Comic book character Spawn may not enjoy the same levels of recognition as Marvel stars such as Spider-Man and Hulk or DC’s Wonder Woman and Batman, but he has a long and storied history. Created by Todd McFarlane, co-founder of Image Comics, he first featured in Spawn #1 in May 1992 and has since found a life outside those comic books.
Spawn was adapted into a famously terrible 1997 feature film and an HBO animated series lasting from 1997 until 1999. A second animated series was touted by McFarlane in 2013 but was not picked up, despite reportedly being fully prepped and written.
The antihero has also appeared in numerous video games since the 1995 SNES title Todd McFarlane’s Spawn: The Video Game, including a guest appearance in Soulcalibur II which almost saw the character transferred into NetherRealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat X (McFarlane gave his permission for Spawn to join the roster of fighters but the offer wasn’t taken up).
In another offshoot, Clerks director Kevin Smith has been linked with BBC America to create a Sam and Twitch TV series, following the NYPD homicide detectives tasked with solving the most gruesome crimes in the Spawn universe. Yet the character’s biggest recent compliment was as an Easter egg in Ready Player One, where Spawn can be seen fighting alongside Batgirl.
As Spawn’s second big-screen outing beckons, here’s everything you need to know…
Spawn reboot cast – Oscar winner gets aggressive
Michael Jai White portrayed US Marine Al Simmons in the 1997 feature film, having already portrayed boxer Mike Tyson in the 1995 HBO TV movie Tyson. The man looking to step into his shoes had very similar goals.
In July 2013, Oscar winner Jamie Foxx revealed he was “aggressively pursuing” the lead role in the proposed Spawn movie reboot, as well as a turn as boxer Mike Tyson in a future biopic.
“Spawn is one, yeah, and Mike Tyson,” the Amazing Spider-Man 2 actor said. “Those are two roles I would just love to do. I’m aggressively pursuing them.”
McFarlane had already previously revealed that an “Academy Award-winning actor” had expressed interest in the lead role, and it’s likely that man was Foxx.
The actor’s patience has paid off as it has now been confirmed that Foxx will play Spawn in McFarlane’s reboot.
Avengers’ Jeremy Renner has also added this franchise to his comic-book roles and will play a key role in Spawn.
He’ll portray the unconventional detective Twitch Williams, who McFarlane says is “on screen the most”:
“We needed as strong a person as possible because he will be the face of the film. I took my naïve Hollywood approach again, and said let’s start at the top and work down. Jeremy was at the top. I’m a huge fan of his.”
According to IMDb, both Todd McFarlane and Stan Lee will also have cameos in the film, although that has yet to be confirmed.
Any actors who do jump on board will need to believe in the project. Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions has revealed that almost the entire cast and crew will only make money if the film does.
“[McFarlane] and I aren’t paying ourselves any money out of the budget nor will any of the actors,” Blum said. “We’re using our usual tricks!”
Spawn reboot production and director – who’s in the hot seat?
McFarlane revealed in 2009 that he had received “five offers” to bring Spawn back to cinemas. “Everything from the big studios and the big-budgeted production with a lot of special effects, to a smaller budget,” he said, adding at the time that he was more interested in making a low-key “dark” and “grungy” film.
Two years later, he reiterated his belief that the reboot should be a low-budget project, adding that this would allow him to make his directorial debut alongside his scripting duties.
“There’s only one way a studio is going to say yes, that’s if it’s a low-budget movie. To be honest, as a producer, even I wouldn’t hire myself to direct a big-budget film,” he explained. “There are smarter people out there. But if you’re making it for $10 million to $12 million, you’re just going to go get some schmuck director, so let me be the schmuck.”
When McFarlane finally confirmed he had finished the rough draft he also restated that he wouldn’t be selling it unless he had complete creator control. “If you want to see the rough draft, I’ll send it to you,” he stated. “But just so everybody knows, I write, produce, direct, non-negotiable.”
Blumhouse Productions – responsible for horror hybrid hits such as Split and the Purge series – has since committed to making the low-budget superhero movie. Founder and CEO Jason Blum endorsed McFarlane to lead the movie.
“I think he’s gonna do a great job,” Blum said. “Being a director encompasses a lot of different skills, but one of the most important skills is you have to be a great manager.
“You’re kind of a general of this army that you have to lead into battle every day, and he does that in his life every day running McFarlane Enterprises.”
Spawn reboot plot – will it be a full reset?
Before he makes a Faustian deal with one of the rulers of hell, Spawn is a US military assassin named Al Simmons. Betrayed by his commanding officer and murdered by another sanctioned killer, Simmons returns from Hell to exact revenge on his killers.
Having accepted the job of leading Hell’s armies once his vengeance has been dished out, he also gains hellspawn powers including necroplasm armour. At least that’s the story told in the 1997 feature film. According to McFarlane, things will be very different in the reboot.
“Scrub the first movie, it was 20 years ago,” he has insisted. “It’s going to be a dark, R-rated, scary, badass script that’s tight, and it’s not a nice, polite PG-13 with ray guns.”
He has even gone as far as to say that it won’t be a superhero film: “It’s not a comic book movie, it’s just a scary movie, a creepy movie. Everything’s real except for one element, which happens to be the character we know as Spawn. It’s not going to be supervillain versus superhero. Think of The Departed with something moving in the shadows.”
Over the years, as the screenplay has taken shape, he has continued to describe the project as a dark fantasy embedded in the real world: “In this new version, there are no supervillains, archenemies or any of that. It’s just a spook movie, something scary going bump in the night. I think I can shoot that for almost next to nothing.”
“The world is going to be reality except one thing is going to move,” he also said. “Watch The Exorcist – it’s a real world except for one girl whose head sort of twirled… This is going to be my Jaws shark. The ghost is going to come out of the black. If you’ve got evil in your heart, you better watch out because [Spawn] will mess you up.”
With the script now complete – and having cited Get Out as an inspiration – that darker, harder-edged, R-rated vision has endured. “In the background, there’s this thing moving around, this bogeyman,” McFarlane has teased. “That bogeyman just happens to be something that you and I, intellectually, know is Spawn.
“Will he look like he did in the first movie? No. Will he have a supervillain he fights? No. He’s going to be the spectre, the ghost.”
Spawn reboot release date – How long we got?
The latest live-action Spawn reboot movie doesn’t have an official US or UK cinema date just yet. That’s McFarlane’s fault, as he readily admitted in the past, when he was being pestered by an Oscar-winning actor who was ready to go.
“They all say the same thing – ‘Fine, where’s the script?’ I haven’t finished it, so it’s still on me, but once I finish the script it’s going to go into hyperdrive because there are so many people waiting to do it.”
It wasn’t until Deadpool‘s R-rated success that the door opened wider for ‘adult’ superhero movies, suggesting a return for Spawn two decades after its first movie outing. At that point, McFarlane finally announced that the Spawn 2 script was nearly complete.
Production was supposed to start in February 2018, giving the film a vague 2019 release date, but cameras have still not officially started rolling yet.
Spawn reboot trailer – watch this space
We can’t wait to see what a darker, R-rated version of this antihero will look like. You can be sure when a trailer does finally drop there’ll be no overly CGI effects attempting to dazzle moviegoers, as Spawn does a Batman and retreats to the shadows.
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