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David Dunn (character)

David Dunn is a fictional character and protagonist in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable film series, portrayed by American actor Bruce Willis. Dunn is a former college football prodigy and a security guard who discovers he has superhuman abilities. He is the protagonist in Unbreakable, has a minor cameo in Split, and again is a major character in Glass.

David Dunn
Unbreakable character
David Dunn as portrayed by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable
First appearanceUnbreakable (2000)
Last appearanceGlass (2019)
Created byM. Night Shyamalan
Portrayed byBruce Willis
Davis Duffield
(Young; 1st film)
  • The Overseer
  • The Green Guard / Guardian
  • The Tip Toe Man
  • The Enforcer
  • The Protector
OccupationSecurity guard
Football player (formerly)
SpouseAudrey Dunn (deceased)
ChildrenJoseph Dunn (son)


Fictional character biographyEdit


David Dunn is a security guard at a local college football stadium in Philadelphia, seeking new employment in New York. He lives with his seemingly estranged wife, Audrey, and their only son, Joseph. On his way home from an interview, he gets involved in a massive passenger train accident, of which he became the sole survivor of 132 total passengers. This attracts the attention of comic book connoisseur and art gallery owner, Elijah Price, who contacts him to attempt to explain his unique abilities of not being able to be physically injured or contract illness and likens him to a real-life superhero. This is reinforced by other incidents throughout the film, such as being able to correctly point out that a stadium patron awaiting entry was carrying a concealed handgun, identifying a drug-dealing patron by seeing a third-person "vision" of his crimes after making physical contact with him, and his ability to bench press up to 350 lbs. without failing.

However, David is said to have apparently suffered an injury in a car accident that ended his promising high school and college football career. He later confesses to Elijah that his injury was feigned because Audrey, also involved in the accident, was averse to David being involved in football. David used the car accident as a valid excuse to exit the sport and continue his relationship with Audrey. Conversely, David challenges Elijah with the theory by recalling a childhood incident in which he almost drowned in an attempt to disarm the superhero comparison, but this backfires as Elijah further draws a real life comic book parallel that superheroes always have a "weakness": David's appears to be water.

As David becomes more and more aware of his "superpowers". Elijah instructs him to go "where people are", so David goes to a train station terminal. Using his "vision", he detects a janitor who is shown to have kidnapped a family in their own home. David follows him to where he is holding the children hostage, and frees them. David encounters a close call with water when he is pushed into a covered pool and becomes entangled, but he escapes when the children guide him out with a pool skimmer. He is then involved in a showdown with the janitor, but overcomes him. In the papers the following day, there an article written about the incident. It does not directly name David as the "hero", but he shows Joseph and they both vow to keep his abilities a secret.

David attends an exhibition at Elijah's art gallery where he meets his mother, who proclaims similar interest in the ideas of comic books as her son and she is proud of him. She tells Elijah that he is at the exhibition and he leads David to a back room where they finally agree that the allegory is a reality. Elijah shakes David's hand, triggering David's "vision" where it is revealed that Elijah set up the "accidents" referred throughout the film in order to look for a sole survivor as a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than just a byproduct of unfortunate incident, committing mass murder in the process. David quickly notifies police to arrest Elijah, who is taken to an institution for the criminally insane.


In 2016, David now has a new job. He visits a diner where a woman asks about a man which David realizes she was talking about Elijah, who had taken on his childhood nickname "Mr. Glass".


In Glass, which takes place 3 weeks after the events of Split, it is revealed that Dunn now owns his own company, Dunn Home Security. He works as a vigilante with his son, Joseph, now an adult, who feeds David information through an earpiece. Audrey Dunn, his wife, had died 5 years prior due to leukaemia. David spends his nights stopping petty criminals, referring to patrols as ‘walks’ in front of customers. While working, he comes across Jai (played by M. Night Shyamalan), Dr. Fletcher’s landlord from Split, who references his appearance in Unbreakable and his time ‘hanging around with the shady types down near the stadium’. This is the first instance of Dunn’s actions having a positive influence on those around him. When Dunn goes for a ‘walk’ he encounters Kevin Wendell Crumb (with Hedwig in the light) and bumps into him, showing Dunn a vision that The Horde has taken cheerleaders hostage. He tells Joseph about the building he saw them in, and this leads them to a brick factory. He dons his green rain poncho and heads to the building. He finds the girls and frees them, however The Horde returns and attempts to stop them, throwing a table which Dunn quickly catches and throws back, demonstrating his abilities. The Horde injures one of the cheerleaders and engages Dunn, attempting to crush his spine as he did Dr. Fletcher’s in Split. This proves ineffective, and Dunn throws both himself and The Horde out of a nearby window. Neither are injured from the fall, and prepare to engage each other again. The police intervene, and Ellie Staple tells Dunn he will have to injure a lot of innocent officers to escape, appealing to his heroic side. The Horde is subdued and they are both taken to a psychological institution, where Mr. Glass (Elijah Price) is kept heavily sedated. Dunn’s cell is armed with water jets that will activate if he is close to them or tries to escape. Throughout the movie Dunn is forced to consider if his powers are truly special or if he is simply delusional, as Staple insists that all of his supposed ‘powers’ can be explained. Later on, Mr. Glass and The Horde team up in order to escape. Mr. Glass contacts Dunn through the PA system and tells him about his plan to blow up the Osaka Tower, a new building being unveiled in the centre of Philadelphia where The Horde plans to reveal the true power of the broken, and Mr. Glass will expose heroes and villains to the public. He also tells Dunn he has turned off the water jets and taunts him, saying that he can’t break through the steel door as he’s ‘nothing special’. Dunn is inspired to stop them, and breaks through the steel door. He finds his green poncho in the confiscated items room, and heads out to confront the two villains. The Horde is distracted by Dunn after attempting to kidnap another two girls, and Mr. Glass converses with Casey Cooke about the events of Split, and how she was ‘the one the Beast let go’. This gives Casey the idea to try and coax Kevin Wendell Crumb into the light. Dunn is thrown into the water tank used for the water jets in his cell, and the two fight briefly with Dunn growing weaker and drowning. Dunn manages to break out of the tank but is left weak while The Horde escapes. Casey brings Kevin into the light by hugging him and saying his full name, but this only works for a short while as Mr. Glass brings The Beast back out. Joseph intercepts the two as they are about to leave, revealing that Clarence Wendell Crumb, Kevin’s father, was on the same train as Dunn all those years ago, which means that Mr. Glass inadvertently created both The Overseer and The Horde by leaving Kevin at the mercy of his abusive mother. At this revelation, The Beast thanks Mr. Glass for creating him before punching him so hard most of his ribs break, as compensation for scarring Kevin permanently. As he is about to leave, Casey brings Kevin out one last time before a sniper takes him out, as he dies in Casey’s arms. Two guards walk towards Dunn, lying weak on the ground, while Joseph tells them frantically that his father is The Overseer. He is pushed aside, and Dunn is dragged to a nearby pothole that filled with water when he broke the tank open. They proceed to drown Dunn, however Staple asks him to take her hand. He sees a vision that reveals Staple is a member of a secret society which conceals superheroes and villains from the public eye by taking them out before they emerge fully. She tells him that if she had convinced him he was nothing special then she would have let him live. Dunn is drowned and Joseph lies with his father on the ground. Price dies in his mother’s arms, telling her that he knew he wasn’t a mistake. Mr. Glass’s plan is later revealed, as he captured all of The Overseer’s heroic acts on CCTV at the institution and sent it to his mother, Casey and Joseph. The three decide that they should release the footage online, effectively showing the power of belief, kickstarting a superhuman revolution and exposing the secret society Staple works for.


When M. Night Shyamalan conceived the idea for Unbreakable, the outline had a comic book's traditional three-part structure (the superhero's "birth", his struggles against general evil-doers, and the hero's ultimate battle against the "archenemy"). However, he found the origin story most interesting, and chose to write Unbreakable as one. Willis became attached while shooting The Sixth Sense, also directed by Shyamalan.[1]

Appearances in filmsEdit


Unbreakable was first released in November 2000. In the film, Dunn is a security guard who discovers he has supernatural abilities, with superhuman levels of strength, stamina, and invulnerability, as well as an extrasensory ability to see the crimes people have committed by touching them. Throughout the film, he is encouraged by Elijah Price, also known as "Mr. Glass" (Samuel L. Jackson) to become a superhero. Price, whose bones break easily because of a disease, develops a theory that if there is an extreme fragility there must be an "unbreakable" human in existence. As various people bump into him, Dunn senses the crimes they perpetrated, such as theft and rape, and finds one he can act on: a sadistic janitor who invaded a family home, killed the parents and is holding the children captive. Dunn follows the janitor to the victims' house and frees the children, but the janitor ambushes him and pushes him off a balcony into a swimming pool. Dunn nearly drowns (since mass amounts of water harm him), but the children rescue him. He then attacks the janitor from behind and strangles him to death while once more remaining uninjured. At the end of the film, through his abilities, Dunn senses that Elijah orchestrated the train crash he had been in previously and countless other disasters that have resulted in massive losses of life, in an attempt to find Dunn. Price's justification for this seemingly is claiming the purpose of his life and condition was to be Dunn's archenemy. Dunn turns Price in to authorities, and Price is arrested for murder and terrorism and later committed to an institution for the criminally insane.

Split Edit

In a final reveal in the 2016 film Split, Dunn appears in a cameo role, revealing that the film takes place in the same universe as Unbreakable.[2]

While sitting in a diner, Dunn and several other patrons listen to the media coverage of the crimes committed by Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who has been nicknamed "The Horde". The patron sitting next to Dunn notes the resemblance between "The Horde" and a wheelchair-bound criminal who was arrested 15 years prior. When she struggles to remember the man's name, Dunn tells her it was "Mr. Glass".[2]


Shyamalan expressed hope for a third installment following Split, saying, "I hope [a third Unbreakable film happens]. The answer is yes. I'm just such a wimp sometimes. I don't know what's going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I'm going to start writing. [I have] a really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I've won already. I'm almost there but I'm not quite there."[3] In April 2017, Shyamalan announced that the film would be titled Glass, with Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, and James McAvoy reprising their respective roles in the series.[4]


Willis received critical praise for his performance as Dunn in Unbreakable. Critic Roger Ebert believed that Willis' "subtle acting" was positively different from the actor's usual work in "brainless action movies".[5] Quentin Tarantino, who directed Willis in Pulp Fiction, has also praised his performance in Unbreakable, saying he considers it his best work.[6]


  1. ^ M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer, Eduardo Serra, James Newton Howard, The Making of Unbreakable, 2001, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  2. ^ a b Couch, Aaron (January 22, 2017). "'Split': M. Night Shyamalan Explains an Ending Years in the Making". The Hollywood Reporter.
  3. ^ Joe McGovern (January 20, 2017). "Split spoiler: M. Night Shyamalan breaks down film's shock ending". Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  4. ^ Eric Eisenberg (April 26, 2017). "The Unbreakable And Split Crossover Movie Reveals Official Title And Four Stars". Cinemablend.
  5. ^ Roger Ebert (2000-11-22). "Unbreakable". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  6. ^ Tarantino's Top 20. Spike.

External linksEdit