Netflix’s adaptation of Femi Fadubga’s forthcoming YA fantasy novel The Upper World has taken a big step forward in development as Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) has signed on to star and produce the project, according to Variety.
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Set to be published by Penguin UK and HarperCollins US in mid-2021 and 2022 and intended as the first of a series of novels, the synopsis reads as follows:
Esso is caught in a deadly feud and on the verge of expulsion when he realizes he has an unexpected gift: access to a world where he can see glimpses of the past and the future. A generation away, Rhia is walking to football practice in 2035, unaware that the mysterious stranger she’s about to meet desperately needs her help to avert a bullet fired 15 years ago.
The Get Out and Black Panther star has signed on to portray Esso, the protagonist of the time-traveling tale, and will produce the film alongside Screen Arcade’s Bryan Unkeless and Eric Newman, with the latter having brought Fadugba’s novel to the streaming platform, who swiftly acquired the worldwide feature rights to it. The debuting author is also attached to the project as an executive producer.
“When I was at university, I wrote a quantum physics paper that got published in the same journal that Einstein shared many of his famous ideas in,” Fadeugba said in a statement. “It led to me receiving a national award and the unforgettable opportunity to make a speech at the House of Commons. On the same night as the speech, I came home to Peckham, where blue and white tape fenced off a crime scene on the estate. A kid had been stabbed. He was 15, tops. A 20-minute bus ride was all that separated those two completely different worlds. But throughout my life, I’ve also lived in places like Kigali, Somerset, Oxford and Philadelphia, which has always made me wonder: how do I reconcile these contrasting environments I grew up in with each other? And how do I make some of the tough questions in life ‘add up’ the way they do in these equations? Then one day, came a mad realization – that I could combine the story of a kid from South London with the physics of time travel. And maybe even make it gripping enough that the nerds, the hustlers, the jocks (and the rest of us in between) would all want to read it. And would all get it.“
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“I can count on one hand the times I’ve connected with a novel so viscerally,” Netflix Film’s vice president Tendo Nagenda said in a statement. “It’s a rare feeling, made even more special when you also have the opportunity to bring such a story to life on film.Films can impact and expand the way people see and experience life. The Upper World will be one of those films. I’m neither from the place nor ‘time’ depicted in the pages of the debut novel of physicist-turned-author Femi Fadugba. However, through staggeringly skilled storytelling, I was taken on a mind-and-heart altering adventure through the book’s characters and experiences.”
After finding acclaim in projects such as Black Mirror, Skins and The Fades early in his career, Kaluuya broke out with American audiences in the Oscar-winning horror-thriller Get Out from Jordan Peele in 2017 and quickly followed up his Oscar-nominated performance with a number of blockbuster and high-profile titles including Black Panther, Widows and Queen and Slim. The 31-year-old actor can next be seen in the Fred Hampton biographical drama Judas and the Black Messiah, which is set to hit theaters sometime in 2021.
(Photo Credit: Emma McIntyre/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)