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How Did Universal Pictures Find Out They Owned Merchandising Rights to Darkman?

Darkman is an American superhero film directed and co-written by Samuel M. Raimi. It was released in 1990. The film starred Liam Neeson who played the scientist, Peyton Westlake. It was based on Raimi’s short story that pays homage to Universal’s horror films from the 1930s. But did you know how Universal Pictures found out that they owned Darkman’s merchandising rights? 

It wasn’t until toymaker SOTA asked for a license to make a Darkman action figure that Universal Pictures realized that they owned the merchandising rights all along.

Sam Raimi and The Darkman 

Before he made Peter Parker swing dance, Sam Raimi gave us one of the strangest superhero movies in a decade full of bizarre superhero movies. Teasers promised another dark avenger in the summer of 1990, following Tim Burton’s version of Batman.

Raimi and company delivered a twisted mash-up of pulp heroes like The Shadow and classic movie monsters tinged with the Evil Dead filmmaker’s signature blend of horror, action, and frequent bursts of comedy.

Darkman has amassed a sizable cult following over the years, thanks mainly to stellar performances by then-unknown actors Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand. Larry Drake’s Durant, a psycho who enjoys removing his victims’ fingers, was so effective that he got his sequel. 

But directing his first big-budget production was not an easy task for Raimi. He had to deal with multiple script rewrites, studio interference, and a vocal cast eager to push the boundaries of what a superhero movie could be.

Following the success of the Evil Dead films, Raimi expressed interest in directing either a Batman or a Shadow film. Of course, Tim Burton got Batman, and Raimi was unable to secure the rights to The Shadow. Instead, Darkman was created by combining The Shadow’s mastery of disguise with Batman’s tragic origin and gothic visuals. (Source: Uproxx)

The Failed Darkman TV series

Sam Raimi created a pilot presentation for a possible Darkman TV show for Fox TV in 1992. Larry Drake reprised his role as Durant, while Christopher Bowen took over as Peyton Westlake or Darkman.  

In the retconned origin, Durant killed Peyton for his skin regeneration formula rather than the document revealing Louis Strack’s shady dealings. Julie is also no longer alive, having perished in the explosion that scarred Peyton. Darkman is now, for some reason, British. The series eventually flopped and the fans couldn’t really be indulged in this revised Darkman plot.

(Source: Uproxx)

Who Almost Got the Lead Role for Darkman? 

Bill Paxton was almost cast in the role of Peyton Westlake. Paxton claims he told his friend Liam Neeson about the audition. Paxton was so enraged when Neeson was cast instead of him, that he didn’t speak to Neeson for months.

Sam Raimi wanted someone who could play a monster with a human soul, and who could do it all while wearing a lot of makeup. He was also captivated by Liam Neeson’s Gary Cooper charisma. 

Neeson, on the other hand, was drawn to the operatic nature of the story as well as the character’s inner turmoil. To learn more about the role, Neeson contacted the Phoenix Society, an organization that assists accident victims with severe disfigurements in reintegrating into society. (Source: Uproxx)

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