Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Sixth Sense’: Bruce Willis Earned Three Times the Movie’s Budget

‘The Sixth Sense’: Bruce Willis Earned Three Times the Movie’s Budget

Starring in The Sixth Sense turned out to be a highly lucrative decision for Bruce Willis, and it was all due to his immediate faith in the film’s success.

The 1999 suspense-horror film put M. Night Shyamalan on the map as a top Hollywood writer and director. The twisty story of a psychiatrist working through a horrific physical attack while also helping a little boy who believes he sees dead people is not only a classic today but also hit theaters with instant success.

The script was so good that when Walt Disney Studios president at the time, David Vogel, saw it, he didn’t waste a minute purchasing the rights. Vogel handed the writer $3 million without getting the necessary corporate approval. Bruce Willis was also sure The Sixth Sense would be a Box Office hit—so sure, in fact, he risked millions on it.

Bruce Willis Asked For a Cut of ‘The Sixth Sense’s Box Office Earnings in Lieu of Up Front Cash

In the late ’90s, when the movie was heading into production, Willis was earning $20 million per project. However, The Sixth Sense had a small budget, so he didn’t push for more than $14 million. Instead, he asked for 17% of its worldwide box office gross, and the producers agreed.

M. Night Shyamalan was able to film his entire movie for $40 million. When it was released, it raked in a massive $672 million worldwide. Bruce Willis got $100 million of the proceeds. So, in total, he ended up with $114 million, which is nearly three times the film’s budget. 

Shyamalan was more than happy to cut the check to his lead star, who was a huge driving force behind the director’s success. He further proved his respect for Willis by casting him as superhero David Dunn, or Mr. Glass, in his Unbreakable franchise.

M. Night Shyamalan is ‘Forever Grateful’ to Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis has since retired from the film industry after being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, which Shyamalan’s father also suffers from. In January, the director shared how deeply he cares for Willis while speaking with The Hollywood Reporter. He shared that he “would do anything for [Willis] and his family” and explained how much Willis affected his own career. 

“It’s profound to realize how precious everything is,” Shyamalan said. “So I’m just grateful for what he did because he didn’t micromanage at all. He protected me from the system early, so I’m forever grateful to him.”