J.D. Dillard's directorial debut Sleight charmed audiences and reviewers alike at Sundance back in January 2016. Soon it'll make its public premiere to cinemagoers across the world. The movie follows Bo (Jacob Latimore), a street magician/drug dealer who wants to extricate himself from a life of crime. But when his little sister is kidnapped, he has to use his street smarts and magic skills to try to save her.
Latimore's earnest and endearing portrayal of Bo is undoubtedly one of the highlights of #Sleight, but he's not the only young man carrying this film. Director Dillard is only 29, but his ascent from assistant to director's chair happened faster than he could ever have imagined. Let's take a closer look at what makes these two boy wonders so special.
For most people, working alongside J.J. Abrams on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be the pinnacle of career success. But for Dillard, it was only the beginning. In 2012, he started out as a receptionist at Bad Robot, Abrams' production company, before moving up the ranks to work as a personal assistant for the director's family. After observing Abrams in action during the creation of The Force Awakens, Dillard was inspired to finally turn his own dreams of directing into a reality. Now, he's made a name for himself as a talented writer/director in his own right, with Sleight debuting at Sundance to rave reviews.
While this sci-fi-tinged drama isn't an autobiographical piece for Dillard, the director did reveal to The Verge that there are definitely some elements to the story that were influenced by his own life:
"Bo's unseen relationship with his mom was something that I kind of pulled from personal experience. At the end of 2014, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she's good and everything's great, and she's beat it and we put it behind us. But — not to be a fatalist, but you find yourself asking questions you'd never asked yourself before. What your role in your own family is. Not that my situation would be me suddenly having to raise my sisters, but still, there are just those questions — what if some crazy news like that hits you?"
Dillard is already gearing up for his sophomore effort Sweetheart, currently in pre-production with Blumhouse. As with Sleight, Dillard penned the coming horror flick with his writing partner Alex Theurer. While little is currently know about Sweetheart's plot, we do know that it's set to star #TheFlash's Kiersey Clemons and Emory Cohen of The OA.
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In addition to Sweetheart, Dillard has also been tapped by Fox to direct a remake of the 1958 The Fly, which was famously remade in 1986 by auteur David Cronenberg. Should the deal come to fruition, Dillard will once again co-write the script with his writing partner Theurer.
It's been a big year for Latimore. At just 20 years old, he's already appeared in big-name films like Ride Along, The Maze Runner, and alongside Will Smith in Collateral Beauty. While most people might be just starting to register his name on their radars, Latimore's star has been on the rise now for over a decade.
Born into a musical family, he first decided to try his hand at performing at just 9 years old, recording and produced his own pop song "Best Friend" in 1995. It became something of a local fave in his native Milwaukee, gaining airtime from DJs and earning little Latimore plenty of gigs.
Yes, the song is just as adorable as it sounds. Go ahead and listen for yourself.
When someone from Disney heard Latimore's sound, they added him to the Radio Disney's Incubator program, a platform for featuring up-and-coming young talent. Soon after, he landed a record deal with Jive Records and scored his first movie role as James in Vanishing on 7th Street.
Latimore described his road to success to Indie Wire:
"As I got older, I just started trying different things. With the music, acting things came along, so I was just like, "Let’s just do it. Let me try it." I started doing small, local stuff around the city of Atlanta — commercials, little voice-overs, really small stuff. My first movie audition came. I just booked it. Now, I’m on my seventh film."
Like Dillard, Latimore's career is only revving up. He's got a small role in Krystal, an upcoming comedy starring Rosario Dawson that's due out later this year, and will also appear in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit, which dramatizes the 1967 Detroit riot, one of the deadliest public uprisings in US history.
You can catch Sleight in theaters from April 28. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the trailer below.