EXCLUSIVE: Jamie Foxx is set to star in Spawn, the Blumhouse film that marks the directorial debut of Todd McFarlane from his scripted adaptation of his comic book creation. Foxx will play the character who started out in the comics as Al Simmons, a member of a CIA black ops team who is betrayed twice. After being set up by his cohorts to be murdered with his corpse set aflame, Simmons is double crossed in Hell. He is convinced to become a Hellspawn warrior in exchange for being able to be reunited with his wife. But Spawn finds himself stuck in a demonic creature shell, and that his wife moved on and married his best friend. So this is one pissed-off antihero who attends to dispatching the scum of the city in good and evil battles that encompass Earth, Heaven and Hell.
The comic was huge in the 1990s and was previously turned into an animated film and a live-action pic with Michael Jai White playing the character. McFarlane has long gotten overtures on a new live-action film that could launch a franchise, but he always had creative issues that led him to his own gritty low-budget version at Blumhouse. He expects the budget to be between $10 million-$12 million for a dark R-rated realization of his vision that will stack up favorably from both a creative and financial standpoint.
He doesn’t intend to tell Spawn‘s origin story and he expects his anti-hero to be a man of few words.
“The scariest movies, from Jaws to John Carpenter’s The Thing, or The Grudge and The Ring, the boogeyman doesn’t talk,” McFarlane told Deadline, acknowledging that he’s gotten odd stares from studio suits in the past on this approach. “It confuses people because of the comic book industry, and because they all default into their Captain America mindset and I keep saying, no, get into John Carpenter’s mindset or Hitchcock. This is not a man in a rubber suit, it’s not a hero that’s going to come and save the damsel. It’s none of that. At the end of the movie, I’m hoping that the audience will say either, is this a ghost that turns into a man, or is it a man that turns into a ghost? I’ve got a trilogy in mind here, and I’m not inclined in this first movie to do an origin story. I’m mentally exhausted from origin stories. Luckily, there’s a movie that just came out that helps my cause. In A Quiet Place, the first thing on screen is a card in black and white letters that says Day 89. It doesn’t care about what happened in those first 88 days. There are a couple headlines, but then we are on day 450. That movie doesn’t worry about explaining and giving all the answers. What it said in that case was, if you can hang on for a story of survival of this family, this movie will make complete sense for you.”
McFarlane wants to challenge Spawn aficionados and newcomers in the same fashion. “If you want to see something creepy and powerful where you go, just what the hell was that? I’m not going to explain how Spawn does what he does; he is just going to do it. We’ll eventually do some of the background if we make a trilogy, but that’s not this first movie. The first movie is just saying, do you believe? And if you believe than that’s good because I’m hoping to take you for a long ride with this franchise.”
McFarlane expects the envelope-pushing take might turn his biggest fans into his most ferocious critics. If there’s a touchstone film to his approach, it’s Jacob’s Ladder, a film that left audiences questioning whether or not the action on the screen was real or a nightmare.
If Spawn doesn’t have much to say, then why Foxx, the Oscar-winner who delivered so many memorable lines in everything from Django Unchained to Collateral and Ray?
“There are five or six moments where I’m going to need things from my actors, and a couple of them have to come from Jamie, and I’ve seen him deliver them onscreen,” McFarlane said. “He gets into a zone, with body language and a look that basically will say way more than anything i could type on a piece of paper, and this movie is going to need those moments. And in the odd moment where he has to deliver a line that’s short, curt and has impact, he can do it in a way that makes you go, ‘Whoa, I don’t want to mess with that guy. What a badass.'”
McFarlane adds that Foxx was the actor in his mind when he wrote the script.
“Jamie came to my office five years ago, and he had an idea about Spawn and we talked about it,” McFarlane said. “I never forgot him, and when I was writing this script, you sort of plug people in, and he was my visual guy and I never let go of him. When I got done and my agents and everybody was talking about what actor, I said, I’m going to Jamie first and until he says no I don’t want to think about anyone else because I’ve never had anyone else in my head. Luckily, he hadn’t forgotten either. I said, ‘Hey, I’m back to talk about Spawn again, and he was like, let’s do it.'”
Blumhouse chief Jason Blum sparked to the pairing.
“We are thrilled Jamie Foxx will be playing the title role in our movie adaptation of Spawn,” he said in a statement. “He is an incredible actor and a huge fan of the Spawn Universe that Todd McFarlane created. With the depth of talent Jamie can commit to the role and Todd at the helm bringing the world of Spawn to life, we could not be more excited for this film.”
Foxx sparked to the idea that his five-year wait to play the character will be worth it.
Said Foxx: “A few years back I flew out to Arizona to meet the man behind one of the most incredible comic book characters in the universe… Todd McFarlane. He was taken aback when I told him with the enthusiasm of a young child that more than anything I wanted to put my name in the hat to embody his beloved character Spawn…. I told him no one would work harder than me if given the opportunity… well… the opportunity is here!! I’m humbled and ready to transform… and to top things off the young Jason Blum is lending his brilliance to the project! Time to be great!!!! #Spawn.”
Foxx is repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment.