EXCLUSIVE: Interview With James O’Barr – What Does He Think Of THE CROW Relaunch?

As SciFiMafia reported yesterday, Steven Norrington’s relaunch of “The Crow” is slated to begin filming this summer, and there’s already some heated controversy over his take on the cult-fave character. Fans are loyal to James O’Barr ‘s graphic novel “The Crow” and the original film adaptation, directed by Alex Proyas which starred the late Brandon Lee. This significant fan following questions the validity of Norrington’s film to carry on the franchise name. A source close to the development says that Norrington’s relaunch will reportedly have nothing to do with the iconic Eric Draven character or original story at all. So, What does James O’Barr think of all this?

SciFiMafia conducted an exclusive interview with the creator of “The Crow and found out exactly what O’Barr thinks of this relaunch and the other sequels beyond the original film adaptation.

O’Barr said,

“Other than greed, there’s no reason to do this.”

“I gave “The Crow” a closed ending.  There is nothing new to add [to the story].”

But to start anew with this relaunch?  O’Barr is not optimistic:

“Honestly, I don’t think anyone sets out to make a bad film. So many things are involved because it’s art by committee.”

“This guy (Norrington) is inept. This is the guy that got Sean Connery to quit acting!”

I checked and O’Barr was right. Connery has not appeared in a feature film since Norrington’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” in 2003. He has done some voice-acting since then, but Connery has been absent from the silver screen. Even though O’Barr is speculating that this was the root of Connery’s reasons to retire from acting, it does not bode well for this relaunch effort.

O’Barr was not involved with Norrington’s relaunch, any of the previous sequels, or the television adaptation of “The Crow”. The comic book artist is fiercely protective of his character, the story, and the 1994 original film in which Brandon Lee, son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, lost his life in a tragic stunt gun accident on the last day of filming.

O’Barr talked a bit about making the 1994 film:

“I wanted to make it right the first time.”

O’Barr wielded a significant amount of power in the creative process and execution of the original film adaptation of his graphic novel.  Standing his ground on his creation, he disliked Hollywood’s insistence towards spoon-fed exposition.  For instance, how Eric Draven came back from the dead was never explained in the graphic novel.  O’ Barr prefers to treat readers with more intelligence and felt that he would leave that for the reader to interpret as their contribution to the experience of reading the story. Likewise with the film adaptation, he fought tooth and nail to keep the story on track.

At one point, a producer had seriously suggested turning the film into a musical to star a different pale musician, Michael Jackson. One treatment presented to O’Barr centered on Asian drug lords in the subways of Detroit, which is unrealistic since there are neither Asian gangs nor subways in Detroit. (O’Barr wrote “HA-HA-HA!” all over that one). Other high profile actors were considered for the starring role, including Jon Bon Jovi, Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, and Richard Grieco. In the end, it depended on the physical demands of the character and martial artist Brandon Lee was chosen when he showed that he could perform the character with intensity and depth while also being able to keep up with the stunt work required.

Thankfully, Alex Proyas and Brandon Lee were both fans of the graphic novel and stood in O’Barr’s corner. The director and actor helped steer the development of the 1994 film adaptation in line. Ultimately, O’Barr was satisfied with the end product. O’Barr protects the legacy of the original film with his original material in one hand and for Brandon Lee’s memory in the other. In fact, he had stepped in to promote the film to honor Lee.

How can Norrington (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Blade) dishonor “The Crow” with a seemingly unrelated relaunch? The Hollywood producers own the film and television rights to “The Crow” while O’Barr retains the publishing rights and owns the copyright of the character and franchise. Technically, the Hollywood types can do what they will with this relaunch, but heck, it’s not like we have to support it!

It looks like Ed Pressman and Jeff Most have had production involvement with all four films of the franchise plus this upcoming Norrington version. Ed Pressman was also among the producers of the television series, “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven”, starring Mark Dacascos. The Weinstein brothers were involved in the two movie sequels after the original- “The Crow: City of Angels”, starring Vincent Perez and Mia Kirshner and “The Crow: Salvation”, starring Kirsten Dunst and Eric Mabius. The last sequel, “The Crow: Wicked Prayer”, starring David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, and Edward Furlong, was Weinstein-less and arguably the worst of the bunch.

O’Barr does not approve of “The Crow” becoming like “a James Bond franchise” as the Hollywood types are apt to do and have succeeded in doing in this case. O’Barr continues:

“I don’t have a lot of faith because it’s the same producers that did the other sequels. I do give them credit for not using the Eric and Shelly characters because people are very affectionate towards Brandon and protective as well.”

“It’s Brandon’s achievement… the only film he ever made that he wasn’t in his father’s shadow.”

“Ed Pressman is all about money. Granted, the movies are about money,… it’s a small intimate story but if the core romantic element isn’t there, there’s nothing left!”

I posed the horrifying question about the current Hollywood trend- what if this relaunch will be in 3D? O’Barr laughs:

“I wouldn’t put it past them.”

Why do fans, old and new still gravitate towards this classic graphic novel? O’Barr says that the success of the book stems from everyone’s desire to be loved to that extent, to come back from the dead to avenge a wrongful death of their loved one. It is a story that resonates with generation after generation. “The Crow” graphic novel is in its seventeenth printing with 876,000 copies sold and still selling strong.

What say you? Are you on board with Norrington’s relaunch or will you line up to boycott it? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer
Written by Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer

is Senior Managing Editor for SciFi Mafia.com, skips along between the lines of sci-fi, fantasy, and reality, and is living proof that geek girls really DO exist!