Before the “Marvel Decade” of comic book movie dominance, before movie fans really cared whether an actor had the same hair color or accent as the comic book character they were playing on screen, Warner Bros. (WB) delved into one of the more obscure corners of the DC Universe to deliver a movie only loosely based on the source material. WB ditched the awesome comic book title Hellblazer, instead choosing the last name of the chain-smoking anti-hero for the movie title, and then hired black-haired American Keanu Reeves with his surfer dude accent to portray the dirty-blonde Brit.
Constantine is considered a cult classic today, even more so in light of the resurgence in popularity of Keanu Reeves thanks to the John Wick franchise, rumors of Marvel and Star Wars roles, and his return to the Matrix franchise for a fourth film. The movie’s lackluster box office could be attributed to a great many things, but during a discussion about the movie during a Comic-Con@Home 2020 virtual panel celebrating the 15th anniversary of its release, producer Akiva Goldsman said it failed to perform because of it was cursed with an R-rating, saying there’s a “weird subset of religious horror” that gets rated more harshly. Director Francis Lawrence elaborated:
Originally when we all started on this we thought it would be a rated-R film. Warner then dictated that it had to be PG-13 because of what it cost. We got the list of guidelines of what you can and can’t do in a PG-13 movie and we followed those rules to a T. … I remember hearing that they got about five minutes in and put their notepads down. They said we got a hard R for ‘tone.’ This is not something that’s on the list. But, basically, there was an overwhelming sense of dread, was what I heard, from the opening scene on. And they didn’t think there was anything we could do about it.
You can watch the entire panel discussion, which includes John Constantine himself, below.
Reeves has expressed interest in reprising the role of Constantine, but rumor has it that J.J. Abrams may be developing something around the Hellblazer/John Constantine property. Abrams is currently developing Justice League Dark, which includes many DC anti-heroes including Swamp Thing, Deadman and Madame Xanadu so Constantine would fit nicely among those occult misfits.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros./DC Entertainment; Edit by Movie Nooz