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The Classic Movies That Inspired David Oyelowo's The Water Man - Exclusive

The 1980s were a really magical time for children's entertainment. Not only was it a decade of perfect synergy between cartoons and action figures, but kids also got to enjoy movies that weren't afraid to be both awe-inspiring and scary. For example. the same year Steven Spielberg directed "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," he also produced Tobe Hopper's stunningly terrifying family horror film "Poltergeist."

However, for one reason or another, those live-action family films of the 1980s became less and less common over the intervening decades, between then and now. There are plenty of Pixar films, and we still get Studio Ghibli stuff, but those big, scary, beautiful live-action kid movies are sadly fewer and further between. If you're of a certain age, you probably sometimes wonder where the next "E.T." is. 

It turns out there's an incredible actor (and new director) who's been thinking the same thing — David Oyelowo. Looper sat down with Oyelowo to talk about his directorial debut "The Water Man" and the classic films that influenced it.

These are the kids movies Oyelowo considers perennial classics

"The Water Man" is a story about a young man who is searching for a mythical figure who he believes could save his mother from dying of leukemia. And much like Spielberg used "E.T" to explore one child's struggles with divorce, Oyelowo felt he was doing much the same with his first seat at the director's chair.

"Well, we share 'E.T.' as a big favorite," Oyelowo said of the movies he loved growing up. "I would add 'The Goonies,' 'Willow,' 'The Neverending Story,' 'Gremlins,' 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' These are all films that combined reality and fantasy and had kids at the center that had real agency, but they were kids who were also dealing with real life issues that propelled them into a sort of fantastical narrative."

Like a lot of people, part of Oyelowo's current love for these classics films stems from having children of his own — and that only propelled him further to want to make a children's movie of his own. "You know, now that I'm a father myself, I've found myself wondering why those films aren't being made as much, because they are classics for a reason," he said. "They sort of grow with you. I watched all of those films recently and with my children, and some age better than others, but at the end of the day, at their heart is sort of a universal humanity that just absolutely pummels through racial lines, age lines, time. They're just perennials, and they're classics for a reason. And so, I was looking for something in that hemisphere, and so when 'The Water Man' matter came along, I just knew it was for me."

"The Water Man" is in theaters now.