The Crow is a film franchise that was seemingly doomed from the start. It includes four films and one TV series and now, there is word that another Crow film was in the works, one that was to star two big hip hop artists.
When Brandon Lee was tragically killed on the set of The Crow, any thoughts of a franchise died with it. But then the movie premiered and something unexpected happened. It was a hit. A massive one at that and thoughts returned about making a franchise out of the popular comic book series.
Thoughts then turned into reality as producers came up with the first sequel, The Crow: City of Angels, and then began to work on a third, The Crow: Salvation. But between the second and third movies, an uneasy realization began to take hold. The franchise they hoped for was falling apart and it needed a jumpstart. This jumpstart was going to be called The Crow: Lazarus.
When screenwriter James Gibson was approached to write the script for The Crow: Lazarus, it came as a shock to the writer, for no other reason as to how the idea was brought to him. Producer Alessandro Camon approached Gibson after reading one of his treatments saying, “Jim. We really want to do a hip-hop Crow. Can you come up with ideas for that?”
The problem, in Gibson’s eyes, was “This is where it gets a little weird, because obviously, I’m a white Jewish guy. I think nowadays if they were going to write something set in that world, you’d want to go out of your way to get a writer of color. And really probably should have in the first place.”
James Gibson took on the challenge, regardless. It wasn’t long before a seed of an idea for The Crow: Lazarus began to grow. Back when Gibson was approached, the hip-hop world was in turmoil. There was the Tupac murder, then the Notorious B.I.G. killing, with everything in between and their possible ties to Suge Knight. Puff Daddy’s name was tossed in and how he might have even been involved with the Biggie death.
Gibson took these tragic events and began to form his own story for The Crow: Lazarus. “So, it’s an artist cut down in his prime. The people who killed him have devious motives,” Gibson explains via Bloody Disgusting. “So, we thought, ‘Okay, let’s have it be kind of what this urban myth is, that it actually was an inside job by the guy he thought was his friend and partner.’”
With his story for The Crow: Lazarus laid out, the next thing was to get someone who could play the part. Again, back in those days, there was only one person Gibson could see playing the part. “So when they first approached me, it was maybe late ’99, the biggest star in the world back then was DMX. He had just come off of having two number one albums in the same year.”
Plans were then made to visit DMX (who died recently from a cocaine-induced heart attack) with the story idea for The Crow: Lazarus and an offer for the movie. A meeting was set that only Gibson was to attend. DMX was staying at a Beverly Hills hotel and when Gibson arrived, he was greeted by an enormous amount of DMX security.
When Gibson entered the hotel room, DMX offered him weed and munchies, to which Gibson politely turned down. From there, Gibson was able to pitch DMX the story, which DMX loved and agreed to star in.
With DMX on board, it made writing the script much easier for Gibson. “When you’re writing for an actor, it makes it a lot easier in some ways. You know the persona, you know?” DMX loved the finished script.
The story would find his character, Lazarus, ready to call his career done as he wants to step away from the hip hop stage because his fiancée Mary is pregnant. Those in charge are not happy with this decision, especially those who are wanting to expand their music production business. But Lazarus’ mind is made up.
While on stage, masked men appear in the crowd taking aim at Lazarus. He is able to escape, along with Mary, but they are separated in two separate limos. The limo that carries Lazarus is ordered to be stopped. A car pulls up beside it, revealing gunmen who open fire on Lazarus. Mary, breaking free of the other limo, is shot in the back while trying to reach Lazarus.
It is now time for the Crow and Lazarus to meet.
Gibson’s story also involved what he called an “anti-Crow.” A bad guy who would have virtually the same abilities as Lazarus. While trying to come up with actors who could portray this part, they were approached by one Marshall Bruce Mathers. You may know him better as Eminem. His career was blowing up and he said that if DMX was going to be in the movie, he wanted to be in it as well.
The part that Eminem wanted was written for a Black actor, but Gibson retooled it to fit Eminem. The film was set to be Eminem’s first starring role, one that would precede 8 Mile by two years. “So, it was going to be DMX as the good guy, the most badass guy in the world with a lot of heart. Eminem playing a mustache-twirling bad guy, the most villainous guy in the world. Obviously a gigantic, huge soundtrack.”
While no one involved with the production saw any problems with this, Miramax, more to the point Bob and Harvey Weinstein did. They made their point perfectly clear as they squashed the film. “They [production crew] got a call from either Harvey or Bob Weinstein. It might’ve been Bob, because he was in charge of Dimension. ‘Nobody wants to see a movie with two rappers,’ was what he said. ‘Nobody wants to see a movie with two rappers.’”
The story was dead in the water. There would not be a The Crow: Lazarus although eventually The Crow: Wicked Prayer direct-to-video movie and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven TV series would follow.