After an undeniable career stall following his infamous slap of Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, Will Smith has finally signed on for a new project. As of now, his role in Brilliance—an adaptation of the Marcus Sakey novel of the same name—is strictly behind the scenes, as a producer through his Westbrook Studios banner. But according to Deadline, “hope remains that the film is a star vehicle for Smith, though sources said he hasn’t committed to star.”
Brilliance is about a world where a small portion of the population, called “twists” or “abnorms,” are born with unusual mental powers. Ostracized by society, these people are carefully tracked and surveilled by the government. The story follows Nick Cooper, a federal agent tasked with hunting and eliminating “criminal abnorms.” The twist is that Nick and his daughter are both abnorms themselves; Nick uses his ability to predict the future to aid in his search for John Smith, “the country’s most elusive and most dangerous abnorm.” Unsurprisingly, infiltrating a group of rogue Brilliants causes Nick to question which side of the battle is in the right.
It’s a very similar setup to the X-Men or half the YA novels from the 2010s. It’s also a plot that’s just begging to be a Will Smith starring vehicle. Per Deadline, the film “has been a passion project” for the actor and Akiva Goldsman, the writer-producer with whom Smith collaborated on I Am Legend, I, Robot, and Hancock. Sakey has also written two additional novels in the series, so should all go well with the first adaptation, there’s a possible trilogy to contend with here.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who recently directed two episodes of Ms. Marvel, is set to make her feature film debut on the project. With Goldsman penning the script, the film is only in want of a movie star at its center–and Smith is the obvious choice. Perhaps the team is waiting to see how his AppleTV+ film, Emancipation, is received before solidifying the casting. Smith may still be toxic in Hollywood (is it fair to say that most regular folk are ready to move on from The Slap?), but he’s also one of the most reliable blockbuster stars of all time. In any other circumstance, this would be a sure thing—but will it be his ticket to reputation rehab?