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Why Bill Skarsgård’s Version Of The Crow Could Be Perfect



Feature By: Kat Hughes

This year, Alex Proyas’ The Crow reaches its 30th anniversary. Originally released in 1994, the film was overshadowed by the on-set tragedy that claimed the life of its star, Brandon Lee, days from completion of the project. Since then, The Crow has been viewed as something of a cursed property. Whilst there have been three sequels – each following the story of a different ‘Crow’ – none of them found success. A reboot of The Crow has been in development since at least 2005, and after changing director, script, and star multiple times, is finally set to release in cinemas on 23rd August 2024, with Swedish acting royalty, Bill Skarsgård, slipping into Eric Draven’s leather jacket and clown paint. 

When this latest outing of The Crow was announced in 2023, many fans of the series took the announcement of Bill Skarsgård playing Eric Draven in a film directed by Rupert Sanders with a pinch of salt. Most deemed that they would believe it when they saw it, but the release of a first-look trailer in March proved that it was actually happening. Rather than be overjoyed, the Internet was awash with people moaning on social media that the film looked terrible, and that Skarsgård himself will be awful in the role. Those thinking the latter however, have clearly not been paying enough attention to Bill’s career so far. 

Having captured attention in gothic drama Hemlock Grove, Bill Skarsgård has found his career closely tied to the horror genre. Since Hemlock Grove he has appeared in several high-profile genre offerings, including Barbarian, Castle Rock, and most famously, the It films in which he played Pennywise the Clown. Due to his association with horror, for those only familiar with this body of his work, seeing him as a vengeful love-lorn action antihero is a stretch. What these people are not aware of however, is that Skarsgård has been steadily building up credits in a variety of action films including Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, and John Wick 4. Whilst he might not have demonstrated his fighting prowess in these properties, he did have a front row seat for the intimate world of choreographed fights and intense stunt work. 

His latest action project, Boy Kills World sees Skarsgård take action centre stage for the first time. Skarsgård plays a deaf-mute man, known only as Boy, who embarks on a one-man mission to avenge the death of his family. Just from the short synopsis there is clear connective tissue to Eric Draven and The Crow. Replace murdered family with tortured fiancée and you have the same origin story. After training from a young age, Boy begins to dispatch members of the Van Der Koy dynasty, the powerful family responsible for the death of his mother and sister. This has direct parallels to The Crow in which Eric systematically hunts down and kills the men both directly, and indirectly, responsible for his beloved Shelly’s death. 

Although the stories may be similar, a narrative likeness cannot replace talent, and a key component to Eric Draven is that he can hold his own in a fight. The character of Eric Draven has appeared on screen twice already, once in the film by Alex Proyas, and the second in 1998 television series, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Both former versions of Eric Draven were played by renowned martial artists. Brandon Lee was the son of the legendary Bruce Lee, and, prior to donning the face paint, had been the lead in several action movies himself, including Rapid Fire and Showdown in Little Tokyo. In the television adaptation, Eric Draven was played by Mark Dacascos, an actor who also had a reputation for his work within action.

Unlike Brandon Lee and Mark Dacascos, Bill Skarsgård did not grow up immersed in martial arts. In fact, prior to signing on for Boy Kills World, he had little experience at all. This lack of knowledge did not deter him from committing 1000% to the role, and Boy Kills World’s director Moritz Mohr spent the film’s recent press tour singing the actor’s praises. Skarsgård has always been a very physical performer and this skill-set lends itself perfectly to action and fight sequences. In preparation for the film, Skarsgård undertook months of rigorous training learning a variety of martial arts including taekwondo, muay Thai, and pencak silat. This experience will have provided a sturdy foundation for him to build upon. Having already been impressive in Boy Kills World, his work in The Crow is sure to see him stand shoulder to shoulder with his predecessors.

The biggest outcry from the new The Crow trailer however, concerns how Skarsgård’s Eric Draven looks. The Brandon Lee version of Eric – long hair, leather trench coat and trousers – has become synonymous with those playing The Crow. Sequels The Crow: City of Angelsand The Crow: Wicked Prayer both stuck quite closely to this aesthetic even though the main characters were different. The Crow: Salvation tried to change it up by giving lead character Alex Corvis short hair, but the film was so underseen that most are oblivious. Rupert Sanders’ tattooed and stylised short mullet vision for the character of Eric Draven has outraged fans of the series. Many have likened his appearance to that of Jared Leto’s Joker, but this is not intentional. 

When James O’Barr wrote the source comic series,he included the lyrics of several popular bands of the time, including The Cure and Joy Division. His drawings of Eric Draven then mirrored the stylings of some of these musicians, most notably The Cure’s Robert Smith. When making a more modern adaptation of the story it therefore makes sense for this incarnation of Eric to reflect current music trends with artists such as Post Malone being cited as an inspiration. And for those aghast that Skarsgård does not have flowing locks, the comic book Draven sports a gloriously 80s spiked up mullet. So technically Skarsgård’s mullet, although different to the original, is cannon. 

Whereas the aesthetic of Eric Draven is important, so too is his demeanour. Having been resurrected to avenge Shelly, and his own death, Eric is driven by his desire to serve justice. That single-minded focus is a trait shared with Boy who is potentially even more tunnel-visioned than Eric. The next key component for someone playing Eric is an ability to show his vulnerability. Eric is consumed by his grief for Shelly, and when not fighting his enemies, is processing the pain and anguish of being separated from his love. Skarsgård demonstrates aspects of this in Boy Kills World, where his character is haunted by the vision of his dead sister. Similarly, his performance in The Devil All the Time allowed him to prove that he is an actor that can articulate a range of emotions from rage to regret. 

Finally, in order to play an entertaining Eric Draven there has to be an amount of gallows humour to the character. In both the original film and source comic there is a wonderful sequence during which one of Eric’s targets repeatedly tries to shoot him. These attempts are punctuated by Eric delivering a macabre joke about an Innkeeper and Jesus Christ. It takes a certain type of actor to pull off this particular style of humour; note that Skarsgård’s Pennywise revelled in dark comedy. Skarsgård’s portrayal of the fashionable Marquis in John Wick 4 also had a huge amount of dry humour laced within cutting remarks.

The most important aspect to take into consideration before jumping to conclusions about Skarsgård, and how good he will be in The Crow, is that this is not his first time reinventing an iconic character. An entire generation was traumatised by Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise in the 90s TV mini-series It. When Skarsgård was announced as Andy Muschietti’s Pennywise, fans were not happy. They initially claimed he was too pretty to play the maniacal monster, and then that no one could replace Curry’s performance. But Skarsgård did not want to paper over Curry’s Pennywise, he instead wanted to create an entirely new interpretation of the character. The resulting performance was one that won over a lot of people. 

Having already experienced the pressure of reinventing a beloved character, Skarsgård is well versed in how to pay respect, whilst simultaneously creating a role unique to him. Ultimately the proof of Skarsgård’s value as a more modern Eric Draven, remains to be seen. However, looking through his career to date, a strong case can be made for impending success. In many ways, Bill Skarsgård’s entire body of work appears to have been moving him towards this very role and it could just be the one that solidifies him as a full-fledged action star.

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