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It can’t rain all the time, Supa-Fans! In 2024, The Crow is finally set to break a decades-long struggle to reinvent the franchise and will return to cinemas with It star Bill Skarsgård swapping Pennywise’s clown makeup for Eric Draven’s own. As early as 2008 plans for a reboot of the classic 1994 film (based on the bestselling independent comic by Supanova alumnus James O’Barr) had been in the works, but countless setbacks and behind-the-scenes changes had led many to believe the project was destined never to be made.
While the list of actors eyed to tackle the role once made famous by the late Brandon Lee included everyone from Bradley Cooper and Tom Hiddleston, to Nicholas Hoult and Jason Momoa, ultimately the honour would fall to Bill Skarsgård, whose older brother Alexander was once considered a potential favourite some ten years earlier.
Yet long before cameras finally started rolling on The Crow reboot in July last year, another actor attempted to follow in Lee’s enormous footsteps via the short-lived 1998 television series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Played by John Wick 3 star and upcoming Supanova guest Mark Dacascos, Stairway to Heaven was the first and only other attempt at returning to Barr’s original character despite a string of other sequels which each introduced new characters who returned from the dead and were set on their own respective courses of vengeance.
With Dacascos set to join us for Supanova in Adelaide (4-5 November) and Brisbane (11-12 November), we thought it might be timely to look back at Lee and Dacascos’ time in the makeup and see what Skarsgård’s version will have in store for fans of the franchise.
Brandon Lee (1994)
Anyone who has seen 1994’s The Crow will likely agree that Lee’s tenure as Eric Draven was pitch-perfect, and the film continues to stand not only as a testament to the late actor’s enormous talent, but also as one of the best comic book adaptations of all time. Dark, emotional, and hauntingly beautiful, Lee’s performance stands as the pinnacle of his all-too-brief career which was tragically cut short due to a fatal accident that occurred toward the end of production.
While Australian director and Supa-Star alum Alex Proyas was ready to abandon the film altogether out of respect for Lee, it was the actor’s own family who convinced him to finish the film using a combination of CGI and stunt doubles to flesh out the small handful of shots he had not yet completed. The finished product would go on to become an instant cult classic and remains a much-beloved film to this very day.
Yet while it may be hard to imagine anyone else playing the role, before Lee was cast as Draven the film’s producers were looking at several other hopefuls, including River Phoenix, Christian Slater, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sexton, and Jon Bon Jovi. It would be Lee, however, who eventually won over the original creator O’Barr, and secured the role shortly thereafter. Not only would he go on to lose over nine kilograms to play the role, but he would also assist in choreographing many of his own action sequences and perform most of his own stunts.
Without doubt, Lee is the quintessential Eric Draven, and while it is exciting that the property would continue without him, his memory remains central to its enduring appeal.
Mark Dacascos (1998)
Despite multiple attempts to capitalise on the popularity of The Crow, perhaps the best attempt at building on Lee’s critically acclaimed movie was the 1998 television series adaptation helmed by Dacascos. While the 1996 sequel The Crow: City of Angels strayed away from reinventing Lee’s character, instead opting to have Swiss actor Vincent Pérez star as a new character named Ashe Corven, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven would return to both the 1994 movie and the comics which inspired it.
Despite being constrained by seeking to appeal to a PG-13 rated audience, Stairway to Heaven would not only touch on many of the same beats featured in Lee’s movie, but it would also harken back to comic book elements such as the Skull Cowboy who was ultimately cut from the Proyas film. Sadly, however, the show’s production also experienced its own share of tragedy when a special effect shot went wrong and claimed the life of veteran stuntman Marc Akerstream.
Running for 22 episodes, the series was generally well-received by critics and drew strong viewership numbers, buoyed by Dacascos’ charismatic turn in the leading role. However, when the show’s original production company was sold to Universal in 1999 the decision was made not to renew it for a second season.
While there were plans to film a follow-up television movie to tie up loose ends from the season 1 finale, it would never eventuate. Instead, the poorly received sequel film The Crow: Salvation would be released on video after a brief one-week stint in cinemas in 2000, followed again by 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer.
Bill Skarsgård (2024)
For years it seemed that ambitious plans to reboot The Crow would never happen. While fans got close in 2018, back when Jason Momoa was attached to the role under the direction of The Nun’s Corin Hardy, that too would fall prey to the same fate as countless other attempts before it.
However, in March 2022 original producer Edward R. Pressman announced that the project was still very much on track, and within a month Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders was officially announced to be taking over, using a script penned by Creed III and Gran Turismo screenwriter Zach Baylin. As the dominoes finally began to line up, Skarsgård was announced as Eric Draven shortly thereafter and British recording artist FKA Twigs was cast as his fiancée Shelley. Other confirmed cast members include actress Isabella Wei, Peaky Blinders star Jordan Bolger and Wonder Woman actor Danny Huston, whose own nephew Jack Huston was once attached as Eric in a previous iteration of the project.
Fans worried this latest attempt may fall afoul of the same kinds of delays as previous attempts need not worry, as filming officially wrapped in September last year. Most recently, Lionsgate swept in to pick up distribution rights and set the film’s release date for some time in 2024. Additionally, with work on the film already largely completed and currently moving through post-production, it is unlikely that the ongoing SAG-AFTRA actors’ strikes and WGA writers’ strikes will affect the movie’s planned 2024 release.
While only time will tell if Skarsgård will live up to the actors who came before him, fans are keen to see Eric Draven’s return to the big screen. Though the legacy of Lee’s original movie will never be diminished, as Dacascos has already proven fans of The Crow can still come to embrace different iterations of the property while continuing to honour Lee’s turn in the role.
LEAD IMAGE: Mark Dacascos as Eric Draven in ‘The Crow: Stairway to Heaven’ (1998)