Jared Leto Set to Star in ‘Spider-Man’ Spin-off ‘Morbius’

by Mark McCurley

Hot off the heels of playing the Clown Prince of Crime aka the Joker, Jared Leto is sticking to his guns (and fangs) by starring next in the title role of Morbius, a film centered around the villain that originated in the Spider-Man comics.

Sony has tapped Leto to be the lead in the spin-off  and sources have told Variety that Daniel Espinosa (director of Safe House) will helm the movie.

Also the lead singer of the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, Leto had met Espinosa in May while touring in Germany.

After meeting with several other filmmakers, Leto said he would not fully commit to the project until he knew the film was headed in the direction. Under Espinosa, Leto agreed to be the lead.

Per the company’s San Diego Comic Con panel on July 20, Sony is currently searching for two additional leads for the film. Espinosa will have Morbius face up against an as-yet-unnamed villain who was once a friend, but betrays him following his transformation. The casting department was auditioning males, 30-40 years old for the role with actors Riz Ahmed and Rami Malek held in mind as prototypes for the role. This role will likely be an adaptation of Emil Nikos, Morbius’ friend and partner from the comic books, who was also happened to be his first victim.

The film will also feature a female lead described as an “intelligent, cutthroat businesswoman.” Vague in that description, for a based on the comic’s characters, it would be hard not to include his one-time fiancee, Martine Bancroft. A former magazine publisher, Bancroft stayed with Morbius through his transformation, eventually became a vampire herself, died once or twice and had couple of resurrections. For this role, Sony is looking at actresses of any ethnicity, ages 25-40 years of age.

Producers on Morbius are Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach and Lucas Foster.

Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama, who worked on Netflix’s Lost in Space series, are writing the film. Sony executive Palak Patel will oversee the flick for the studio.

Created in 1971 by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane for The Amazing Spider-Man #101, the character Dr. Michael Morbius was a scientist who tried to cure himself of a blood disease that brought tragic results after injecting himself with a treatment serum derived from bats. He became cursed with traits of vampirism such as fangs and an unyielding thirst for blood. Through this, Morbius found himself battling Spider-Man when trying to feed on innocent victims.

Appearing on and off in Marvel Comics in the years following his premier, the character was revived in the 1992 series Morbius, the Living Vampire, which ran for 32 issues until April of 1995.

There is not yet an official release date, but the movie will likely be slated for 2019 as production is expected to start this year via Sony.

With Venom coming this October and Spider-Man: Far From Home launching next year, Sony is working the schedule out so this latest project fits in well with the others.

As he is no stranger to the comic book world, Leto showed how in to a character he can get when he played the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad.

In addition to promoting his new album America with TStM, Leto has been busy setting up a film slate that includes a solo Joker movie at Warner Bros. Sources say Morbius does not affect the schedule of that film.

Winning an Oscar for 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, Leto has also recently starred in Netflix’s The Outsider and the sequel Blade Runner 2049.

After directing the sci-fi thriller Life starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, Espinosa has strong ties to Sony and is also developing the Afghanistan War pic Red Platoon for the studio.

CAA and Untitled Entertainment represent Leto, while Espinosa is repped by WME and Magnolia Entertainment.

HNN will post more details about Morbius as they become available!

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