Last week, we learned that a new live-action Hellboy reboot was in the works from Millennium Media and director Brian Taylor under the working title of Hellboy: The Crooked Man. It came a bit out of left field considering the series’ stock is still reeling after the 2019 adaptation starring David Harbour and the title itself hearkened to something altogether different from its predecessors. With the film already written, Collider‘s own Steve Weintraub got to sit down with Taylor for an exclusive interview to crack into this new take on Hellboy.
Originally, the Mike Mignola-created Hellboy was brought into the limelight by beloved director Guillermo del Toro with help from Ron Perlman as the titular demonic savior. Together, they created a pair of films that were able to mix sharp humor with supernatural elements and a working-class hero in a way that stood out among the superhero film crowd. It sadly never got the third film both del Toro and Perlman always hoped for, something made even more disappointing by 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army which showed the franchise was just coming into its own. While the Harbour-led reboot tried (and failed) to recapture that magic, Taylor wants to take his version in a new direction. Speaking to his love of the franchise, he told Weintraub about his intentions of following the darker Crooked Man run of the comics, saying:
“So first of all, I love the character of Hellboy and my favorite run of the character is this particular era. The GDT movies were massive scale space operas and just pure Del Toro through and through. But some of the comics Mike (Mignola) was doing at the time had a very different feeling. More lean and mean, creepy folk horror. A younger Hellboy, wandering the dark corners of the world… Paranormal investigator, night stalker… The Crooked Man in particular is just such an iconic book—written by Mike, drawn by Richard Corben, another legend. Set in the late 50s. For me it’s my favorite version of the character. So the appeal of this one to me, is to go back to that and do a real reset, and really give us that version of Hellboy, which I just don’t think we’ve seen yet.”
The Crooked Man comics saw Hellboy wander into 1950s Appalachia only to get pulled into a haunting case of witchcraft surrounding a man named Tom Ferrell and his deal with the local Devil, The Crooked Man. Ferrell has returned to where he first became a witch in order to atone for his sins and teams up with Hellboy, as well as a local witch named Cora, to venture up the mountains to a church in The Crooked Man’s domain. Mignola‘s comic pulls no punches with some truly disturbing scenes from cannibalistic witches to Tom’s father’s death, and even the Crooked Man himself whose true form is nothing short of nightmarish.
Taylor Wants to Stick Close to Mignola’s Original Work
Taylor confirmed that the new script comes Mignola himself along with partner Christopher Golden. “We started with a draft by Mike and Chris. Funny enough, a lot of what I’m doing is trying to bring it even closer to the original comic book than what they did.” Taylor elaborated that he plans on adapting The Crooked Man comics in a way that both sticks close to the books and centers on everything he loves about the run. “I guess the answer is both, you know? A comic book will never directly translate to the screen, but I will tell you that my intent in the movie is to really honor and bring to life the original comics.”
Part of making The Crooked Man work, however, is ensuring the graphic nature stays intact. In depicting the many horrors that befall Hellboy, Tom, and Cora in their journey up The Hurricane, there’s an opportunity for Hellboy to stick out with an R rating that would firmly separate it from Marvel‘s PG-13 domination. Luckily for Taylor, Millennium agreed. “I pitched an R-rated folk horror movie and the team here at Millennium have been nothing but supportive. It’s a great group of people, and they love horror,” he added. Furthermore, he emphasized that he and everyone behind the new Hellboy understood that this material needed to be R-rated to be done correctly:
“We’ve definitely had a discussion of, you know, it doesn’t really serve anybody to make something R for R’s sake. To say it has to be R so we have to add A, B and C. But this material, this original material is dark and scary and violent and adult. So in order to really embrace that, we just don’t wanna have any handcuffs on.”
Hellboy: The Crooked Man Will Have Three Leads
Considering the original comics run was as much about Tom and Cora as it was about Hellboy, it’s unsurprising then that Taylor revealed his reboot will have three leads. That said, the third lead won’t be Cora. “In addition to HB himself there’s Tom Ferrell, who fans of the comic book will know… a character I think inspired by Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer, from Weird Tales, great pulp folk horror tales from the 50s and 60s,” he said. “And there’s also a new character that Mike created for the film version that is gonna be a surprise.”
As for who will play the three leads, Taylor could only tease the actors that are involved in the casting process. Hellboy could be the most difficult. Perlman played the character with enough wit and charm to endear him to audiences and make him an icon while Harbour, for his part, was one of the few good things about the 2019 reboot. Finding a new Hellboy that can match their talents is no small feat. Regarding the big man himself, Taylor said, “I’m as excited to learn that news as anybody else is. But we’ve got some amazing actors who are in the mix and the goal is to break out a younger version of Hellboy.” He could only hint that they were close to bringing the other leads on board as well.
Filming for Hellboy: The Crooked Man Begins in April
Casting announcements will have to come very soon as Taylor confirmed filming for The Crooked Man starts in April. Shooting will primarily take place in Bulgaria, but the film will also be bound for Greece. Moreover, production will take place both on-location and in-studio. Taylor teased that extensive scouting was done to find locales that perfectly fit the folk horror tone of the comics as well as the look of 1950s Appalachia:
“We’ve been doing a lot of location scouting out here and the goal is to recreate 1950s rural Appalachia, and the locations that we’re finding, I think would make fans of the original comic really excited. Because some of these places just seem to have sprung straight from the pages. There’s a lot of haunted woods in Bulgaria!”
Weintraub compared the fast-moving production to a freight train barreling ahead at full speed while bringing aboard the necessary parts as it rolled along, a sentiment Taylor strongly agreed with. “Yes, it’s definitely a freight train. In fact, the movie literally starts on a freight train, it seems like you may have had some supernatural intuition here.”
Before wrapping up, Weintraub asked him what he’d like to tell fans about the movie. Taylor said that with Mignola‘s direct involvement and the director’s fandom, this reboot is coming from a good place:
“I want fans to know that we’re coming at this film, from a place of love for the original material, and for the character, for Mike’s character. We’re not trying to reinvent some completely different idea of Hellboy—we’re trying to get back to the feeling of these particular books from the mid-aughts. It’s something that hasn’t been seen on screen before, but it’s a version I think hardcore Hellboy fans will want to see. Anyway, I do.”
Stay tuned here at Collider for more on Taylor’s Hellboy reboot.