EXCLUSIVE: Golden Globe-nominated Selma star David Oyelowo has set his first feature directorial outing with The Water Man, a drama written by Emma Needell (featured on the Black List). Oprah Winfrey, who appeared alongside Oyelowo in the Ava DuVernay-directed Oscar-nominated film, is attached as an executive producer. Oyelowo is pulling triple duty, directing, producing, and starring in the film along with Rosario Dawson, This Is Us star Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller (War for the Planet of the Apes ), Alfred Molina (Vice), and Maria Bello (History of Violence).
Originally set up at Disney, The Water Man is Needell’s first spec script. Shivani Rawat of ShivHans Pictures is financing the project as well as producing with Oyelowo’s Yoruba Saxon and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films.
“We are thrilled to support David on his directorial debut,” said Rawat, CEO of ShivHans. “We can’t wait to start our adventure together in Oregon this Spring.”
The story centers on precocious young boy Gunner (Chavis) who, in order to save his ill mother (Dawson), runs away from home with a local misfit Jo (Miller), to find the legendary figure called the Water Man who has been said to have the power to cheat death. While extremely close to his mother, he and his father Amos (Oyelowo) are forced to learn about each other as Amos goes on the search for his son.
“The Water Man as written by Emma Needell is that rare, beautiful script that can touch your heart and challenge your mind while also lifting your spirits,” said Oyelowo. “I feel blessed to be entrusted with bringing this imaginative and moving story to life.”
Carla Gardini and Monica Levinson are also producers.
Since his breakout turn as Martin Luther King Jr. in 2014’s Selma, Oyelowo has appeared in films like Disney’s Queen of Katwe, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Lincoln, Jack Reacher, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. More recently, the Nigerian born British actor starred in The Cloverfield Paradox, Gringo, and the Blumhouse-produced thriller, Relive, which debuted at Sundance earlier this year.
Oyelowo’s forthcoming slate includes Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2, the Doug Liman-helmed sci-fi film, Chaos Walking, and Come Away, the fantasy drama in which he stars opposite Angelina Jolie.
He’s repped by CAA, Inphenate, Hamilton-Hodell, and Schreck, Rose.