Originality Not Quite Dead At Disney Yet: David Oyelowo & Oprah Winfrey to Make ‘The Water Man’

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Oprah and Oyelowo
David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey at the Selma premiere in New York
Photo: Paramount Pictures

There’s no denying Disney took a nasty financial beating with Tomorrowland, and with recent executive decisions, Marvel movies, live-action remakes and Star Wars movies are what we should expect for the long run. And that very well may be, but there’s at least one non-established property in the making at the Mouse House.

Disney just entered discussions with Oprah Winfrey‘s Harpo Films and David Oyelowo‘s Yoruba Saxon to bring to the screen The Water Man, an original fairy tale from first-time writer Emma Needell, based on her spec script. Considered a mix between Stand By Me, E.T. and Close Encounters Of the Third Kind, it’s a “magical family drama” centered on Gunner, a precocious young boy who runs away from home to find a mythic figure named The Water Man, rumored to have cheated death, in order to save his dying mother.

Oyelowo, in addition to producing, is slated to play Amos, Gunner’s father, whom the lead has an adversarial relationship with. This is, of course, not the first time Oyelowo and Winfrey worked together, as both starred in, and she produced, last year’s Best Picture contender Selma. Although it looks like Winfrey’s just on as a producer on this one, at least for the moment. At the moment, no other stars are attached to the project.

The project hopes to be in the same vein as original Amblin Entertainment films, and that’s fine so long as they don’t try to mimic their original properties, as recent homages have, like Earth to Echo and even, to a degree, this weekend’s Jurassic World. Considering it’s more inspired tonally than narratively, however, this doesn’t seem like a big problem.

This one seems very early in the development, but it’s a good step forward for the company. An original African-American fairy tale with wide audience potential and two of the most prominent African-American Hollywood personalities at the moment on board to make it come to life from the biggest movie company in the world? Sounds pretty magical to me. [Deadline]