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Credit: Universal Pictures

Universal didn't know Split was an Unbreakable sequel until execs saw the movie

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Nov 16, 2018, 12:35 PM EST

Director M. Night Shyamalan has made a brand out of being the king of twists, but that’s a tricky title to hold when everyone expects you to pull the rug out from under them. But Shyamalan never seems to run out of tricks — even when his bosses are the people being hoodwinked. That’s what happened the first time the director screened Split, the James McAvoy-led multiple personality disorder thriller, for the executives at Universal.

They were just as shocked as fans to see Bruce Willis show up in the final scene as his character David Dunn from the film Unbreakable, establishing Split as existing in the same universe as the grounded superhero film. Talking to Total Film about his upcoming film Glass, Shyamalan explained that the bigwigs at the studio had quite the reaction to the reveal, for completely understandable reasons, to be fair.

“At the end it happens, and they lose their minds,” the director said. “They’re like ‘You can’t do that. You can’t use this character from Disney.’ And I’m like, ‘I already talked to Disney, they already said OK. We’re all good.’ They were just stunned.” Oh, yeah, there’s the issue that Unbreakable was a Buena Vista Pictures and Touchstone Pictures joint. But Shyamalan came to an agreement with Disney exec Sean Bailey to secure the character, which worked out well enough to secure the future of the franchise with Glass.

Glass, which stars Split’s McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy — another party that didn’t know about Split’s Unbreakable link until the last minute (Shyamalan told her right before the Fantastic Fest premiere) — hopes to maintain the thrills and power of the previous films while offering plenty of closure and meaty development of its damaged central trio. McAvoy, for example, will have plenty of acting work to do, because 20 of Kevin’s 24 personalities will appear in the film.

That’s up from 8 in Split, but down from the incredible 23 in the original script for Glass. “The climax of Split becomes the baseline of what you see here,” the director says, mentioning that the only personality left out of the original script was Orwell, the talkative history buff.

Fans can count the characters themselves when Glass twists and turns into theaters on Jan. 18.