In 1997, spurred by the uptick in comic book adaptations, Hollywood was on the prowl for the next superhero sensation. With first time director Mark A.Z. Dippé signed on to direct, New Line Cinema released Spawn, a hellacious fantasy from creator Todd McFarlane that was both a contemplation and satire of religious topics. Layered in tales of revenge and bloody vigilante justice, the character grew in popularity during the height of the comic book speculator boom, but it was the virtuoso special effects and John Leguizamo’s psychopathic portrayal as the overweight Violator that has truly been burned into our memories.
Almost twenty years removed from the feature film adaptation, McFarlane hasn’t given up on a second flick. While Michael Jai White originally filled the titular role as the mercenary Al Simmons, double-crossed by his boss and forced into a life of eternal damnation as a foot soldier of Hell, McFarlane has gone on record saying the reboot is still open to the right candidate. The script is already completed and, according to the esteemed comic book creator, the movie will stick to its horror origins. It’s going to take a man of significance size, in body or on-screen presence, to pull off a convincing Spawn. We’ve weighed the options in hopes that McFarlane and co. will consider our suggestions.
So without further ado, here are the 15 Actors Who Could Play Spawn In The Reboot.
15 Michael Jai White
If it isn’t broke, why fix it? It’s been nearly two decades since Michael Jai White appeared as the first live-action African American comic book superhero in Spawn. For most actors, time would not be on their side all these years later, but at 48 years of age, this martial artist has kept in shape to prepare his body for any intimidating roles that might come his way.
Since hitting his stride as the Special Forces assassin turned hellspawn Al Simmons, White has also starred as the crime lord Gambol in The Dark Knight as well as taking on roles such as Black Dynamite in the 2009 blaxploitation comedy of the same name. Performance-wise, White’s Spawn was physically imposing, appearing underneath heavy makeup following the metamorphosis of Simmons into the scarred anti-hero. With a gruffly voice and hardened exterior, he was a sizable choice for the role, living up to the malevolent revenge fantasy of the comics. White has admitted he would be interested in returning to an R-rated reboot, that is, if he isn't offered the role of Black Manta in Aquaman. With his body still at peak condition, we wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him don the suit one more time.
14 Cuba Gooding Jr.
One of the more accomplished actors on our list, Cuba Gooding Jr. has been on the scene since the mid-1980s, accumulating a wealth of roles that have exhibited the range of his talent. Most recently, however, his career has made a resurgence thanks to the popularity of American Crime Story in which he captured the subtle grimaces and noticeably concealed emotions of a mercurial O.J. Simpson. His performance as the football player on trial for murder has garnered him significant praise, and those outbursts of emotion are the just the type of volatile gestures that could translate well to another Spawn adaptation.
Todd McFarlane has stated on several occasions that he had a former Academy Award winning actor lined up to play the part of Simmons, and after filtering through the possible candidates most likely to take on the role, Gooding definitely seems like one of the more suitable suggestions. Of course, there could be some issues with him bulking up for the part, given Simmons’ heroic stature, but there will be plenty of time between now and filming for the actor to get into superhero shape, should he land the part.
13 Morris Chestnut
A domineering figure of what has been deemed Black Hollywood, Morris Chestnut’s career spans 25 years and includes urban classics such as Boyz N the Hood, The Best Man and The Brothers. Often perceived as a sex symbol due to his charismatic nature, he’s also proven to be extremely versatile, appearing in mainstreams successes such as American Horror Story and Nurse Jackie. At 47 years old, his age certainly doesn't show, and with muscles that rival any superhero in the game, he’s got the build to compete with any comic book creation.
Currently playing the lead in Fox’s primetime police procedural Rosewood, Chestnut isn’t afraid of the spotlight, but despite working on a consistent basis, he’s yet to come across the big starring role that could make him a major name among the Hollywood elite. At one point believed to be in line to appear as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, Chestnut quickly dispelled the rumors, but not before suggesting he would like to someday play a comic book character. He certainly fits the criteria for a role like Spawn, and with his appearance, he could easily make the transition to the dark anti-hero.
12 Harold Perrineau
In a career stretching three decades, Harold Perrineau has built a solid resume acting in projects like Lost and The Matrix trilogy. In that time, he has played a multitude of characters whose moral compasses were a bit out of whack. Among them was Manny, the guardian angel of John Constantine in the short-lived comic book series. In the time Perrineau had to develop the character, he became the most frustrating to watch, showing up at will to inject himself into the life of the occult detective and ultimately plotting against him in a devilish long con that was left unanswered in the show’s series finale.
Perrineau is no stranger to criminal activity either, playing baddies like Damon Pope in Sons of Anarchy and even voicing the vampire anti-hero Blade in the animated series. At 53 years of age, he definitely falls on the older side of the actors on our list, but provided he hits the weight room hard enough, he has the looks to pull off a family man with a checkered past. An enigmatic actor who can turn up the intensity, he’s got just the kind of commanding tone that will be needed for McFarlane’s vision to come to life once more.
11 Lance Gross
At first look, Gross might have the appearance of a superhero in the works (he’s certainly got the look and the charm) but his filmography says otherwise. As it stands, his biggest roles to date are in Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor -- not exactly the kind of resume builders that ring out superhero status. But upon further inspection, he doesn’t need all the extra work to make himself into a convincing hero. He has something better: an endorsement from Marvel that says he has what it takes.
Gross was reportedly a finalist to play Luke Cage on the Netflix series before Mike Colter finally beat him out for the part. The 35 year old had the determination, however, to seek out another comic book character to bring to life, going so far as to post a hint on his Twitter account that he wants to play Green Lantern. And while John Stewart would be a fine role for the actor, Gross might be better off going after something with a bit more meat on its bones. Sure, Marvel and DC have the extended universes, but Spawn is a dark, twisted fantasy come true.
10 David Gyasi
David Gyasi may not be a recognizable name now, but give it time and you’ll come to know him. The more prominent roles of his career have only recently started garnering him some much deserved attention, but as we all know, it takes only one part to really tilt the Hollywood gods in your favor.
Christopher Nolan and the Wachowskis are just a few of the talented creators who have brought Gyasi onto their films. Such bankable projects as The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar and Cloud Atlas have given the actor a chance to prove his worth, but most recently, he’s made an impact on the small screen as Major Alex “Lex” Carnahan in the CW’s viral outbreak drama Containment.
With so many big names floating around the comic book movie genre, it’s always a nice change to see a relatively obscure talent such as Gyasi make a run at the top. While we don’t foresee Spawn reaching the meteoric heights of some other superhero flicks, McFarlane has shown a key interest in keeping the production tight-knit, giving its lead a true chance to shine. It could prove to be a chance for a lesser-known star like Gyasi to hit it big.
9 Chad Coleman
As a Walking Dead alumni, Chad Coleman already has a previous connection to Image Comics, making him a candidate that should be heavily considered by the time casting decisions are finally made. During his three year stint on the AMC zombie drama, his portrayal of former NFL linebacker Tyreese Williams made him a rising star thanks to his physical prowess and fragility as an emotional big man.
With his distinct, raspy voice and intimidating build, Coleman already has the proven on-screen presence to make a convincing weapon for the Lord of Hell, Malebolgia. And as a soldier and family man questioning the morality of the U.S. government, there is another dimension to the more human side of Spawn that Coleman is even more suited to tap into.
Keeping with his past roles, he is set to appear next as the gangster Tobias Church in season five of Arrow. With his instant recognizability among TWD fans and now with a role opposite Oliver Queen lined up, this is one casting choice that could prove to be a popular one amongst comic geeks.
8 Aldis Hodge
Hodge is be considerably younger than the other names we’ve mentioned, but in the twenty plus years he’s been on screen (he made his acting debut at age 9), he’s demonstrated the ability to steal the spotlight from his co-stars with his strong portrayals and forthright attitude. Busting onto the scene as MC Ren in the acclaimed NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, his resume has slowly been building for years thanks to help from popular television series like Friday Night Lights and Leverage. Currently, he can been seen as Noah, a runaway slave escaping to the North through the underground railroad, in WGN America’s ten episode mini-series Underground.
As an actor with a growing presence, the 30 year old is set to star alongside action film extraordinaire Tom Cruise in the upcoming Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It seems inevitable at this point that Hodge's star power will only continue to rise, so it’s best to jump on the wagon early before the young gun becomes too hot to get. Spawn could be the kind of project that skyrockets him to fame, so if he has the look and feel, why not take the chance? It’s a bet that would likely pay off handsomely if he were to snag the role.
7 Colman Domingo
Most notable for playing Victor Strand in Fear the Walking Dead, Colman Domingo has become the surprise fan-favorite of the AMC spin-off series. Possessing the elements of a sociopath, Strand’s lack of empathy on FtWD combined with his calm demeanor in the face of imminent danger are strong indicators that Domingo has the wherewithal to embrace a grisly past with a path of gore-infused rage. But the deep-voiced actor’s fight against the dead isn’t the only experience that has us wanting to see him take on the demons of hell in the upcoming reboot.
No stranger to the stage, Domingo is the product of the roles he embodies. He struck it rich off-screen after scoring a Tony nomination for Featured Actor in a Musical for playing Mr. Bones in The Scottsboro Boys. With so much talent at his disposal, a demented murderer with the fires of hell at his side should prove to be a challenging career-booster for the veteran. There’s no room for fun and games when revenge is on the mind. Domingo has the skill set to bring on the horror as a Spawn that promises to amp up the supernatural thrills.
6 Billy Brown
An underutilized talent, Billy Brown has been hidden for most of his career, relegated to small supporting roles and voice work until his recent boost in popularity. Thanks in part to his hard working, straight-faced characters, Brown has chiseled a name for himself as detective Nate Lahey opposite Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) in How to Get Away with Murder. But before taking on the role of the serious love interest of Annalise, he appeared as the deadly drug kingpin August Marks in Sons of Anarchy.
As a strict business man, Brown encompassed the role of August Marks by looking every bit the professional despite carrying the weight of Oakland’s criminal activities on his shoulders. Capable of portraying the dangerous foe or respected law-enforcer, his tall and muscular frame will come in handy in a movie like Spawn. With his deep voice, Brown has exhibited both sides of Al Simmons: the gentler man with something to lose and the ruthless killer seeking revenge without remorse. If the two can come together to coalesce, there should be no concerns about whether he's up to the task.
5 Nate Parker
A multi-talented actor, producer, director and writer, Nate Parker is making his presence known for his visionary re-telling of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in The Birth of a Nation, a surefire Oscar-contender that he wrote, directed, and starred in. The passion project has been surrounded in controversy, but Parker’s portrayal as the revolting and undeterred Turner has proven to be a highlight of the feature, proving not only that the 36 year old has the chops to depict a tormented soul engulfed in sorrow and rage, but he has the gall as a performer to tackle issues with a determination to see his message through to the end.
It takes a self-effacing courage to play a superhero among a supporting cast of villains and potential bystanders, but for a character like Spawn, there should be no modesty when it comes to fighting against the injustices that led to his death. An inflamed aggression is necessary for the role of a psychologically perturbed anti-hero, and that’s the exact kind of enthusiasm Parker can bring to the reboot. With the looming shadow that hangs over Spawn, this is a casting decision that should bring an honest and accurate depiction to the comic book genre.
4 Sterling K. Brown
The second inclusion on our list to appear in American Crime Story, Sterling K. Brown has hit the ground running after being showered with acclaim for his portrayal of prosecutor Christopher Darden in the popular FX series. Now with an Emmy win for Best Supporting Actor under his belt, he has the necessary credentials to jump from the courtroom to the streets to become the next vigilante of justice.
Those who witnessed the quiet yet fierce performance from Brown in the O.J. Simpson trial known the actor is capable of turning out a riveting portrayal in the face of hardship and extreme setbacks. Fans of the CW series Supernatural may also recognize the actor as the former vampire hunter Gordon Walker, who goes off the deep in when he becomes a fanged creature himself. Although jumping into the role of a bigger production could prove to be a big adjustment for Brown, his most recent successes show he’s ready to make the transition. With enough intensity for the part and a physique which was glimpsed in Crime Story, this is one winning candidate McFarlane should give some heavy consideration when picking out the next Spawn.
3 Michael Kenneth Williams
Best known for shows like The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, Michael Kenneth Williams lands at our number three slot partially because of his open campaign for the role of Black Manta in the upcoming Aquaman. We’ve already expressed our opinion on how great Williams would be as the villain, but we can't shake the hope that the veteran actor will land a superhero part sometime in the future.
There’s something to be said about authenticity to any part an actor takes on. Whether it’s Omar Little or Chalky White, Williams has a way of channeling himself through his portrayals, bringing an unabated realism to his characters. Beginning his path to acting, he bounced from one project to the next and was intermittently homeless before eventually making it big. It’s his resiliency as an actor as well as his grizzled look, complete with a facial scar as a result of an assault, that makes him a perfect fit for the role of a black ops soldier shot down and forced into an infernal existence. We’d be lucky to see him as either Black Manta or Spawn, as either outcome would be a win for fans.
2 Omari Hardwick
Flashy, smooth-talking and calculated, Omari Hardwick has taken on a king of New York status as Ghost, the nightclub owner/drug kingpin leading a double life in the hit series Power. Although Hardwick’s performance still hasn't received the full attention it deserves, the title of his series couldn’t be more spot-on. He’s powerful not only in his delivery, which can be cold and lethal, but also in his physique (he once tried out for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers). At 42 years old, he fits the billing for an actor who can pass as a father by day and assassin by night, which should be enough to put him in the thick of the running.
Other credits to Hardwick’s resume over the years include notable films such as Kick-Ass and The A-Team, but while Hardwick spent most of his career avoiding larger roles, he’s become recognizable enough to stand tall as a hero himself. With a menacing stare that can strike fear into all who cross him, he's not to be taken lightly by anyone. If Spawn ever gets the green light, he’d be wise to throw his hat into the ring for the starring role.
1 Jamie Foxx
Fitting into the golden age of comic book adaptations can be tough for a mercilessly graphic and moody character like Spawn. Unless you’re Marvel, the chances are slim that an R-rated comic book hero is going to hit it big at the box office (we’re looking at you Deadpool). Luckily, a charismatic A-list celebrity could be enough to swing Todd McFarlane’s reboot in the right direction.
Jamie Foxx hasn’t only proven that he’s a man among boys when it comes to being the ultimate badass, he’s also shown a strong interest in playing Al Simmons. Foxx has stated on several occasions that he is aggressively pursuing the role, and after the stutter step that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we’d say he’s due for a superhero role that’s more suited to his talents.
With the right touch, Foxx could pull off the tortured anti-hero eternally damned to live life without a soul. McFarlane has promised to keep the production budget small to focus more on character development, so with less CGI spectacle, it’s going to take a high-caliber actor to keep the audience engaged. Foxx has the talent and name to turn a profit, making him an ideal choice to breathe life into the hellish hero.
Who do you think should play Spawn? Which of our picks were your favorites? Let u know in the comments.