Joker’s Scott Silver, Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Malcolm Spellman and rising scribe Matthew Mixom are teaming on a new script for the feature, which has been in development at Blumhouse since 2017. Jamie Foxx remains attached to star as the anti-hero, who was first introduced in the comics in 1992, with McFarlane among the film’s producers.
McFarlane had been eying the director’s chair, and wrote a previous draft of the script. But the comic book writer and artist acknowledges he may not be the right person to direct, particularly now that some of the highest profile writers in the comic book movie space are involved.
“If we’ve got an A-list actor, A-list producers, A-list writers, then do you want to shoot for A-list directors, A-list cinematographers?” McFarlane tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The answer is, ‘of course.’ Let’s keep the momentum going.”
Spellman notes that Spawn holds a special place for him.
“I grew up in Berkeley, which is a comic book city. Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN character was always one of my favorites — a Black superhero that was no bullshit, he was cool and dealt with modern issues,” says Spellman in a statement. “Myself, Matt Mixon, and Scott Silver are pledged to honoring what Todd started and what SPAWN is at its core, delivering something that’s relevant and edgy and unlike any other superhero movie out there.”
Silver and Spellman have both have put their stamps on the comic book sphere in different ways. Joker defied expectations in 2019, earning more than $1 billion globally and earning Joaquin Phoenix a best actor Oscar, while Silver and director Todd Phillips nabbed adapted screenplay Oscar nominations. Silver, who was previously Oscar-nominated for writing The Fighter, is currently penning a sequel to Joker with Phillips. He is repped by CAA.
Spellman created The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the Disney+ series starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. The series was praised for tackling social issues such as institutional racism in a way never before portrayed in a comic book adaptation. He is currently writing the high-profile Captain America: New World Order for Marvel Studios to star Mackie. He is repped by CAA and Industry Entertainment.
Mixom came up in the world of documentaries and helmed the 2017 music doc Yesterday Was Everything, about the hardcore band Misery Signals reuniting ten years after their debut album. The writer is repped by manager Heller High Water.
Spawn was a launch title for Image Comics, the artist-founded publisher that is home to titles such as The Walking Dead and where McFarlane remains CEO. The original Spawn No. 1 sold 1.7 million issues and the character has launched games, an animated HBO show and a 1997 New Line movie starring Michael Jai White. McFarlane has kept the character a priority at Image, launching multiple titles over the past year.
In the comics, Spawn is a former black-ops agent who makes a deal with a demon after being betrayed and killed. The demon allows him to return to Earth, but when he returns, five years have passed, his wife has moved on, and he roams Earth as a disfigured spawn of hell.
While Foxx remains attached to star, the involvement of Jeremy Renner, who was previously attached, is to be determined, depending on how things come together with the new draft. McFarlane’s version of the script was for a low-budget feature, but the new Spawn may get a slightly heftier budget, says McFarlane, who along with the team is seeking a studio partner.
As for this latest iteration of Spawn, McFarlane cites seeing the R-rated Joker in 2019 as a turning point, with him wondering, “why not just go for the guy who wrote the movie?” He was pleasantly surprised that Silver said yes, and it snowballed from there, with the other writers joining in.
Says McFarlane: “It was a complete hail marry. Sometimes timing is everything.”