For years now, Todd McFarlane has been talking up a potential big screen reboot of his signature creation, Spawn – which “spawned” an HBO animated series back in the day and a film starring Michael Jai White.
Last year saw some real movement on that end, as Blumhouse, the home of horror hits like Get Out, The Purge, and Insidious, announced a deal with McFarlane that would see the multimedia entrepreneur writing and directing a new horror-based take on the franchise – a direction that McFarlane compared to The Thing rather than a Captain America-style superhero approach as he recently alluded to in an interview with Deadline:
“The scariest movies, from Jaws to John Carpenter’s The Thing, or The Grudge and The Ring, the boogeyman doesn’t talk,” McFarlane told Deadline, acknowledging that he’s gotten odd stares from studio suits in the past on this approach. “It confuses people because of the comic book industry, and because they all default into their Captain America mindset and I keep saying, no, get into John Carpenter’s mindset or Hitchcock. This is not a man in a rubber suit, it’s not a hero that’s going to come and save the damsel. It’s none of that. At the end of the movie, I’m hoping that the audience will say either, is this a ghost that turns into a man, or is it a man that turns into a ghost? I’ve got a trilogy in mind here, and I’m not inclined in this first movie to do an origin story. I’m mentally exhausted from origin stories. Luckily, there’s a movie that just came out that helps my cause. In A Quiet Place, the first thing on screen is a card in black and white letters that says Day 89. It doesn’t care about what happened in those first 88 days. There are a couple headlines, but then we are on day 450. That movie doesn’t worry about explaining and giving all the answers. What it said in that case was, if you can hang on for a story of survival of this family, this movie will make complete sense for you.”
Today, the project took one more step towards becoming reality as Jamie Foxx has been cast in the role of Al Simmons/Spawn, and according to McFarlane, he had the Oscar-winning actor in mind for the role from the beginning of the process:
“Jamie came to my office five years ago, and he had an idea about Spawn and we talked about it,” McFarlane said. “I never forgot him, and when I was writing this script, you sort of plug people in, and he was my visual guy and I never let go of him. When I got done and my agents and everybody was talking about what actor, I said, I’m going to Jamie first and until he says no I don’t want to think about anyone else because I’ve never had anyone else in my head. Luckily, he hadn’t forgotten either. I said, ‘hey, I’m back to talk about Spawn again, and he was like, let’s do it.’”
McFarlane told the outlet that he expects the film to be a $10-12 million dollar affair, which is a staggeringly low figure. For comparison’s sake, The Sprit, which marked his colleague Frank Miller’s big screen solo-directorial debut, had a production budget of $60 million. So in terms of dollars and cents, this does indeed line-up with the lower cost, horror-inflected approach that McFarlane is promising. It will, no surprise, carry an R-rating.
The real test will be McFarlane’s own acumen for filmmaking. He’s had some experience directing animated music videos, but getting behind the camera on a big Hollywood production will be a new challenge – including guiding performances, acting as the administrator of an entire crew, etc.. We don’t have a ton of examples of comics creators coming into directorial roles, but there have been some notables with Miller, Dash Shaw, Marjane Satrapi and Hayao Miyazaki coming to mind most immediately – my comics twitter pals have also informed me that Kaare Andrews, Dave McKean, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Troy Nixey made the jump as well – certainly, there have been more comics creators becoming screenwriters but that list is unsurprisingly quite large when you think about it.
Anyhow, McFarlane, Foxx, and Blumhouse, a new Spawn is coming your way…presumably sometime soon.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.