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Sam Witwer as The Crow? James O'Barr on casting, Luke Evans exit, budget issues

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Feb 9, 2015, 5:35 PM EST (Updated)

Luke Evans may be out of Relativity Media's reboot of the 1994 film The Crow, but is Being Human's Sam Witwer in? That’s what comic creator James O’Barr is at least hoping for, as stated at a comic con panel this past weekend.

On a Saturday night panel at Wizard World Madison Comic Con (which I hosted, in the interest of full disclosure), O’Barr addressed the “elephant in the room” that is budget problems and Evans’ departure from the film in late January.

O’Barr and then-director F. Javier Gutierrez both selected Evans -- who called the creator to seek his blessing -- for the project in 2013, and the three acted as a unified front to make the movie they wanted to make. Filming was supposed to begin on a few occasions, with the latest date being March of last year. After being attached since 2012, Gutierrez left July 2014 and joined Paramount’s reboot of The Ring -- a departure that O’Barr said he encouraged because he didn’t want the director to stick around for a film that might not even happen.

Meanwhile, Evans has gone on to appear in box-office hits The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Fast & Furious 6 and took the lead in Dracula Untold, which grossed $215 million worldwide. Said O’Barr, who is a creative consultant on the film and has been part of rewrites, the option expired on Evans and now he’s too big a star and the studio couldn’t afford to pay him an A-lister’s salary.

The very candid O’Barr added that money issues were a big reason why filming hadn’t begun yet. He said he just very recently discovered that the film would begin rolling with a “$20 million debit” off the top due to the years spent in preproduction. For a film he wants to be small, gritty and like an arthouse flick, that’s a big chunk of change to lose right off the top.

But O’Barr maintains hope for The Crow. Corin Hardy, whose first film, The Hallow, earned raves at this year’s Sundance, is currently attached to direct. And O’Barr is pushing hard for actor Sam Witwer to play lead Eric Draven.

O’Barr said he has been in communication with Witwer for some time and thinks the actor has the look and ability to portray the protagonist from his comic. While he hasn’t headlined a film thus far, Witwer has developed a strong resume on television. He was a lead for four seasons on Syfy's Being Human and delivered memorable perfomances as recurring characters on Battlestar Galactica and Smallville. O’Barr specifically mentioned his work on Frank Darabont’s The Mist and Dexter as examples of the actor’s ability to slip into any character. 

Also going for Witwer is his strong genre following due to Being Human, BSG, Smallville -- as well as for voicing Darth Maul in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series and Starkiller in the successful Star Wars: The Force Unleashed videogame franchise. Currently he is providing the voice of Orm in the new Justice League: Throne of Atlantis animated movie from Warner Bros. (Aside: Anecdotally, when Witwer's name was mentioned, the comic con crowd seemed to unanimously agree with his casting, and the suggestion has since been met with overwhelming approval on my own Twitter feed.)

O’Barr said he still needs to convince Hardy of the choice, but when Evans exited, he phoned Witwer and told him he was now at the top of the list. He said Witwer’s reply was that he’d mow the creator’s lawn for the rest of their lives for the chance.

On another front, O’Barr emphasized that he was not looking to remake the 1994 film starring Brandon Lee. He said he likes “Brandon’s film” but not the “sh-tty sequels,” which he wasn’t involved with. He has no interest in touching the legacy of “my little baby brother,” but said that film wasn’t really his comic, and this one would be. It was actually a conversation with Gutierrez -- who flew to O’Barr’s home in Texas from Spain solely to speak with him -- that convinced him a new movie could more faithful to his graphic novel. 

O’Barr said the plan is to include elements from the book, which he said was the best-selling black-and-white graphic novel of all time, that were cut out of the '94 movie due to its small $10 million budget. Those might include the talking crow, or scenes that make the audience fall in love more with Eric and his fiancee Shelly before she is murdered by a gang -- scenes of which weren’t filmed for the original film because of Lee’s accidental death on set. He also said the film will be shot in Technicolor for some scenes, or black and white for others. He said moments such as “the incident” would have a 1970s-era dirty film stock look, like something out of Taxi Driver

What would you think of Sam Witwer in the role of Eric Draven?