Did M. Night Shyamalan Steal The Idea for ‘Servant’ From Another Filmmaker?

M. Night Shyamalan has had a pretty illustrious career, and while there have been concerns about where he was going in the past, the release of his 2019 series, Servant, seems to have cleared up any worries. The series, which premiered on AppleTV+ in November, is a hit, with rave reviews by fans. In fact, a second season of the series is already on its way, but there might be one problem. Another filmmaker is claiming Shyamalan stole the premise of her previously produced film, and the similarities between the two works are pretty hard to ignore.

Filmmaker, Francesca Gregorini, files a lawsuit against M. Night Shyamalan and Apple

Francesca Gregorini, a filmmaker, has filed a lawsuit against Shyamalan and Apple. She has alleged that the hit series, Servant, is strikingly similar to her film, The Truth About Emanuel, which premiered at Sundance in 2013. The movie featured Jessica Biel, Kaya Scodelario and Alfred Molina. It opened in select theaters in 2014.

Gregorini claims that the day that the trailer for Servant hit the internet, friends and colleagues called her to congratulate her for selling the rights to her film, according to The Atlantic. Of course, Gregorini had never sold the rights but is using the phone calls as evidence of how closely Servant mimics her own tale. Shyamalan and Tony Basgallop, who serves as a producer and writer on the series, both insist they’ve never seen Gregorini’s work. She claims that because she has had professional crossings with Basgallop, that it is highly unlikely he had no idea that The Truth About Emanuel existed. Both Shyamalan and Basgallop allege Servant was already being worked on when The Truth About Emanuel premiered at Sundance.

How similar is Servant to The Truth About Emanuel?

The Truth About Emanuel is the story of a woman who hires the girl next door to babysit for her daughter. Emanuel, a teenager, quickly finds out that the neighbor’s child is actually a doll. She works to keep her secret until everything comes crashing down, and the woman’s mental health issues are revealed. The woman next door, Linda, is using the doll to avoid dealing with the death of her real child.

In Servant, a Philadelphia-based couple hires a nanny to look after their baby, Jericho. Jericho, however, isn’t a real baby, he’s a reborn doll that was given to Dorothy Turner following the death of her 13-week-old son. She believes the doll is her lost child, Jericho. Servant released 10 episodes during its first season. All 10 episodes are currently available on AppleTV+. According to Digital Spy, the show will return in November 2020 for its second season.

M. Night Shyamalan has been accused of plagiarism before

While Gregorini’s lawsuit is the most recent accusations levied against Shyamalan, she is far from the first creative to suggest the acclaimed filmmaker has pilfered plots and storylines from other works. In 2003, Shyamalan was accused of stealing portions of an unpublished screenplay for his blockbuster hit Signs. According to the Chicago Tribune, Robert McIhinney, a Pennsylvania screenwriter, alleged Shyamalan lifted parts of his unpublished script Lord of the Barrens: The Jersey Devil and used it in Signs. The film grossed $227 million domestically.

M. Knight Shyamalan attends Apple TV+'s "Servant" World Premiere at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
M. Knight Shyamalan | Gary Gershoff/WireImage

The following year, Margaret Peterson Haddix, an author, accused Shyamalan of utilizing her 1995 novel, Running out of Time, to create his 2004 thriller The Village. The book sold more than 500,000 copies and focused on a village of people who choose to live as if they were not in the year 1996, according to The Guardian. The novel featured a teenaged protagonist, much like The Village. The Village grossed over $100 million.