Alex Proyas’s 1994 adaptation of the James O’Barr graphic novel of the same name, The Crow has a distinctly dank color palette that’s often imitated but never quite duplicated – a rain-soaked city and expertly crafted gothic miniatures came together to create the kind of hellhole no one would want to live in.
It’s a feat of pure cinema, but what’s often overlooked is the reality that the film’s iconic atmosphere was the result of Proyas and O’Barr attempting to find a visual workaround after their initial requests to shoot the film in black-and-white were denied.
Originally, they wanted the film to look more like the mostly colorless chiaroscuro comic to better reflect the wasteland and sense of loss Eric Draven was avenging, even outside of flashbacks, but those pesky – and now disgraced – producers at Miramax know as the Weinsteins said no.
Regardless, according to an interview given by The Crow production designer Alex McDowell for the film’s DVD behind-the-scenes featurette (via Slash Film), Proyas was determined to find a way around them.
“Right from the first meeting I had with Alex we discussed removing the greens and blues and really controlling the palette completely,” he said at the time. “So, the rain and the steam help out a lot because they just bleach out whatever color’s there, but that’s definitely been a very important part.”
McDowell continued.,“We’ve censored across the board, any cold colors, any blues, greens, or anything like that. We really tried to create a monochromatic palette with red, and so in terms of color, the red is kind of the revenge color.”
O’Barr was apparently pleased with Proya’s stylistic, as he asserted during production, “When I drew the book I drew it in storyboards and I always intended it to be in black and white with the flashback sequences in technicolor and Alex is pretty much doing exactly that.”
“He’s using filters and special optical effects to pretty much wash out all the color to keep this, keep it a really bleak film, and then the flashbacks are gonna be in this bright technicolor, vibrant reds, and yellows,” The Crow’s creator added.
Notwithstanding the monochrome palette being a lost cause and the darker-toned down colors working out, an important figure would’ve relished the chance to film in black-and-white stock: star Brandon Lee.
Sadly, the late actor didn’t have any sway and blamed the realities of Hollywood for creating a lost opportunity. “I would’ve deeply loved to shoot the whole film in black and white, personally I love black and white, I think it’s wonderful,” Lee said.
“It would’ve been great to do that and show, perhaps, just the flashbacks — which are a part of Eric’s real life, his life when he was alive – show those in color, as contrast,” he opined. “But, unfortunately, due to the realities – the very sh***y realities – of the film world, we weren’t given the opportunity to do that.”
Marked by the tragic death of Lee, The Crow was finished after his passing with the encouragement of his family and has stood the test of time, due in large part to the heaviness of Lee’s haunting performance.
In fact, it’s due to how beloved and immortal his performance is that a number of fans and those who worked on the film – especially Proyas – want Hollywood to leave the property alone.
However, their wishes aren’t stopping a reboot that’s been in the works for some years now from moving forward.
In the latest update on the project, IT actor Bill Skarsgard has replaced Jason Momoa as Draven, and shooting is set to begin this summer in Prague under the direction of Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman).
Additionally, The Hollywood Reporter says the production has cast British performer FKA Twigs as Draven’s fiance, Shelly Webster, and upgraded the character to a “co-lead,” indicating that indicates she does more in the film than simply die.
Could there be two resurrected avengers of the night in a departure from O’Barr’s graphic novel and the Proyas film?
Stranger things have happened but before too much is made of this report, keep in mind no one can guarantee their latest attempt at rebooting The Crow won’t fall apart like the others.
Would you have liked to see The Crow shot in black and white? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!