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Why Todd McFarlane wants to keep Spawn hidden for most of his new movie

By Josh Weiss
Todd McFarlane and Michael Jai White Spawn

It's time for bad guys to fear the dark again. More than two decades after his Image Comics superhero flopped on the big screen in 1997, Todd McFarlane is hard at work on another feature-length Spawn movie in the realm of live action. Taking the reins as writer and director this time around, McFarlane is determined to fire on all cylinders with a hard R rating and the unique creative choice to keep his titular character hidden for most of the film, which he hopes will launch an entire series.

"I keep wanting to maybe be a little too cute with how I introduce Spawn," the writer/artist tells SYFY WIRE during a phone chat. "A lot of people reading [the script] go, ‘I need to see more of him.’ I keep saying, ‘He’s just my boogeyman in this movie, and then once we get to Part II, then he’ll come full flight into the afternoon light. But [in] the first one, he’s hiding in the shadows until it’s the right time to come out.’"


At the moment, McFarlane says he's still polishing up the script and securing independent money from individuals outside the regular studio system in Hollywood. That's because he wants a no-holds-barred adaptation of his comic that won't be watered down by executives wanting to reach the largest audience possible.

"I’ll get it done," he continues. "It’s probably taken longer than it should because I just [want to make the movie] the way I see it. At some point, you have to go, ‘Well, you’re also asking for tens of millions of dollars of other people’s money.' It’d be different if I was spending my own. And so [these backers] have a say in the process that I should at least be listening to to a certain level, or just go and raise my own money and do it 100 percent my own way. Anyway, it’s a balancing act. It can be frustrating at times, which is why I do my toys and my comic books on a daily basis. I can still be creative and not have the years in between the yeses in Hollywood."

When asked if the film needs to hit a certain number of beats in order to be a perfect Spawn film, McFarlane states:

"I don’t know if it’d be perfect. I’m hoping it’ll be badass and cool. It needs to be R-rated, I believe that to be true. And it needs to be R-rated not in a way that is Hellboy R-rated or Deadpool R-rated, but I’m talking R-rated because that’s just how scary movies are. It’s how true drama is; there’s a lot of drama in it. ... There’s a lot of real-life stuff in it, and to me, I just need to find the balancing act, so that people will understand who the character is."

On that front, he realizes that this can't just be an experience for longtime or die-hard fans of the comics. As with all superhero flicks, this Spawn adaptation has to appeal to fans and non-fans alike, so as to make money at the box office — that's a necessity, even if he's operating outside the usual Hollywood studio. Luckily, drawing people in is not the challenge it once was.

"With the giant uptick of what’s happened in the last eight years, 10 years [with] superhero movies, the globe is now enthusiastic to at least give a chance to comic book superhero movies," McFarlane says. "So I have to be aware that the vast majority of people who are gonna be going to this movie globally will have never read one issue of the Spawn comic book. I need to write a movie that acknowledges that. That doesn’t mean I need to do an origin story; it just means that moviegoers need to have a certain amount of information to be able to go for a ride in any movie."

Todd McFarlane

Right now, Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) and Jeremy Renner (Avengers: Endgame) are attached to play Al Simmons and Twitch Williams, respectively, but there's always a chance that they could eventually part ways with the project if development goes on infinitum.

There's no word on when production might begin, but hopefully McFarlane can lock down the script and funding soon.