What should Will Smith aim for, if he wanted to combine the sci-fi smarts of an I, Robot or an I Am Legend with the tearjerkery of a Seven Pounds or a Pursuit of Happyness? Well, he could do a lot worse than Daniel Keyes' novel Flowers For Algernon.
Clearly he's already realised this, as the project is being set up at Sony by Smith's own production company Overbrook Entertainment. Tracy Nyberg, behind the scenes on I Am Legend and Hancock, is on hand to produce.
The story, which began life as a short piece in 1959 and was expanded to full-length in 1966 (winning the Hugo and Nebula awards respectively), is narrated in epistolary form by Charlie, a man with a below average IQ who undergoes experiments that make him into a genius. The cost is alienation from everything and everyone he knows, before it's revealed that the process was flawed and its effects are only temporary. The Algernon of the title is a lab-mouse whose fate foreshadows Charlie's.
There are lots of flashbacks to Charlie's childhood, and some romance (not to mention sex, which tends to get it banned from American school libraries), plus heavyweight themes circling around society's treatment of the mentally ill, and the split between intellect and emotion.
Surefire academy material then, as demonstrated by Cliff Robertson when he took home the Oscar for the 1968 version Charly. Smith, who's been nominated twice but not yet won, must be crossing all his fingers and toes. Expect this before Hancock 2 or Bad Boys 3.