Todd McFarlane’s long-gestating Spawn movie is reportedly back on track with a new screenwriter, but even if it’s a reboot ignoring the previous adaptation, there’d be no better person to star in the lead role than Michael Jai White. In the original Spawn, which was released in 1997, White starred as Al Simmons, the man who dies and comes back to Earth as the titular vigilante Hellspawn. There were early plans for a sequel following Spawn‘s release, but the project died in development hell.
In the years since, McFarlane has been working on getting a new live-action adaptation of Spawn off the ground. There were reports of Jamie Foxx boarding the project in 2018 to play a new incarnation of Al Simmons with plans to shoot in 2019, but for whatever reason, that date came and went with no real progress made on the project. Producer Jason Blum told ComicBook.com the movie was still in “very active development” in May 2020, but the project seemingly has just been spinning its wheels since.
Recently, it was announced that screenwriter Brian Tucker (Broken City) has been tapped to write a new script for the Spawn remake with McFarlane still on board to direct and produce. Because so much time has passed, and given that a new writer is coming in to present a different creative take on the story, it’s unclear if Foxx is still attached. There is speculation that he might come back on board after seeing the new script, so as long as the busy actor’s schedule is open.
Foxx is certainly an incredible actor, someone who’s able to shine in biopics just as well as he does with fictional characters. There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t do well as Al Simmons in a Spawn movie as well. This does not mean he’s the perfect person at the top of the list to play Simmons in the Spawn reboot. That honor would have to go to Michael Jai White, who became synonymous with the role when he played Al in 1997’s Spawn.
Let’s not beat around the bush, here. That Spawn movie is rife with problems, and though it has a bit of a cult following these days, it was widely panned at the time for a myriad of reasons. Even White explained in a previous interview with THR that he wasn’t a fan, noting at the time, “There is no footage of me ever saying that I liked Spawn. I have never said that I thought that was a good movie.”
Even so, most everyone agreed that White in the role of Al Simmons was perhaps the movie’s brightest spot. While many Spawn fans weren’t thrilled about the movie, there were still many calling for Spawn 2 to see more of White in the role. Similar to how Michael Keaton had become synonymous with Batman, many fans had permanently associated White with Spawn, and there’s probably no greater possible casting announcement for the new movie than if the same actor were to return. Just look at the fan excitement surrounding Keaton’s return, even in a limited capacity, for The Flash.
It doesn’t seem to be that Todd McFarlane is necessarily looking for a much younger actor to play Al Simmons. After all, Foxx is just three years younger than White. To this day, White also continues to star in lead roles in action movies, as the actor is still in incredible shape and no less capable of playing Spawn now than he was two decades ago. His recent credits include Undercover Brother 2, Triple Threat, and Rogue Hostage. Welcome to Sudden Death, a Sudden Death remake starring White, became one of the most-watched titles on Netflix when it arrived on the streamer in October 2020.
There might be a few roadblocks in securing White’s potential return for the next Spawn movie. In 2019, he appeared to suggest he wouldn’t be involved with the project in an interview with ComicBook.com. White also said McFarlane’s vision for Spawn at the time was to keep the character mostly in the shadows, similar to how the shark in Jaws was mostly unseen throughout the movie. The actor doesn’t seem to be a fan of that idea.
“I don’t know anything about it. He’s been talking about a reboot of Spawn for 20 years,” White explained at the time. “I think he will continue talking about it, because people listen. I don’t understand it, personally. I wish him the best of luck. But, Todd explained to me that this will be a character that you didn’t see. You never see the character. It’s just a character that’s scarcely on film. Personally, I don’t get it.”
While White is totally out of the loop on Spawn, he would later admit that he’s up for making a special appearance in the reboot if the offer comes along. Speaking with ComicBook.com in December 2020, the actor said he’d consider a cameo appearance in the movie out of respect for the fans who loved him in the role. As far as he’s concerned, that’s all the motivation he would need to say yes, showing how much he appreciates the longtime Spawn fans for supporting him.
“Well, yeah,” White said when asked if he’d consider a small role. “Out of respect for the fans who put me where I am, I would have to say yes. Simply from that.”
If White is open to doing a cameo, is it that much of a stretch to believe he’d consider reprising the role of Al Simmons? Getting White and McFarlane on the same page creatively might be the biggest obstacle, but it’s definitely not impossible. For the sake of generating tremendous excitement from Spawn fans for the new movie, perhaps McFarlane would be best served giving White another chance to play the character in the R-rated Spawn movie that he always deserved.
“Everybody in Hollywood wants an R-rated, dark comic book movie, and Spawn is at the top of their list,” McFarlane said at Fan Expo in Vancouver last year, suggesting Joker‘s success will actually get the R-rated Spawn made. “The phone calls are coming in fast and rapid. I’ve been talking to a couple of Academy Award people, I’ve got the investors getting lined up. It’s changed ever since the Joker from being me begging them to do Spawn dark and creepy, to them asking.”
For now, fans of White can look out for him to appear in the upcoming action thriller The Commando alongside Mickey Rourke. As for Spawn, the project doesn’t have an official release date yet, meaning there’s plenty of time to work out a way for White to get involved. You can watch the original Spawn movie streaming on HBO Max.