Variety reports that M. Night Shyamalan has signed with 20th Century Fox to direct THE HAPPENING from his own script. Originally titled THE GREEN EFFECT when Shyamalan first pitched it around Hollywood a while back, the project is an ecological thriller about a family fleeing a worldwide natural crisis. While that sounds more like a sci-fi adventure on the order of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, Shyamalan told the trade that he intends to focus on scares—and make this his first R-rated film, an approach that found favor with Fox topper Tom Rothman. "We talked about trying to get the kind of intensity that is present in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and the kind that Guillermo del Toro got in PAN'S LABYRINTH," the filmmaker tells the trade. "The impact of the beautiful things in that movie wouldn't have landed as strongly if the film had not been R-rated."
Frequent collaborators Sam Mercer and Barry Mendel will produce the film with Shyamalan, and THE HAPPENING is scheduled to roll in August on the director's usual shooting ground of Philadelphia. The budget will be $57 million, and the director intends to cast a major male star in the lead; a June 2008 release is planned.