EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired Brilliance, and will turn the Marcus Sakey novel adaptation into a re-team vehicle for Will Smith and Akiva Goldsman. Smith will star and Goldsman will write the script. They will produce with James Lassiter and Shane Salerno. Pic will be done as a co-production between Goldsman’s Weed Road, Smith’s Westbrook and Overbrook, and Salerno’s The Story Factory.
The premise: If 1% of the world’s children were born with powerful gifts, how would society adapt to them? The Brilliance novel trilogy is set in a future where non-neurotypical people — demonized by society as “twists” or “abnorms” — are threatening the status quo of the “normal” population with their unique gifts. They are officially labeled as “Brilliants” and are carefully tracked by the government.
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Smith will play the book series hero Nick Cooper, a federal agent who works for the Department of Analysis and Response. His job is to track down and terminate criminal abnorms who use their gifts for ill. The agent is himself an abnorm, with a gift for predictive analysis that allows him to see what will happen before it happens and react preemptively. He is also the father of a Brilliant daughter.
As he infiltrates a radical group of Brilliants who plan to incite a civil war, he uses his own gifts against his Brilliant enemies, like an assassin who perceives time faster than his opponents. When Cooper is ordered to hunt down John Smith — the country’s most elusive and most dangerous abnorm — everything Cooper believes in will be called into question. As one of the abnorms he’s hunting tells him, “You can’t stop the future. All you can do is pick a side.”
Sakey has since published the sequel novels A Better World and Written in Fire, and the Amazon-published book series has sold nearly 2 million.
There is a lot of history here. This is a return to the project for Smith, who circled it at Legendary/Universal before exiting to star in the Peter Landesman-directed Concussion. Smith and Goldsman are teaming for their fourth film together. The other three — I, Robot, I Am Legend and Hancock — collectively grossed around $2 billion. At Paramount, the project was championed by Paramount Motion Pictures Group president Wyck Godfrey, a producer on I, Robot. Par’s Alex Jackson will steer it with Godfrey. The author will be co-producer.
Sakey’s deal was made by Salerno at The Story Factory, and Smith and Salerno are repped by CAA; Goldsman is repped in the deal by Hansen Jacobson Teller.
Smith is coming off the billion-dollar grosser Aladdin and has Bad Boys For Life upcoming. He will next be seen in the Ang Lee-directed Gemini Man, which Paramount releases October 11.