Will The Crow reboot ever leave development hell? John looks at a story that began in 2009
The Crow is a superhero comic book created by James O’Barr and first published in 1989. The comic was created as a way for O’Barr to deal with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver.
In 1994, Miramax Pictures released The Crow motion picture adapted from the original comic book series. Starring Brandon Lee as Eric Draven and expertly directed by Alex Proyas, the film was a box office success for Miramax.
Sadly, some of this success was due to the untimely death of Brandon who tragically died in an on-set accident. Thankfully, the film could still be completed with the use of digital trickery.
Due to the success of the 1994 film, Miramax pushed ahead with a sequel. 1996 saw the release of The Crow: City of Angels starring Vincent Pérez (as The Crow), Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks and Iggy Pop.
It was later revealed that director Tim Pope had created a film that he felt honoured the original but Miramax wasn’t happy with the final product. Miramax went into the editing room and changed the film to match the original believing that this is what the audience wanted to see. The film was panned by critics and a flop at the box office.
Undeterred, Miramax felt The Crow franchise still had wings and continued to produce films as direct to DVD sequels instead.
Meanwhile, in the late 1990s, musician Rob Zombie had written and proposed to direct The Crow: 2037, a sequel/reboot to the original film. Ultimately, this project was cancelled before it gained any traction.
The Crow: Salvation was released in 2000 and starred Eric Mabius (as The Crow), Kirsten Dunst and Fred Ward. Presumably, the film sold a lot of units and in 2005 Miramax released The Crow: Wicked Prayer starring Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz and Tara Reid.
The less said about The Crow: Salvation, the better. It was a terrible film and when I lent the film out to a friend I never bothered to ask for it back!
— CORIN HARDY (@corinhardy) April 16, 2018
Director Corin Hardy location scouting for his version of The Crow
That was the last time a live-action film in The Crow franchise would appear. Then news broke in…
It was revealed that plans are afoot to bring The Crow back to the big screen under the control of director Stephen Norrington. He was the man behind the camera for the original Blade with Wesley Snipes and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
According to IMDb, Norrington had such a bad time on League that he vowed he would never direct again. Looking at his resume, this still holds true as he went back to his former trade in the special effects industry. His most recent entry was as a creature sculptor on Harbinger Down, an all practical crowdfunded horror film.
October revealed that Norrington’s first draft of the script for the new film had been very well-received by Relativity Media, the production company who now owns the rights to The Crow.
The film was now looking to start casting with a 2010 production date for a 2011 release. This would be the start of a very long journey to nowhere.
June 2010 and Edward Pressman, the producer of earlier Crow films told MTV that the reboot’s script is not only finished but also, “terrific” and “quite different” from the original film released in 1994. Pressman continued,
“The setting is the southwest – the Mexico/Arizona area – and an urban [setting], Detroit or Pittsburgh or something like that. There are two locations [on which the] film is set. Its initial platform is in the southwest and then it moves to the big city in the north, middle or eastern America, and then back.”
Director Stephen Norrington’s last film, The League of Extroadaniry Gentlemen, was widely regarded as a flop but this didn’t deter Pressman,
“Obviously it’s a different time and a different idea, but I think Stephen is a very talented fellow and I’m very excited to work with him. I think it’s a very different conception [than the original film]. After the first ‘Crow,’ there were so many other films that were inspired by it, by its look. Steve is an artist himself, and he’s created a very different visual idea.”
Pressman continued stating that even the crow itself may be very different in this reboot,
“The Crow itself is a creature in this movie – it’s not just a bird. It’s got a personality and a character. Not like Godzilla exactly, but it’s very different [and has] a more active role in the story.”
He finally stated that casting was well underway and hopefully the film would start shooting later that year.
Brandon Lee as The Crow from the 1994 film
Everything went very quiet until just under a year later in April when it was announced that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) had signed on the dotted line to become the new director of The Crow.
The same news story also included the mention of actor Bradley Cooper who was now in early talks to play the lead in the film.
Unfortunately, just a week later, the first set of legal problems arose that could potentially stop the remake in its tracks. The Weinstein Company claimed there was, “a written contract signed by everybody” which gives them the worldwide distribution rights to a reboot of The Crow.
The Weinstein brothers were a part of the original 1994 film as Miramax was their company. Even if Relativity Media sold the non-US distribution rights, whoever bought them would also face litigation as well.
Relativity Media quickly responded, “Clearly this is a feeble attempt to create a press stir and a malicious effort to interfere with Relativity’s development of the project.”
In July, Bradley Cooper gave an interview with Den of Geek to help promote the DVD release of his film Limitless. It transpires that he wasn’t as connected to The Crow reboot as previously thought.
Den of Geek asked, “Moving on to some future projects, how far down the road are you with The Crow at the moment?” Cooper simply replied, “I’m not sure where we are with that.”
Den of Geek responded, “Are you still committed to it?”
Cooper revealed, “It was never like that. It was something that got a lot of traction on the Internet, but I’m not sure where that is.”
A few weeks later in August, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Cooper was no longer interested in pursuing The Crow as it conflicted with the start of filming on his dream project, Paradise Lost.
The hunt for a new lead continues with two new names thrown into the ring, Channing Tatum and Mark Wahlberg.
October brings bad news for the project with the announcement that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has quit the project. No official reasons were ever given for his departure.
The start of 2012 brings more optimistic news when its reported in late January that the Weinsteins and Relativity Media have settled the rights issue out of court and,
“the parties will continue to work on the film together as planned”.
This good news was followed by an official announcement a few days later that a new writer and director have been hired.
Jesse Wigutow (It Runs In The Family)was to pen a new script with direction from F Javier Gutierrez whom at that point was best known for Before The Fall.
Vincent Pérez as Ashe Corven in The Crow: City of Angels
The following month saw a rumour appear that James McAvoy was being approached as the lead. This was later to be confirmed to be just a rumour and nothing more.
April, another new name was being bandied around for the lead role, Tom Hiddleston. Now world-famous for his role as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he allegedly was so keen on the role he had sent in make-up tests of his own to demonstrate his version of The Crow’s iconic look.
All of that effort may have been in vain, as in May a new name was being rumoured for the lead, Luke Evans. Apparently, he was the first choice all along but scheduling conflicts prevented him from joining the project.
Just a few days later, the announcement is made official. Whilst promoting Dracula Untold, Evans revealed in an interview,
“The Crow was a very poignant film from my childhood, which I remember vividly. The soundtrack, also. It was such a solid performance that Brandon Lee gave. It was a very tragic end for somebody that probably would have had a very promising career. I’m Eric Draven. I’m the same character. Obviously, he’s been refreshed and brought up to date. We’re re-imagining it to a certain extent, but the story and the plot is mostly the same.”
Some more promising news came in July when it was revealed The Crow’s creator James O’Barr had been hired as the film’s consultant, the idea of the current director, Gutierrez. O’Barr revealed,
“What Javier told me was that he wanted to go back to the source material. Be as faithful as possible which would make it something entirely different. [Alex] Proyas’ film is stunning and stylized. I mean that in a good way. Nothing negative about it. Going back to the original book and keeping it grounded and realistic and dirty and gritty, it really appealed to me.”
A new poster was also released promoting that at long last a new Crow film is finally going into production.
Nothing was heard for another six months until the start of 2014. With roles in both Fast & Furious 6 and The Desolation Of Smaug, Luke Evans profile was rising. In January, he spoke of the current status of The Crow reboot,
“Well, we just want to be as authentic and loyal to the original comic as possible, and [that] means the story will be different. It’ll be different from what people are expecting. It’s not about us ripping off the Brandon Lee movie – that stands alone as a brilliant piece of cult film and a great performance, but we’re going back to the book, the original book. And that’s exciting, because we’re bringing to the screen a lot of parts of the story that were never really told. So yeah, it’s our chance to do it, to do it differently, but be as loyal and respectful to the original storyline as we possibly can.”
Evans concluded by addressing the makeup and whether he will be wearing it.
“It’ll be interesting, won’t it, to do that? I don’t know how it will feel, I’ve yet to think about that too much. I’m just preparing, it’s all very physical at the moment.”
October and producer Ed Pressman who worked on the Brandon Lee original revealed that the reboot was scheduled to start, “in the spring”, adding “it still has a fan base even though it was so long ago”, noting that “the generation today doesn’t even know The Crow“.
In December, Luke Evans was promoting the final film in the Hobbit trilogy, The Battle Of The Five Armies. When Den Of Geek asked him if The Crow was still progressing, he replied,
“It’s not, no. No at the minute The Crow is not, not for me, I think it’s a little… I mean I’m sure it’s going to go ahead at some point, but I have other projects that are greenlit and ready to go and projects that I’m very interested in and you know, I can’t wait much longer! [laughs]”
It was also revealed at this time that director F Javier Gutierrez has become the latest to drop out but talks are already in place with Corin Hardy (The Hallow) to replace him.
Janurary starts with confirmation that Luke Evans has indeed left The Crow. With other projects greenlit and ready to go, he couldn’t wait any longer. The casting process begins yet again.
Eric Mabius as Alex Corvis from the third entry, The Crow: Salvation
Another month and another rumour with February’s new reporting that Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) is in early talks for the lead whilst also shooting the new Ben Hur film.
This was confirmed the following March along with the surprise announcement that Jessica Brown Findlay is taking on the role of Eric Draven’s fiancee, Shelly Webster.
The end of May brings further casting news that the film’s villain, Top Dollar would this time be female and Andrea Riseborough is signing up to play the part.
Cliff Dorfman has penned the current version of the script which may finally start shooting before the end of the year.
Does anyone feel like they’re going around in circles? In July, just three months after the confirmation, Jack Huston drops out of the project. Jack said,
“I was so excited about it. I was so sad. I had a great relationship with everyone. Luckily that’s all fine. It’s a scheduling thing. It was just a scheduling conflict. We were all so jazzed to do it. It was one of the hard decisions that I, you know, one can’t do and luckily they’re brilliant and I just want them to just go and make a great movie so I’m just putting my heart out and saying I love everything about those guys”
Director, Corin Hardy added,
“Jack Huston is, unfortunately, unavailable to continue with us on The Crow. The Crow is an amazing project, and I am grateful that we have the time and patience to get it right. We look forward to unveiling our new lead and starting to film over the next several weeks.”
More unsubstantiated rumours emerge with new names for the leads including Jack O’Connell and Nicholas Hoult. Also, Forest Whitaker is allegedly set to sign up for a major role.
Just when it was looking positive for The Crow, along comes August and Relativity Media, the company backing this new reboot files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They try to sell off key upcoming projects in hope of keeping The Crow reboot alive.
The situation worsens in September when it is revealed that Relativity Media has so far ploughed $7 million into this project and if principal photography doesn’t start within the next 18 months, they lose the $2.5 million option of the rights to The Crow.
In a further complication, producer and The Crow rights holder, Ed Pressman, has lodged an objection about the rights belonging to Relativity Media saying they can’t be sold as they belong to him.
There is also the danger that current director Corin Hardy may leave the project as well despite him being “widely regarded as a key creative element” for the new film.
The Crow creator James O’Barr was, however, is very positive about the current status of the project,
“it’s still very much a live property. The company, Pressman Films, that owns The Crow film and TV rights, licensed it to a studio named Relativity. And Relativity made like a hundred bad movies and lost money so now they’re in financial trouble. So the producers are just going to take it to another studio if Relativity can’t get backing again. I talked to Pressman Films a couple of weeks ago and they said within two or three weeks, we should have it placed at a new studio. Because the day Relativity announced that they were having financial problems, there were like a dozen other studios that called about getting The Crow property. It definitely will happen”.
November and the news creeps back into a positive light. Relativity Media has survived the bankruptcy threat and The Crow is the next project to be set into production.
Director Colin Hardy has signed “a holding deal” to ensure that he gets to make the film. They still need to find a lead actor though.
Edward Furlong as Jimmy Cuervo in the worst and final film, The Crow: Wicked Prayer
That same month, director Colin Hardy speaks to Den Of Geek to promote his new film, The Hallow. They ask him about The Crow.
[Den of Geek] So… [I point at some photos on the table, where Hardy is dressed as Eric Draven] shall we talk about The Crow?
[Hardy] This was when I was 17, 18. I was obsessed with The Crow, and I have been ever since. The Crow graphic novel and the film all came out at a time when I was at art school and I was in my late teens and it was the superhero that really appealed to me. I grew up on Spider-man and the Hulk, but the Crow was the one I connected most with. So it’s a dream come true to be making it.
[DoG] Where are you with it now?
[Hardy] Well, we were deep in pre-production up until mid-June, I had full sets being built and a whole production coming together, and we’re just restarting that.
[DoG] I appreciate you probably can’t say too much, but – are you going back to the graphic novel? How are you approaching it?
[Hardy] Yeah, I mean, I probably wouldn’t get involved if it was about remaking the movie. I don’t like the idea of remaking movies. There are certain movies you can remake because they were a great idea but not done to a high standard, but I think The Crow is a really special movie. But the graphic novel is an iconic piece of work by James O’Barr, and that was as inspiring as the movie they made. So I’ve gone back to that and found a lot more depth and details. My version is authentically replicating that.
[DoG] Can you tell me anything specific, maybe something that wasn’t in the other film that you want to bring out in yours?
[Hardy] Let me show you… [opens his sketchbook to some concept art] I can’t tell you what I’m going to do, but this is part of it. [flicks through pages] The minute I got involved, I started drawing, and obviously it’s a great challenge. I didn’t set out to do sequels or remakes but this is a very special project, so I want to make something as deep and dark and romantic and violent as you’d want from a Crow movie.
A move into the new year and March brings another set of legal problems! Producer Ed Pressman lodges papers in court that will prevent Relativity Media from making any sequel, prequels or remakes of The Crow.
This is his legal response to Dana Brunetti, the current head of Relativity Media, who “summarily removed Mr Hardy as director of the picture”, according to the papers lodged in court in January.
An August Instagram post by Jason Momoa suggests he may be taking the lead role in the film. The picture was of Momoa and Hardy both enjoying a pint of Guinness.
Sources claim that Momoa has indeed taken the lead role but he is currently committed to Warner Bros. with the (originally planned) two Justice League films and Aquaman.
The following September and the confirmation arrives that Jason Momoa will play The Crow and is still on track to be directed by Colin Hardy.
The Crow is said to be a ‘priority project’ for Relativity Media now it has its funding back in place. Things are finally looking up once again.
However, news in November reveals that Relativity Media has been put up for sale and the rights are sold to Davis Films. What this means for the project is anyone’s guess at this point. Is this the end for The Crow?
May brings an interview with one of The Crow’s previously linked directors, F Javier Guttierez, who is now an executive producer on the project. Whilst a little unsure of what is currently going on, he reaffirms that this will be an R-rated film,
“With The Crow, I haven’t talked to them in a while so I don’t know what is going on with that, but we are going to do an R-rated movie. If any movie has to be R-rated then it’s The Crow. That’s how I got James O’Barr, the creator of The Crow, involved in the project because he said that if R-rated is the way that I wanted to go, he’s in. Even though I’m not directing it now, when I was going to be doing that, I explained to the producers that they had to read and understand the comic book and not make the film a PG-13 version because it would make no sense. Some movies are for young people, I get it and maybe you can do it, but this movie is not necessarily for those young people and toning it down would give you a ghost of what The Crow should be.”
An Instagram post by Jason Momoa in November of 2017
March and an official release date is revealed, October 19th 2019 for the US. The Crow is so close to finally being rebooted, what could go wrong?
June and the dominos have fallen, the house of cards collapses, we’re back to square one all over again. Almost ten years since the reboot was first announced and the project has completely imploded on itself.
In a surprise announcement both Jason Momoa and director Colin Hardy leave the project due to the infamous tagline of, “creative and financial difficulties”.
Producer Samuel Hadida, head of finance at Davis Films, was apparently the straw that broke the camels back. Failing to make a deal with Sony Studios over the worldwide distribution has caused the project to come apart.
On Instagram, Momoa posted the following statement:
I’ve waited 8 years to play this dream role. I love you @corinhardy and @sonypictures unfortunately I may have to wait 8 more. Not our team. But I swear I will. James O’Barr sorry to let you down I won’t on the next. This film needs to be set free. And to the fans. Sorry. I can’t play anything but what this film deserves and it needs love. I’m ready when it’s right. Love u Corin aloha j
Colin hardy also took to Instagram not only post this teasing photo of Momoa in Crow makeup, but also this heartfelt statement:
I knew from the off, that the idea of making a new version of The Crow was never going to be for everyone, because it is a beloved film. And I say that as someone in love with it myself. But I poured everything I had into the last 3.5 years of work, to try & create something which honoured what the Crow stood for; from James O’Barr’s affecting graphic novel, to Alex Proyas’s original movie, with great respect to Brandon Lee and with the desire to make something bold and new, that myself, as an obsessive fan, could be proud of. And with @prideofgypsies Jason Momoa, and my amazing team of artists & film-makers, we came SO close. But sometimes, when you love something so much, you have to make hard decisions. And yesterday, deciding it was time to let go of this dark & emotional dream project, was the hardest decision of all. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.
And that’s where this long story of development hell comes to an end.
Will anyone start up this process again? Several million have already been spent on pre-production and at one stage sets were being prepared. Will this cost be written off or will they try to recoup their costs?
Maybe this is one project that even The Crow himself can’t bring back from the dead!
I’d like to give huge thanks to Den of Geek for not only being a fantastic site in their own right, but also being the source of information for this article.