During the late 90s and early 2000s, you couldn’t move for Hollywood (mostly romance) movies based on classic literature. They were spawned by the success of Clueless, based on Jane Austen’s Emma, released in 1995. We had 10 Things I Hate About You (based on Taming of the Shrew), Cruel Intentions (based on Dangerous Liaisons), and She’s the Man (based on Twelfth Night) – to name just a few.
One of the most beloved rom-coms based on a classic work of literature was 1999’s She’s All That, which is based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Pygmalion had previously been adapted into the musical My Fair Lady. It stars Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr, as well as Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, and Anna Paquin.
But it may surprise you to learn that the writer of She’s All That also wrote the second-highest grossing movie of that same year. M. Night Shyamalan’s horror movie The Sixth Sense was a monster hit, coming second only to The Phantom Menace for box office supremacy. And in 2013, he confessed that he had ghost-written She’s All That.
R. Lee Fleming Jr. is officially credited as the sole screenwriter for the film. In a 2002 interview, M. Night Shyamalan stated that he polished the screenplay while adapting Stuart Little and writing The Sixth Sense. This was also confirmed in the film’s audio commentary by director Robert Iscove.
In 2013, Shyamalan claimed that, rather than simply polishing Fleming’s original script, he actually ghost-wrote the film. On June 17, 2013, Jack Lechner (who served as Miramax’s head of development in the late 1990s) confirmed that technically both Shyamalan and Fleming contributed to the script: Fleming wrote the initial script that Miramax bought while Shyamalan did an uncredited rewrite (doing more than “a polish”) that got the film green-lit.
Lechner reiterated that content from both writers was included in the final cut of the film. Producer Richard N. Gladstein said that the script “was pretty much done” already, but that Shyamalan’s changes “helped enormously with the relationship between Laney (Rachel Leigh Cook) and her father (Kevin Pollak).”
Hollywood can be a funny old place, and writing credits can certainly get messy. Baz Luhrmann is credited several times for writing Elvis, which reflects different re-writes he did with different co-writers. This is more common than we realise, because re-writes are often not mentioned in the credits at all (as in the case of She’s All That).
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller movie Knock at the Cabin is set for release in 2023.