Julius Onah was on my short list of black filmmakers who I thought Marvel should at least talk to about directing "Black Panther" – filmmakers whose names weren’t at all part of the conversation (at least, what was publicly revealed before Ryan Coogler was hired for the mega-project).
But don’t cry for Onah (assuming you were), because he’s still attached to direct 2 high-profile studio projects – an update on one of them I’m writing about today.
Roughly 2 years, Onah was tapped by Paramount and J.J. Abrams to direct the sci-fi thriller "God Particle," from a script that was penned by Oren Uziel (“22 Jump Street”), 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, challenging all they know about the fabric of reality, as they desperately fight for their survival.
Last fall, it was announced that “Star Trek Beyond” co-writer Doug Jung had been hired by Paramount and J.J. Abrams’ to rewrite the script for “God Particle," which, given available evidence, read like a good idea, given Jung’s sci-fi cred. Although, as I said at the time, I hoped, if only for Onah’s sake, Jung’s hiring wasn’t the beginning of a series of rewrites, as the script gets passed from one writer to the next – which typically spells trouble (too many cooks, etc…
Skip ahead to last month to news from Paramount and Abrams’ Bad Robot that Onah’s "God Particle" was given an official release date of February 24, 2017, just about a year away at the time of that announcement. And, as I said then, it obviously meant that production on the lower-budget (by Hollywood standards) space thriller would definitely be kicking off very soon, given its apparent scope. Although the dating announcement didn’t come with a cast list; I assumed we’d know more in the coming days.
Skip ahead to news first reported by Variety today that David Oyelowo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw have been cast to star in the film, with filming set to begin some time in the second quarter of this year. Although no details yet on their individual roles. Regardless, this is project I’m certainly looking forward to checking out in about a year or so.
Both Oyelowo and Mbatha-Raw have been busy lately, with film and TV projects on their respective slates.
Long-time readers of this blog, going way back to its early days 6+ 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; His short film, "The Boundary," which starred Alexander Siddig was designated by Amnesty International as one of its “Movies That Matter,“ and was acquired by HBO. His feature film debut titled, "The Girl Is In Trouble" (starring Columbus Short), which was executive produced by Spike Lee, traveled the film festival circuit, and was eventually formally released last year.
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.