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Todd McFarlane on the New Spawn Movie: A Hard-R That’s “Going to Scare the Crap Out of People”

At Dallas Fan Expo last weekend, Todd McFarlane took command of his own Q&A panel appearance, walking out onto stage with his own microphone and running down his entire career story (e.g., he was once fired by Marvel and hired by DC 12 minutes later), leaving little room for any actual questions from fans at the end. In fact, he seemed to anticipate what some fans might ask, addressing the long-gestating Spawn movie head-on during his presentation.

The update: As he’d already told EW in February, he has finished the script, which he first officially started working on in 2009, and he hopes to start filming soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean much. He similarly told Game Rant in 2013 that they hoped to start filming by 2014, but at that point he hadn’t finished the script yet. At least the script has a completed draft now. Many hurdles presumably remain. McFarlane’s made a deal with Hollywood whereby the only way there will be another Spawn movie is if he gets to not only write but also produce and direct.

Why the need for so much control? Because even though McFarlane had immense creative input on the 1997 film the technology simply wasn’t there yet, and New Line was adamant about maintaining a PG-13 rating:

The animated series was closer to what he wanted to do:

And both of these projects predate the comic book movie boom which X-Men kickstarted in 2000. It’s high time we get a proper Spawn movie. Just look at this wonderful fan video to see how much better Spawn could look in a new movie.

Why has McFarlane been taking so long to get this done? Oh, the usual. The money people don’t understand the character the way he does, and Hollywood’s well documented aversion to risk (an R-rated superhero movie?) is not so easily overcome (until Deadpool, of course).

First, the character part:

The thing that drove Hollywood crazy is I said, “Spawn never says a word.” That’s because the ghosts in the movies I like never talk.

They were appalled. They were going, “Todd, let me get this straight: You’re saying you want to do a movie called Spawn, and the main character doesn’t talk?”


“Huh. I don’t get. How is that possible?”

Well, you know, there’s this movie I saw when I was a kid. I don’t know if you guys have ever heard of it. It’s called Jaws, and that guy, that lead character didn’t have a whole lot of talking parts, as I recall. But he did a lot of cool stuff in that movie.

So the way this [new Spawn movie] is going to work this ghost is going to come and shadow people. If you’re on the wrong side and that thing moves, you better be watching out. There’s a big twist ending to it. It’s going to be big and ballsy. It’s going to be a hard-R, and we’re going to scare the crap out of people.

Now, the R-rated part:

It’s funny. It used to be, “You can’t do R-rated superheroes.” Now, thanks to Deadpool [pauses to do the sign of the cross to accentuate how indebted he is to Deadpool] everyone’s saying, “Oh, everything can be R.” To me, I’m looking [at Deadpool] and that’s a PG movie with a few F-bombs. No, no, no…I want to do a drama drama. We’ll see how it works out. If you guys are curious and want to see it check my Facebook and I’ll sneak you guys all behind the scenes stuff

It’s deeply amusing that anyone would describe Deadpool as a “PG movie with a few F-bombs.” Certainly those nearly full-frontal sex scenes demand at least a PG-13, right? However, speaking as someone who grew up on the animated Spawn series it seems about right that the guy who created that would regard Deadpool as being a tad tame. Plus, he seems to be referring to the film’s very basic storyline, not just its R-rated content.

I do wonder, though, how many people actually remember Spawn. I’ve never read the comics, and I haven’t re-watched the animated series in ages, although the whole series is illegally on YouTube in 3-episode installments. Heck, do you – yes, you, the person reading this article – know Spawn’s origin story and complicated mythology? My best recollection: CIA dude snuffed out by partner. Goes to hell. Makes deal to go back to Earth to check on his wife. Is resurrected 5 years after his death as a demon with limited memories of his former self. Mostly looks super badass with that red cape and those chains. There’s a creepy ass clown around being, well, creepy. Damn that clown used to give me nightmares.

The imagery within that fan film, as opposed to what parts of the Spawn story I remember, is truly what has me excited about the prospect of a big, ballsy, and incredibly scary Spawn movie. Heck yeah. Let’s throw some straight-up horror into the superhero movie formula, way more so than Doctor Strange will. What do you think?


    1. Agree to disagree. Blade made money, sure, but it’s also an R-rated vampire hunter movie, not a PG-13 superhero movie. Its success did not change minds the way X-Men did in 2000 when it scored one of the biggest opening weekends of all time to that point and ended in the year-end top 10.

      Anecdotally, I’ve heard far more producers, studio execs and filmmakers reference how much everything started to change after X-Men (e.g. WB was about to make a Bruce Waybe origin TV series, but then X-Men came out and they pulled Batman back to focus exclusively on him as a movie character. That’s why how we got Smallville instead of Batman Bwgins the TV show). I don’t hear that same thing with Blade. Moreover, if Blade had truly been the start of something new Fox wouldn’t have lowballed Bryan Singer on budget and showed such a general lack of faith in X-Men.

      1. Wrong. Nobody knew Blade was a cb movie rather it was part of the vampire craze that was popular back then & barely made over 100 mil worldwide. X-MEN made 300 mil & everybody knew that was a super-hero team franchise so it not only started the super-hero genre boom. It also made other studios open their eyes to team ups.
        Christopher Nolan (director of DC’s Dark Knight trilogy) thanked X-Men (not Blade) for opening the doors for his movies to be taken seriously & he knows more than you about the movie industry. Kevin Feige was executive producer for the entire X-Men trilogy for Fox before becoming president of Marvel Studios so Singer wasn’t alone he had alot of now MCU guys too. Yes Disney took super-hero movies to a new level. But give credit where credit is due & 20th Century Fox deserves the credit for making the cb genre popular & innovating the tone for them. As underrated as they’ve become they are still successful & did it again, making rated R super-hero movies break box office records.

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