Thanks to the ongoing superhero craze, comic book adaptations have been flying off the development shelves and into production, for better or worse, and it certainly seems to be a profitable path to take. Last year, three of the top ten highest-grossing movies released were comic book adaptations, and series like The Walking Dead and Arrow are fast becoming tent-pole shows for their respective networks.
However, while heroes like Thor and Captain America are building their own franchises within the Marvel movie universe and the Man of Steel is already gearing up for another fight in Superman vs. Batman, the less kid-friendly comic book characters have had a tougher time of it. Standalone movies for Deadpool, Venom and Daredevil are all either treading water or sinking to the bottom, due to their hopeful screenwriters and stars trying to push for R-rated superhero movies.
Todd McFarlane's movie reboot of his comic creation Spawn is another project that's been talked about for many years, first as a sequel to the 1997 movie which starred Michael Jai White in the lead role, then later as a full reboot. Now it seems that Spawn could be the R-rated anti-hero to lead the comic book bad boy revolution, as McFarlane says that he's set deadlines to turn in a script by the end of the year, and to begin filming in 2014.
Speaking to The Gate, McFarlane admitted that what has recently been slowing down Spawn's development is his own preoccupation, rather than lack of interest from studios or financiers. Ever since Jamie Foxx, who will soon be starring as Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, admitted at Comic-Con that he's "aggressively pursuing" the lead role in Spawn, the weight of an Oscar-winning actor has been on Spawn's side. All that McFarlane needs to do now is finish the script:
"The thing that keeps slowing it down is that the negotiation I've done is I write, produce, direct, but I've got to push a lot of my other endeavors off to the side so I can just get tunnel vision on it. Everybody at my company is now going, 'We've got to find Todd the time to finish all this.’"
Since the titular character of Spawn, also known as Al Simmons, burns to death in a fiery inferno before returning to Earth as a disfigured but extremely deadly hellspawn, there's plenty in the source material that could earn an R rating in a faithful movie adaptation. However, since movies with more mature ratings inevitably snip off some of the potential box office take from younger audiences, this would make Spawn more of a financial risk.
When Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick pitched their R-rated movie, they argued that the risks of an R rating could be offset by making the movie for a modest $50 million, and McFarlane seems to have something similar in mind for Spawn:
"I think it's a quick shoot. It's not going to be a giant budget with a lot of special effects, it’s going to be more of a horror movie and a thriller movie, not a superhero one. I've got so many people phoning now that I've got to get it done. I've made some promises to people this year."
If Dan Aykroyd's ongoing Ghostbusters 3 campaign has taught us anything, it's that the driving forces behind potential movies aren't always reliable when it comes to quoting potential shooting dates or release plans. With that in mind, McFarlane did say that his current goal is to deliver a finished script to his producers by the end of the year, and to begin filming in 2014. He also managed to talk up the interest from Foxx as much as possible, without actually naming the actor:
"We’ve had some big names... come to the office and go ‘We want to be in it.' Sometimes they give me their pitch, I give them my pitch, I go, ‘We can get in it, this is how it goes’, and so those types of actors - Academy Award guys - they’re going, ‘As soon as that script's done, we’re going.' So once we get this thing done, we’ll get it off the ground with some big names.”
With all these plurals floating around, McFarlane almost makes it sound like he's been approached by multiple Oscar-winning (or Oscar-nominated) actors who are all fighting over the role of Spawn. Perhaps that is true, but Foxx's name alone should be enough to get studios interested in a Spawn reboot with a reasonably low budget and an emphasis on horror and thriller elements rather than caped superhero antics (though Spawn does have a cape, so he'll fit in with his mainstream comic book movie buddies in that respect).
Do you have faith that a Spawn reboot is really on the way, or will you only believe it when the cameras start rolling? Tell us if you like the idea of a scary movie approach with Foxx in the lead.
If Spawn does begin filming in 2014 then it could be in theaters by 2015. We'll keep you updated on any further news.