fears that most audiences can connect to: aging too quickly and losing what little time you've got left.

From its star-studded cast to its mind-melting plot and sooner-than-expected release date, here's everything we know about "Old" so far.

How Old came to be

Movies don't appear out of thin air, of course, and M. Night Shyamalan actually began laying the official groundwork for "Old" as early as 2019 — and may have read the source material that inspired the film way back in 2017 (via Twitter). In September 2019, it was announced that Shyamalan had partnered up with studio Universal Pictures for two more feature films, a decision motivated by the success of 2015's "The Visit," 2016's "Split," 2019's "Glass" (via Deadline). Peter Cramer, the President of Universal Pictures, said in a statement that the studio was "honored" to house Shyamalan's "next two incredible projects." The films, both described as thrillers, were at the time slated for release on February 26, 2021 and February 17, 2023, but no additional information was shared publicly. 

Several months passed without so much as a whisper about either in-development project, but in May 2020, Variety confirmed in an exclusive report that Shyamalan and Universal Pictures had locked in a main cast (more on them in a bit) for one of the untitled thrillers, presumed at the time to be the one lined up for a February 2021 launch. The outlet described the film as a "top-secret project," and noted that "plot details are shrouded in secrecy and can become interconnected to his other films."

Who's in the cast of Old?

Now, about the cast of "Old": M. Night Shyamalan has amassed a talented bunch of actors for the film. "Phantom Thread" actress Vicky Krieps and Gael García Bernal play Prisca and Guy, the couple who first notice the beach's bizarre effects when their young son Trent, portrayed by Nolan River, quickly turns into a fully-grown man, played by Alex Wolff from Ari Aster's "Hereditary." "Jojo Rabbit" star Thomasin McKenzie will also appear as the older version of Maddox, Prisca and Guy's daughter and Trent's sister. Alexa Swinton plays young Maddox in the movie.

Additionally, Embeth Davidtz, probably best known to the masses as Miss Honey from "Matilda," and Rufus Sewell play a married couple who are among the group affected by the creepy side effects of this holiday destination. Davidtz's character is called Susan, and Sewell's is named Charles. "The Devil All the Time" star Eliza Scanlen is also part of the "Old" cast, playing Susan and Charles' daughter Cara. Like the other children in the movie, Cara has a younger counterpart, played by Mikaya Fisher.

For the upcoming film, "Lost" alum Ken Leung returns to the big screen for the first time since 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." (Although we doubt he'll have Miles Straume's ability to talk to the dead in this one, which is a shame. It is an M. Night Shyamalan movie — it would be useful!) This time around, he's playing a man named Jarin.

Rounding out the "Old" cast are Nikki Amuka-Bird, Aaron Pierre, Nolan River, Abbey Lee, Kathleen Chalfant, and Emun Elliot.

When did Old begin production?

With a cast in place and a green light for production flashing, the "Old" team could begin filming — yes, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily for "Old," the situation regarding the novel coronavirus had somewhat settled down from its initial worldwide surge in the early months of 2020 by the time principal photography was looking to begin in September of that year. Many movie and television show productions that were forced to suspend filming indefinitely beginning in March and April 2020 got the cameras rolling once again in the early autumn months, so it was prime time for "Old" to start shooting as well.

M. Night Shyamalan took to Twitter on September 26, 2020 to announce that filming had begun. That day was also the first time anyone in the public learned that film was titled "Old." The director shared two photos in the tweet: one of the sinister first poster for "Old," which features an hourglass filled with people instead of sand, and a snap of himself holding a clapperboard. He wrote in the caption, "Feels like a miracle that I am standing here shooting the first shot of my new film. It's called Old."

What it was really like filming Old

Getting started on filming "Old" may have felt miraculous, but it wasn't always blue skies and sunshine — and we mean that literally. "Old" was shot in the Dominican Republic, which is quite a far leap from his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he's shot most of his previous movies (via Slashfilm). Speaking during a panel at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival (via IndieWire), M. Night Shyamalan got candid about some of the obstacles he ran into while filming "Old," even in such a beautiful location.

"We were the first movie to shoot and cast in the pandemic and the way we were making a movie was very new. I was making up the rules because I was the first one. ... We didn't have a single positive case, which is fantastic, even if it's very scary. But because of this we had to push from May into hurricane season," he explained. "There was a hurricane [before filming began] and it took the sets and just destroyed them. We decided to build again but the biggest concern was that the beach had eroded. There was no beach for our beach movie."

Thankfully, "part of the beach came back" on the first day of shooting. But because of the complex nature of the film's story, another issue was keeping a tight schedule, juggling tons of different actors on the set each day, and regularly sending actors to and from hair and makeup. "[The characters are] aging and it's one day in the movie — so if an actor was playing Alex [Wolff's] character young, they would be in the morning, then another would be in the daytime, and then there'd be another actor later," Shyamalan explained. "There was all these prosthetics, and it was a very complicated thing."

Actor Alex Wolff, who moderated the Tribeca Film Festival panel, said it felt like "kismet" to be filming a movie about time stopping during an era of history where a pandemic has made time feel unreal.

What's the release date for Old?

Hurricanes, complicated schedules, and prosthetics be darned, "Old" wrapped production on November 15, 2020, less than two months after filming started. (That's one benefit of having a smaller, story-driven horror instead of an effects-heavy blockbuster, at least.)

"Wrapped production on @oldthemovie. It was an incredible experience. Beyond grateful to the people of the Dominican Republic who were so caring & welcoming. It is one of the most beautiful countries filled with the sweetest people. Thinking of you as I head back to Philly," M. Night Shyamalan wrote on Twitter, adding a photo of another "Old" clapperboard, this time floating in a pool of crystal-clear water.

Before filming even began, though, Universal Pictures announced that "Old" — then one of Shyamalan's two untitled thrillers — wouldn't debut on February 23, 2021 as intended. Instead, it would launch on July 23 (via the Hollywood Reporter). The Super Bowl teaser for "Old" confirms the July 23 release date, and as of June 22, the film is on schedule to arrive in theaters on that day. 

As for when "Old" will be available to stream from home, there's been no word just yet, but it definitely seems like the type of movie that would perform well as a rental.

What's the plot of Old, and what inspired it?

On the same day that M. Night Shyamalan announced the start of filming, Collider ran an exclusive report revealing both the basic premise of "Old" and the graphic novel that inspired it. Remember what we said before about M. Night Shyamalan reading something back in 2017 that ended up serving as the basis for "Old"? Yeah, that's the French graphic novel "Sandcastle," written by Pierre Oscar Lévy and illustrated by Frederik Peeters. 

In a tweet posted on June 24, 2017, Shymalan shared a photo of six graphic novels and comics spread out on a table. He captioned it, "Next up to read to inspire #Glass writing." One of the written works seen in the photo was "Sandcastle." According to an insider close to Collider, someone gifted Shyamlan "Sandcastle" for Father's Day, and after reading (and loving) it, he reached out to the appropriate people and bought the screen rights to the work. While "Sandcastle" may have had some sort of impact on Shyamalan's 2019 feature "Glass," it actually ended up spurring the filmmaker to create an entirely new movie.

"Old" sees a family trapped on a secluded beach as everyone begins to age at a terrifying rate. The group quickly start to lose their sanity as they no longer recognize their own selves — and the film even uses a dash of body-horror for good measure, as a surprise pregnancy catches a young woman off guard in a truly disturbing fashion.

The footage of "Old" shown at the 2021 Super Bowl shows members of the group searching for answers across the beach (as well as under water), with shots of Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie's characters investigating something in a cave. With Shyamalan's infamous love of shocking third-act revelations, it'll be interesting to see why the horrifying phenomenon is happening to this specific group of people. One line of dialogue even suggests that it's being done to them by someone or something else: "We were chosen for a reason." Chosen by whom? Curious and curiouser. 

Meanwhile, "Sandcastle" centers around 13 people trapped on a beach who begin unraveling a sister secret about time. "Old" isn't fully based off "Sandcastle," just inspired by it, and the graphic novel doesn't offer much explanation behind the horrifying events. Instead, it analyzed the human condition a little deeper. Back in 2013, Peeters told Comic Book Resources that a shocking twist was originally part of the ending but was scrapped because it "would have destroyed the frightening dimension of the book." Perhaps viewers will see that Shyamalan used Lévy's original ending on the big screen? Well, maybe not.

M. Night Shyamalan is still working on Old's ending

According to M. Night Shyamalan himself, he's still working on the ending of "Old" as of late June 2021 (via the Hollywood Reporter). At the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, the filmmaker described "Old" as being "subversive" and even "inappropriate," then dropped the bombshell that he's tinkering with the film's ending to ensure the story is left on just the right note.

"I'm deciding on the minor note — how to end on a minor note," he said. Another one of Shyamalan's movies that ends in such a way is "Unbreakable," the 2000 superhero thriller starring Bruce Willis as the titular unbreakable man David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson as the secretly nefarious Elijah Price, who's revealed to be the big bad. Shyamalan is hoping to replicate the feeling of that reveal from "Unbreakable" in the ending of "Old," hence why he's still adjusting it a month out from release.

"'Unbreakable' ends on a kind of a dip, right? He goes to the dark note, that minor note at the end. The guy you thought was the best friend is the villain. ... The minor note sticks to you forever," said Shyamalan.

The many theories about Old

As is par for the course with any M. Night Shyamalan films, many different theories about "Old" have surfaced online as curious movie fans try to predict what the whole thing is really about. 

One theory is that Vicky Krieps' Prisca, Gael García Bernal's Guy, Rufus Sewell's Charles, Embeth Davidtz's Susan, and the other parents who are stuck on the beach are suffering from dementia and it's affecting their perception of time and reality. Reddit user u/TheDumbestTimeline was one of many who posited this idea, and it actually holds some weight. Shyamalan's own father has dementia. "My father's very old right now. He has dementia. He comes and goes," the filmmaker said during the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, per the Hollywood Reporter. Shyamalan has implemented dementia as a storytelling device in 2015's "The Visit," however, so as plausible as this theory seems, one might be able to rule it out on the possible basis of Shyamalan wanting to avoid repetition.

Another "Old" theory is that we're dealing with good old-fashioned time loop. Twitter user @AmandaWermann noted that both she and her husband subscribe to this theory. It's a basic one, but it makes a lot of sense. 

On the other side, perhaps there's some sort of dangerous entity controlling time on the island — more specifically, the beach and the water — and is punishing the humans for whatever reason. Redditor u/Dragmire800 thinks that "the twist will be that time was moving faster yet their brains were not." Another user on Reddit believes that something along these lines will play out: "When they actually are able to leave the area that they are aging at they find it is actually many years later. The [ocean] was stuck in time but there were pockets in space time that were kinda still keeping up through 'regular' time so they aged 'faster' when they just actually caught up with time."

Or maybe none of that will ring true, and Shyamalan will subvert expectations by not including a third-act twist like he usually does. Only time (no pun intended) will tell.

Old is unlike anything you've ever seen before

Whatever ends up happening in "Old," twist ending or no twist ending, one thing is for certain: The movie will be unlike anything you've seen before — from M. Night Shyamalan or any other film director. At least, that's what Shyamalan has promised is the case. "No one has ever seen anything like it — in its tone and the way it's just, I mean, it's like nothing else," he said at a Tribeca Film Festival panel in June 2021 (via the Hollywood Reporter).

Of course, there's a big chance that Shyamalan has an inflated opinion of "Old" since it's a movie he wrote, directed, and produced, but there's little denying that hype for the film is real. Many online have expressed their excitement to see "Old" once it arrives in theaters on July 23, and countless fans have stated that even if "Old" doesn't live up to all their expectations, they're just eager to find out what's truly going on in the story, how it all comes together, and what it all means.