Todd McFarlane Reveals How Spawn Movie Changed and if He's Directing (Exclusive)

After years of languishing in development hell, Spawn is finding new life. Creator Todd McFarlane hired three new writers to rework his script for the Blumhouse-produced reboot of 1997's live-action Spawn, tapping the trio of Scott Silver (Joker), Malcolm Spellman (Captain America: New World Order), and Matt Mixon (Yesterday Was Everything). McFarlane, who has been developing the gritty reboot with producer Jason Blum since 2017, was set to make his feature directorial debut in the adaptation of his Image comic book with Jamie Foxx attached to star as the reborn Hellspawn Al Simmons. But in an exclusive interview with ComicBook at New York Comic Con, McFarlane cast doubt on making Spawn his feature filmmaking debut.

"I've been up on stage going, 'I'm gonna write, produce, direct, and it.' I've been pushing that on Jamie, and he's sort of in that world. The writers want to do something different. Let's leave it at that," McFarlane told ComicBook. "They don't want to repeat — nobody wants to do a $200 million special effects extravaganza. That's not what Spawn is to any of us."

Conceived by McFarlane as a lower-budgeted supernatural thriller, the comic book writer and artist says Spawn will remain a smaller-scale story — more Joker than Avengers

"We want to do something that, obviously, is entertaining, is visually interesting to look at, but hopefully leaves you with something when you walk away," McFarlane said. "You can go, 'Wow, that was a little bit deeper than I thought it was going to be.' The goal is to start a franchise." Not just a Spawn movie, McFarlane explained, but "start a franchise so that we have multiple movies coming right behind it that will, eventually, lead into the expansion of a Spawn universe."

As for how hands-on McFarlane will be after handing over the script to new writers, the producer said, "Part of the conversation I have to have with them, whenever anybody comes on board, is me giving them as much sort of freedom as possible, right? Because what fun is it to say, 'You gotta come in and you got to do it this way.' So they've got some ideas that are really, I think, really compelling, strong ideas for film that may not be tracking 100% with [a specific issue of the comic book]."

Asked if he'll stay on as director of the Spawn movie, McFarlane answered, "Here's the cold, hard reality. If you're asking Todd personally, 'Hell yeah!' But if you're asking Todd the CEO, I now have to be practical, and I have to say, 'If you're going to have all these [A-list] people jumping on board and then you're going to go into a studio and ask for a lot of money to kickstart this thing, is everyone going to want to put all of that into a first-time film director?'" 

According to McFarlane, the answer is "no." Instead, McFarlane will likely hand off directing duties to a more experienced filmmaker to package with the film's high-profile star and writers. 

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"As a CEO, my answer would be no. I'm not investing all that money and you're going to put a rookie in that chair. The reality of it is, if we get to that big moment — and I think we're gonna get there — I'm gonna probably have to take a step back on that," McFarlane said of directing Spawn. "And go, 'Guys, I get it. There's too much at risk to have a rookie here.' I become the weak link at that point. My goal at that point would be to get another A-list director, so then the entire package — actors, writing, directing — everything is A-list. So when we go into the studios to sell it, it becomes such an easy 'yes' from, hopefully, multiple people so we're looking at the best deal possible."

Watch the full interview with McFarlane in the video player above.