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Huge! Julius Onah Is Universal's Choice To Direct Adaptation Of Marcus Sakey's 'Brilliance'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act February 5, 2014 at 12:59PM

Huge! Julius Onah Is Universal's Choice To Direct Adaptation Of Marcus Sakey's 'Brilliance'
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Julius Onah

This is great news! Congrats Julius Onah


I say it's incredible because he's been ever-so-quietly adding some rather heavy weight projects to his slate - heavy weight in the sense that these are projects with some big-time Hollywood names (studios, producers, writers) behind them.

Earlier last year, Onah was been tapped by Paramount and J.J. Abrams, to direct the sci-fi thriller God Particle, from a script that was penned by Oren Uziel, with Abrams supervising.

The script, which was said to have been one of Hollywood's most buzzed-about "open directing assignments" (partly because there had been lots of secrecy around it, and J.J. Abrams had been attached to produce), follows an American space station crew that's abandoned after a problem with a Hadron accelerator causes Earth to completely vanish.

Today brings word that Onah has now been tapped by another major in Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures, to direct an adaptation of Marcus Sakey's novel Brilliance, which David Koepp is scripting, with Joe Roth and Palek Patel producing. 

The 2013 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original, Brilliance follows several different people - called "Brilliants" - who possess special abilities: a little girl who is able to read people’s darkest secrets; a man is can sense patterns in the stock market and gets rich; a woman who make herself invisible. As the novel's synopsis continues...

They’re called “Brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind. 

Reviews of the novel call it a "breakneck thriller" with "shrewd social commentary;" a "gripping tale of a world fundamentally different and yet horrifyingly similar to our own, where being born gifted can be a terrible curse."

Deadline says the project has "tent pole potential," which will of course be a great thing for Onah. There aren't exactly a ton of black directors helming tent pole movies. Actually both this new project, and the previously announced God Particle, both have tent pole potential, based on their high-concept descriptions. 


Long-time readers of this blog, going way back to its early days 4 1/2 years ago, will remember Julius Onah's name on the very first S&A's Black Filmmakers to watch list in mid-2009.

At the time, the Nigerian-born filmmaker was pursuing an MFA in film at NYU's Tisch School, and had been selected as a Dean’s Fellow; His short film, The Boundary, which starred Alexander Siddig (SyrianaStar Trek: Deep Space Nine) was designated by Amnesty International as one of its “Movies That Matter,“ and was acquired by HBO. Also at the time, he was working on his feature film debut titled, The Girl Is In Trouble (starring Columbus Short), which was executive produced by Spike Lee

That indie feature traveled the film festival circuit, but has yet to be formally released. Although, clearly, Onah has moved on to bigger things.

By the way, Julius Onah's twin-brother, Anthony Onah, happens to be an award-winning filmmaker as well. We've also featured his work on this site. Both are Afrinolly Short Film Competition winners over the last 2 years.

Stay tuned.

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