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Few screenwriters share Stephen Gaghan’s pedigree. He won the Oscar for penning Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic in 2000, then earned a well-deserved nomination for writing the 2005 political drama Syriana, which he also directed. So if a studio felt the need to hire anybody to rewrite a script for M. Night Shyamalan to helm, Gaghan’s an excellent choice.

According to Variety, he’ll polish a draft of Gary Whitta’s One Thousand A.E. before Shyamalan begins shooting. The Sixth Sense director reportedly tinkered with Whitta’s draft, but Sony Pictures and Overbrook have brought Gaghan on board to give the draft another pass. I guess they saw The Last Airbender.

And that’s the thing about Shyamalan. He’s a competent filmmaker who is decent with special effects and can muster tension in suspenseful situations, but his scripts leave a lot to be desired. As Variety notes, he has been the lone screenwriter credited on his nine feature films, and they’ve predominantly gone down in quality since he broke on the scene with Sense in 1999.

Shyamalan reportedly will begin filming A.E. in February, with Will and Jaden Smith playing a father-son team who crash onto our planet 1,000 years after mankind has abandoned it. The crash, according to reports, injures the elder astronaut, sending the younger traveler on a difficult journey to find help on this isolated Earth. It sounds like it could mix Smith’s I Am Legend with Shyamalan’s Airbender. There’s potential here. Let’s hope Gaghan can flesh it out.

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