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Jared Leto To Replace Will Smith In Julius Onah’s ‘Brilliance’ (And A Question)

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by Sergio
June 17, 2014 6:39 PM
26 Comments
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Just a few weeks ago, Tambay reported that Will Smith had unattached himself from Julius Onah’s sci-fi action thriller "Brilliance," which is set up at Universal and Legendary Pictures (HERE).

The notable thing that Tambay remarked is that the film would have marked the first time that Smith had ever worked with a black director, and especially a young and an upcoming one such as Onah.

However, with Smith’s leaving the project, this means that his record is still unbroken, and it looks even worse now that Variety is reporting (HERE) that Oscar winning actor Jared Leto will now replace Smith in Onah’s film.

That still begs the question - why did Smith leave the project? He’s now attached to that NFL concussions project being produced by Ridley Scott; so could it just simply be that it was a better script, which has the potential to give Smith what he has always longed the most for – an Oscar win for Best Actor? Or does Smith have problems working with a black director? (Hey, if I don’t ask these questions who will?).

And as Tambay said about Smith: "given his position as one of a small handful of mega-watt stars with power and reach, who, by the way, also happens to be black, as well as the dearth of black filmmakers working consistently within the Hollywood studio system - especially on tent-pole projects - accompanied by the annual onslaught of articles lamenting the industry's lack of diversity, I think it's quite unfortunate that this would've been the very first time in his movie acting career (spanning some 20 years) that he would've been directed by a black filmmaker!"

What do you say?

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26 Comments

  • Moxy | July 18, 2014 10:28 PMReply

    You guys really need to do your homework. Will Smith had produced and worked with black directors and actors. He's the creator behind the sit com All of Us. That features a predominantly black cast. These slso produced the film. The Secret Life of Bees. That was written and directed by a BLACK WOMAN. He had produced The Quern Latifah Show.

  • sergio | July 18, 2014 11:21 PM

    Whatever you say what Tambay said is correct. Smith has yet to work on a film he's in that was directed by a black director. That still holds true. Having some black director make an epiosde of some sit-com he produced isn't the same thing

  • Imacus | June 21, 2014 1:32 PMReply

    Why does color always have to come into it, Will Smith is a very hands-on in control actor and he likes to change scripts, so he might just have looked at the director's story-board and didn't like it and when he tried to give his input it wasn't welcomed so HE WALKED.

    Not black, not white, not pink, just business?

  • ALP | June 21, 2014 2:06 PM

    Obviously you're not a golfer.

  • Mike | June 18, 2014 1:16 AMReply

    There are no Black Directors on Will Smith level first of all. There are no Black Directors in the sci-fi filmmaking world. I don't consider Tim Story to be a sci-fi filmmaker because he has directed different types of films. This article is a JOKE! The Majority of Black actors in Hollywood don't work with Black Directors!

  • Donella | June 18, 2014 11:23 AM

    There's also The Hughes Brothers who did fine with Denzel in The Book of Eli.

    Plenty of worldwide acting stars work with new directors--Denzel, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne...

  • alp | June 18, 2014 1:29 AM

    Well, that's not quite true. Antoine Fuqua is A-List, and could handle sci-fi. But he and Will haven't connected yet. I have a personal suspicion Fuqua is a bit too "Alpha" for Will; Denzel and Fuqua are a better creative match.

  • Miles Ellison | June 17, 2014 10:50 PMReply

    The answer is simple. No one would have supported this movie. Like Ol' Skool said, black people would rather watch Tyler Perry than sci-fi. White people aren't going to watch Will Smith if he's not a regulation stereotype. And the nerd community is not exactly welcoming when it comes to people of color in sci-fi. Apparently future worlds only have identically dressed white people in them.

  • ALP | June 18, 2014 1:39 AM

    I don't not sure how I feel about your "simple answer". I don't feel it explains why Will dropped out of the movie. By your logic, "Men In Black", "I Am Legend" and "I, Robot" and Will's many other sci-fi movies would not/should not/could not be hits.

  • Dave's Deluxe | June 17, 2014 9:48 PMReply

    Onah is untested and unproven. "Girl is In Trouble" had hype but no legs (I have seen it and it's not very good-- it will probably never see a theatrical release.) Will doesn't need "After Earth" reviews again, this time with a neophyte indie film director, so he made a business decision. Leto has hot Oscar sauce right now, and can afford a risky venture such as Onah. Honestly, everybody wins here.

  • sergio | June 18, 2014 11:54 AM

    Hey I don't care for Bound either. Overrated, overhyped and no action. I'll watch those No Man's Land lesbo porn films instead

  • mark | June 18, 2014 11:48 AM

    Donella, you thought "Bound" WASN'T good? ....I uh..... Wow. Just wow.

    You really are a big-budget-type person aintcha. Bet you never even heard of (or like) Charles Burnett and Julie Dash

  • Donella | June 18, 2014 11:12 AM

    Prior to The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers did "Bound." Rather small, indie action-adventure that cost about $5 million. Not very good. I saw the boom mike hanging in several scenes.

    Then, the Matrix with a production budget of $65 million, and so on.

  • Dave's Deluxe | June 18, 2014 10:43 AM

    Serigio, I agree: it isn't fair. Nothing about this business is "fair", really, including (but not limited to) how we treat each other when we get "blow up". BUT.. I can tell you that Onah's major strike against him (besides being black) is that "The Girl Is In Trouble" is not very good. It's not awful, it's just not good, and will not find theatrical distribution. This can potentially be a serious problem, particularly when the studio deals he is making is based off the "hype" of this first work (that mostly no one has seen yet.) That, unfortunately, is a problem those Blowkemp and Stromberg did NOT have: their previous work, while small, was very strong.

  • sergio | June 18, 2014 10:26 AM

    Neill Blomkemp was "untested and unproven" only having made a few shorts and did some special effects work on some movies before he was sponsored by Peter Jackson and made District 9. And who in the hell is Robert Stromberg who directed Maleficent which had a $175 million budget. A CGI special effects guy who had never directed a film before. Did anybody including Dave call him untested and unproven? But with Onah suddenly he's got a problem. And you would think that with JJ Abrams banking him he must have some of kind of talent. Why don't know why we keep complining about white people do to us sine we do great job of it ourselves

  • Dave's Deluxe | June 17, 2014 10:29 PM

    "Blackman", you are a clearly passionate idealist. All opinions are welcome. As I said before, everybody wins here.

  • Blackman | June 17, 2014 10:12 PM

    Untested and unproven, yet JJ Abrams saw something in him and his work to bring him onboard as director of a tent-pole studio project? And another studio also felt he was competent enough to hire him for another tent-pole project? So he's got 2 major studio projects lined up, but he's "untested and unproven"? Huh? This is the problem with black folks. It takes a white person to first validate us before our own decide that we're good enough to take a shot with. SMH. I don't know how many times "unproven" and "untested" white filmmakers have come out of nowhere and landed major projects with A list actors. Black filmmakers who've shown that they have the talent and can compete should be given similar opportunities. Onah has directed some short films too and won awards for them. Will Smith must have felt comfortable enough to first sign on to star in the project, so Onah's talent isn't in question. He didn't suddenly drop out because he suddenly felt Onah wasn't up to the task. That shit would've been worked out beforehand. But even with all that said, the question Sergio asked is why he hasn't worked with any black directors. Enough of them who are proven and tested out there to choose from.

  • Ol' Skool | June 17, 2014 8:36 PMReply

    BY THE NUMBERS: Will Smith + a POC director + sci-fi = A lackluster box office return!

    Hey, I'm just sayin', like Sergio, if I don't mention the obvious - who will. Well, speaking of the obvious, most black folks are not into sci-fi... and Will Smith has bit that bullet before. What, come on now, y'all didn't support his After Earth as you do Medea, Think Like A Man and Best Man Holiday. I'm just sayin', fact don't lie. And speaking of liars, some whites will profess that they enjoy films with black actors in the lead role. But, when Will Smith wasn't playing one of his patented New Jack Uncle Toms, their wallets went silent. Come on now, facts don't lie. Will Smith was a strong black man - in charge - in "After Earth", a role many couldn't accept him in.

    So who can blame Will for catching his hat? I mean, a sci-fi action thriller starring a black lead AND a black director at the helm - in America - smells like trouble.

  • Ol' Skool | June 19, 2014 3:34 AM

    re: New Jack Uncle Tom, now Gigi, I have to admit I could have used a better choice of words. Miles Ellison (above) called it "regulation stereotype". Anyway, however one wishes to define "it", there's a particular type of image (black image) that Will Smith has patented in which whites seemed to love him the most. Come on Gigi, don't make me go there, you know exactly what I'm referring to.

    "You're forgetting that After Earth had poor buzz with black and non-black audiences"

    OH NO, I could never forget that. I am sure you remember the loooong and heated debates (now at 165 comments) at Courtney's post "Will Smith Shares His 'After Earth' Box Office Disappointment - 'It's Been 2 Decades Since I Didn't Have A Movie Open At # 1'

    From one year ago, in that post, my argument has remained the same. But first, check this out. By The Numbers. The following is a short list of Will's lowest opening weekend films.

    5/31/2013 After Earth $27,520,040
    12/19/2008 Seven Pounds $14,851,136
    12/15/2006 The Pursuit of Happyness $26,541,709
    12/25/2001 Ali Muhammad Ali $14,710,892
    11/20/1998 Enemy of the State $20,038,573
    4/7/1995 Bad Boys $15,523,358

    Now, not only were those films Will's lowest opening weekends, most of them (if not all) are also his lowest box office films. What can we conclude from those numbers? Well, I'm gonna soften my position a wee bit. Black folks or whites, both cultures appear to love Will Smith in certain *cough* roles/images *cough* more than others. And, I'd bet my bottom dollar that his skin color plays an integral part in the decision making process. On top of that, going back to my original argument, most movies in which there's a lead black actor and a black director is... well... it's safe to say, it's a risky "return on investment."

  • Gigi Young | June 19, 2014 2:02 AM

    You're forgetting that After Earth had poor buzz with black and non-black audiences, and on top of this, suspicions that this was Will's "Battlefield Earth" (aka Scientology-themed). Has nothing to do with black folks not being into Sci-Fi or Will allegedly not playing an "Uncle Tom" (what hat did you pull that from?).

  • Ol' Skool | June 18, 2014 12:29 PM

    Sergio, the devil's in the details. Considering Eli's 80 million dollar budget coupled with the great Denzel in the leading role and a black man at the helm, I'll refer back to my original position "who can blame Will for catching his hat? I mean, a sci-fi action thriller starring a black lead AND a black director at the helm - in America - smells like trouble".

    And, did you read The Book of Eli's reviews? Not good. And, what ever happened to the directorial careers of The Hughes Brothers? Point made "a sci-fi action thriller starring a black lead AND a black director at the helm - in America - is a slippery slope in which a wise man would think twice (like Will Smith did) before traveling.

  • sergio | June 18, 2014 11:58 AM

    At $160 million worldwide I don't call Book of Eli poor box office and it made millions more than that in ancillary markets (DVD, digital download, cable etc)

  • Ol' Skool | June 18, 2014 11:36 AM

    Donella, I fail to see your point... and a small correction. The Book Of Eli was a failure on several levels, not to mention it's poor box office.

  • Ol' Skool | June 18, 2014 11:28 AM

    "And that old canard is WAY tired"

    Really Sergio? It may be tired and I am not "trying" to speak for 40 million black people, but again, facts don't lie! So I'll stand on my position that most black filmgoers would rather pay to see "Yak Hair In Action" ... "Madea Goes Off" ... "Who's Sleeping With Whom As They're Thinking Like A Man In The Best Man's Room" and all forms of scandalous sex, drugs and violence, moreso than pay to see a sci-fi film. So you old goat, prove me wrong, what facts do you have to support YOUR opinion

  • Donella | June 18, 2014 11:16 AM

    The Book of Eli did well with Denzel and the Hughes Brothers.

    But then, Denzel is not black director-averse. Neither is Sam Jackson. Neither is Oprah. Neither is Forest Whitacker.

    Just Will Smith. He's also black writer-averse. He'll use writers from "This Means War," but not say, John Ridley who just won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

    Really strange, but the thing is, Smith's aversions have harmed mostly himself.

  • sergio | June 18, 2014 11:01 AM

    "...most black folks are not into sci-fi"

    Really Carey? C'mon everyone knows it's you despite the fact you said that you were leaving S & A for good. And that old canard is WAY tired. Maybe YOU don't like sci-fi and I'm not crazy about romantic comedies but I don't presume to speak for 40 million black people unlike you

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