With ‘Water Man,’ David Oyelowo puts contemporary, multicultural spin on ’80s classics like ‘Goonies,’ ‘Stand by Me’

Like so many children of the ’70s and ’80s, David Oyelowo grew up on a healthy diet of classic kid adventure classics like E.T. (1982), The Goonies(1985) and Stand by Me (1986).

“They have become part of the fabric of me, because I loved them so much as a kid,” the 45-year-old British-Nigerian actor and filmmaker told Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview (watch above). “To have reality and fantasy living so close to each other is what it’s like to be a kid. And it’s one of those things that we lose a little bit as we get older.”

Taking that to heart, the acclaimed Selma and Midnight Sky performer chose to reinvigorate the genre with his wondrous new directorial debut, The Water Man.

The coming-of-age drama written by Emma Needell follows the preteen Gunner (Lonnie Chavis), who relocates to a small town with his distant father (Oyelowo) and terminally ill mother (Rosario Dawson). After hearing the legend of “The Water Man,” an immortal who long ago cheated death and lives deep in the forest, Gunner sets out on a dangerous quest (alongside Amiah Miller’s Jo) to find the Water Man in hopes of curing his ailing mom.

Lonnie Chavis, David Oyelowo and Rosario Dawson in ‘The Water Man’ (RLJE Films)

While The Water Man proudly showcases its ’80s influences (including references galore that Oyelowo admits he just couldn’t resist), the film’s multicultural cast — a Black dad, a mother played by a Puerto Rican actress, a biracial lead character — is a welcome departure from those predominantly white films of yesteryear.

“When I was growing up, watching these kinds of films, I loved them, but I never saw myself represented in them,” says Oyelowo, who has four kids of his own with his wife and co-star, Jessica. “And I can literally see that my kids are being shaped by the content they imbibe.

“I want all people reflected. Not only reflected, but to see themselves front and center in these kinds of narratives. So absolutely part of my intention, for me personally butt also generally, is to have a world in which kids who look like mine can see themselves in het center of these kinds of narratives because it inevitably informs how they see themselves and how they see the world around them.”

The Water Man opens in theaters May 7.

Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo

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