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Kevin Wendell Crumb! James McAvoy's Split Character Was Originally Envisioned as Unbreakable Baddie

Who would you have liked to see play The Horde if the villain was introduced all the way back in 2000?

By Josh Weiss

The more you think about M. Night Shyamalan's decision to link Split (now streaming on Peacock) to the world of Unbreakable, the more genius it becomes. That brief, mid-credits cameo from Bruce Willis as David Dunn — aka "The Overseer" — was not only a mind-blowing twist worthy of the director's reputation, but it also felt like a meta acknowledgement of Hollywood's feverish obsession with cinematic universes.

At the time, Marvel Studios had just entered the third and final phase of what we now know as "The Infinity Saga." DC, meanwhile, was hopelessly struggling to catch up with the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. While those two studio juggernauts duked it out for box office supremacy, Shyamalan quietly slid in under the radar with a cheeky reminder that it was he who got to the comic book punch long before the current craze. The best part? This wasn't some spur-of-the-moment/bandwagon satirization of the industry; Shyamalan had always pictured David Dunn going up against "The Horde" (James McAvoy).

For More on M. Night Shyamalan:
M. Night Shyamalan Almost Connected This 2015 Horror Film To His Unbreakable Universe
Will Smith Originally Pitched After Earth as a Trilogy Bigger Than Marvel or Star Wars
M. Night Shyamalan Had an "Arthouse" Cut Of 2015's The Visit We'll Never Get to See

James McAvoy's Split Character Was Originally Supposed to Be the Villain in Unbreakable

Speaking with Empire in 2017, the writer-directed admitted that Kevin Wendell Crumb was originally conceived as the villain for Unbreakable nearly two decades before Split was released. "I couldn’t get it right, I couldn’t get the balance right," he remembered of the film's earlier drafts. "It just kept wanting to eat away at the other movie. I pulled Kevin out. I wanted a really slow burn movie and Kevin’s not a slow burn."

In the end, Shyamalan removed Kevin from the story entirely, while expanding the role of Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) from a supporting Charles Xavier-type "advisor" into that of the main antagonist. Pitting David's brawn against Elijah's brains was something of a thematic epiphany.

Kevin (James McAvoy) wears a red sweater in Split (2017).

"The three of them were always in it but he went from benevolent advisor to the opposite of David Dunn! It became so obvious," Shyamalan continued. "Then I said I’d do this next as the next piece in this, but I guess I felt that the reaction at the time was weird and wonky to Unbreakable, especially in the United States. ‘What is this? A movie about comic books?’ The studio didn’t want to sell it as comic books because they felt comic books were not sellable, they didn’t think there was an audience for it. Anyway, I was too young and didn’t have any pull at the time to say wait a minute. Ironically now, Disney, that’s all they do."

Of course, all three characters finally got to share the screen three years later in 2019's Glass, though that never would've happened without the success of Split, which Shyamalan intended to serve as a Trojan Horse. "The fun of it is coming up with a new tone and a new feeling and a new approach," he said. "Could we do a movie where you watch it in one genre, a psychological thriller, but at the last moment of the movie you realize you weren’t watching that genre but another genre, in this case the origin story, the comic book origin story. You didn’t realize you were watching it. It’s basically a first act."

Split is currently streaming on Peacock. Glass, on the other hand, is now available to rent and/or own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment alongside other Shyamalan offerings like Old and Knock at the Cabin.