We take a look at the troubled history of the still unmade The Crow reboot – which has been in development hell for 14 years.
At the time of writing, The Crow reboot has been stuck in development hell for 14 years. The original is regarded as a cult classic, but obviously some feel it’s time to remake the film again for a new generation.
The Crow, a superhero comic book originally created by James O’Barr, was a way for him to deal with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. The first issue was published in 1989 and later went on to become a cult success.
In 1994, Miramax Pictures released The Crow motion picture, adapted from that original comic book series. Starring Brandon Lee as Eric Draven and 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 Lee, who tragically died in an on-set accident three days before his filming was due to be completed. The Crow was able to be completed with the use of digital trickery to finish the necessary shots involving Lee.
Due to the film’s success, Miramax pushed ahead with a sequel. 1996 saw the release of The Crow: City Of Angels starring Vincent Pérez, Mia Kirshner, Richard Brooks and Iggy Pop.
Director Tim Pope said that he’d created a film that he felt honoured the original – but Miramax wasn’t happy with the final product. The distributor went to 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 still had wings and continued the franchise as a series of straight to DVD films instead.
In the late 1990’s, Rob Zombie had written a script which he also wanted to direct. Entitled The Crow: 2037, it was a sequel/reboot to the original film. As reported by Variety in 1997, “Pic begins in 2010, when a young boy and his mother are murdered on Halloween night by a Satanic priest. A year later, the boy is resurrected as the Crow. Twenty-seven years later, and unaware of his past, he has become a bounty hunter on a collision course with his now all-powerful killer.”
Zombie had visited the set of the original film during production, and appears in the sequel, also providing a song for the soundtrack. After seeing his work on the music video for the song, The Crow franchise producer Edward Pressman gave him the opportunity to direct a third film. It’s never been revealed as to why, but ultimately this project failed to materialise.
The Crow: Salvation was then released in 2000 and starred Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst and Fred Ward. Despite poor reviews, the sales must have been strong enough for Miramax to press ahead with another film. 2005 saw Miramax release The Crow: Wicked Prayer starring Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz and Tara Reid. Putting it politely, Wicked Prayer is not a good film. This is a real low point for the franchise.
Time moves on and it’s 2008. It’s revealed that plans are afoot to bring The Crow back to the big screen under the control of director Stephen Norrington (Blade, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen). By October of 2009, it’s revealed that Norrington’s first draft of the script had been very well-received by Relativity Media, the production company who now owns the film rights. Casting was to start very soon with a 2010 production date and 2011 release.
Come June 2010, Edward Pressman, the producer of earlier Crow films, had told MTV that the reboot’s script was not only finished but also “terrific” and “quite different” from the original released in 1994.
He 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 Extraordinary 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.”
Despite those promising words, the following month Pressman reported to the press that the renowned musician and screenwriter, Nick Cave, would be rewriting the script. Remember, just last month the script was “terrific”.
The casting stories started in October when the trade press reported that Mark Wahlberg had been offered the lead role. However, with no further news forthcoming, it’s suggested that he declined.
Everything went quiet until April 2011, when it was announced that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) had signed on the dotted line to become the new director. That same news story also name checked actor Bradley Cooper who was now in early talks to play the lead. Unfortunately, just a week later, the first set of legal problems arose that could potentially stop the remake in its tracks – and this wouldn’t be the first time.
The Weinstein Company, the owners of Miramax, claimed there was, “a written contract signed by everybody” which gives them the worldwide distribution rights to a reboot of The Crow. Even if Relativity Media, the current rights owners, 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 2011, Bradley Cooper gave an interview to Den of Geek to help promote the DVD release of his film Limitless (chatting to the editor of this very site, as it happens). It transpires that he wasn’t as connected to The Crow reboot as previously thought, revealing that it was mostly an insignificant story that was blown out of proportion.
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 for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.
The hunt for a new Crow continued, with two names thrown into the ring – Channing Tatum and Mark Wahlberg (the latter apparently being given a second offer).
By October 2011 there was bad news, with the announcement that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has quit without giving any official reasons as to why.
The start of a new year looked optimistic, as it was reported in late January 2012 that the Weinsteins and Relativity Media had 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 creative pair had been hired, with writer Jesse Wigutow (It Runs In The Family) was to pen a new script. A new director was hired in the form of F. Javier Gutierrez.
The next couple of years saw many a star rumoured to be attached to the project – including James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston (who was reportedly so keen he sent in his own make-up tests as the character) and Luke Evans. None of them, however, remained attached to the film for long. Promising news came in July 2013, when it was revealed The Crow’s creator James O’Barr had been hired as the film’s consultant, the idea of director Gutierrez.
Finally, it looked like the film was set to go into production in 2014, but the months came and went with no further news. Eventually, producer Edward Pressman revealed that the reboot was scheduled to start, “in the spring (2015),” 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.“
It was also revealed that director F. Javier Gutierrez had become the latest to drop out, but talks were already in place with Corin Hardy that would’ve made this his feature directorial debut. Hardy would later go on to direct The Hallow and The Nun. In early 2015, rumours suggested that Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) was in early talks for the lead whilst also shooting the new Ben–Hur.
This was confirmed shortly after, along with the surprise announcement that Jessica Brown Findlay would be taking on the role of Eric Draven’s fiancée, Shelly Webster. Further casting news that the film’s villain, Top Dollar would swap genders and be played by Andrea Riseborough was announced in May.
Again, the curse of development hell continued and just six months later, this new version was falling apart. Jack Huston dropped out of the project, citing scheduling as the reason he couldn’t continue in the role. However, Corin Hardy made sure to let everyone know the project wasn’t dead.
“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,” he said.
Typically, more unsubstantiated rumours emerged, with names for the leads including Jack O’Connell and Nicholas Hoult. Also, Forest Whitaker was allegedly set to sign up for a major role.
But by August 2015 the whole reboot was on the verge of imploding. Relativity Media, the company that’d been trying to get this reboot off the ground for the past seven years, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They tried to sell off key upcoming projects in hope of keeping The Crow alive.
The money story continued in September when it was revealed that Relativity Media had invested $7 million into this project and if principal photography didn’t start within the next 18 months, they’d lose the $2.5 million rights option to The Crow.
The Crow’s comic book creator, James O’Barr, was however very positive about the current status of the project despite the financial troubles. “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”.
By November, the financial woes were settled and Relativity Media survived the bankruptcy threat. The Crow is fully expected to be the next project to be set into production.
Meanwhile, director Corin Hardy signed “a holding deal” to ensure that he got to make the film. Problem was, they still needed to find a lead.
Hardy spoke to Den Of Geek to promote his new film, The Hallow, and conversation turned to The Crow. “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,” he said.
In regards to his take on using the original comic book source material he said, “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.”
New year, news problems, as in March 2016 long-time The Crow producer Edward Pressman issued court papers that would prevent Relativity Media from making any sequel, prequels or remakes of The Crow.
And it transpired that Dana Brunetti – who is currently the head of Relativity Media, had “summarily removed Mr Hardy as director of the picture” as of January 2016, according to the papers lodged in court. Despite this news which could stop everything in its tracks again, 2016 carried on with no further mention of the legalities. Then in August, rumours suggested that Jason Momoa was taking the lead.
The news broke when Momoa posted an Instagram of himself and Corin Hardy, both looking very happy with some big news to announce.
View this post on Instagram
Despite sources claiming this to be true, Momoa was at the time committed to two Justice League films and the spin off, Aquaman.
By September it was confirmed that Jason Momoa would be The Crow, which is still to be directed by Corin Hardy. It also remained a priority project for Relativity Media.
However, it was too good to be true when in November 2016 Relativity Media was put up for sale and the rights were sold to Davis Films. What this means for the project is anyone’s guess at this point.
In May 2017 an interview with one of The Crow’s previously linked directors, F. Javier Guttierez, revealed that he’s still an executive producer on the reboot. 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.”
In November 2017, Momoa posted on Instagram accompanied by a piece of concept art, stating that he’s still eager to play the character.
View this post on Instagram
Almost a year later in March 2018, a release date was unveiled (again). The official US release date for The Crow would be October 19th 2019 in the United States.
By June 2018, fate had ensured that they were back to square one. Almost ten years since the reboot was first announced, history repeats itself and the project collapses.
In a surprise announcement, both Jason Momoa and director Corin Hardy leave the project due to the infamous tagline of, “creative and financial difficulties.”
Producer Samuel Hadida, head of financing studio Davis Films, was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. In failing to make a deal with Sony Studios, he caused the project to come apart.
On , Momoa posted the following statement, “I’ve waited 8 years to play this dream role,” he wrote. “I love you [director] @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”
“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 came to an end… for a while.
Out of the blue on April 1st 2022, on an outlet not known for April fool pranks, a report stated that once again, The Crow reboot is back on track with an entirely new team.
The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reveals that Bill Skarsgard, who played Pennywise the Clown in the hit 2017 remake of the Stephen King horror film It, will star in the reboot.
Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman, Ghost In The Shell) will direct, with Edward Pressman, who’s been the producer since the 1994 original, retains that position. The script was written by King Richard scribe, Zach Baylin.
The $50 million project is apparently well into pre-production, with a reported shooting date of June 2022 in the confirmed locations of Prague and Munich.
Despite all the major movie websites repeating this news, nothing’s been heard since – except for one Prague news site claiming this is a new television series and not a film.
It’s not uncommon for films to go silent until the marketing team starts their campaign with a couple of photos, a first poster and then the initial teaser trailer. However, especially considering the long-troubled history, you can’t blame Crow fans for remaining skeptical until then…
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