Although he was not at fault for the death of Brandon Lee, Michael Massee stopped acting for a year because he was so traumatized by the incident. (His next film was a small role in Se7en (1995).) Up until his death in 2016, he has never watched the film.
Brandon Lee died during a mishap on the set. A scene required a gun to be loaded, cocked, and then pointed at the camera. Because of the close-range of the shot, the dummy cartridges loaded had real brass caps, bullet, but no powder. After the cut, the props master (not the arms master - he had left the set for the day) dry-fired the gun to get the cock off, knocking the projectile/bullet into the barrel of the gun. The next scene to be filmed involving that gun was the rape of Shelly. The gun was loaded with blanks (which usually contain double or triple the powder of a normal cartridge to make a loud noise). Lee entered the set carrying a bag of groceries containing an explosive blood pack. The script called for Funboy (Michael Massee) to shoot Eric Draven (Lee) as he entered the room, triggering the blood pack. The bullet that was stuck in the barrel was blasted at Lee through the bag he was carrying, killing him. The footage of his death was subsequently developed and used as evidence in the investigation into his death. As part of the lawsuit settlement, the footage was later destroyed. Lee is the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who died in mysterious circumstances before completing Game of Death (1978). See also Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993).
Director Alex Proyas originally wanted to shoot the entire movie in "black and white" closer to the comics and only using color in Draven's flash backs scenes with high contrast theme, but the studio executives didn't allow him to experiment with approach. This made Proyas shoot much of the movie in a monochromatic color theme mixed with red and dark gray.
In 2005, 12 years after the accidental shooting of Brandon Lee, Michael Massee (who fired the gun) claimed to still have nightmares of the incident.
Some believe that because of the tragic death of Brandon Lee, this movie is responsible for changing gun safety standards in film, (i.e., in action scenes, the gun is held off to the side and tricky camera angles are used when the weapon is aimed at a character to avoid misfiring or other horrific accidents.)
The following scenes were completed after Brandon Lee's death: Draven first enters the apartment after digging himself out of his grave: footage of Lee walking through an alley in the rain was digitally composed into the scene where he walks through the doorway. Computer technology added drops of water to the door frame to make the water on his back not seem out of place. The shot of Draven falling from the window was made by digitally composing Lee's face (complete with simulated blood) onto a body double. The scene where Draven puts on his make-up was filmed using a double. The face in the smashed mirror was Lee's, computer-altered to fit the shards. The image of Draven walking towards the window with the crow on his shoulder was a double with Lee's face added during lightning flashes. When Sarah visits the apartment, we never see Draven's face as it is a double.
(at around 26 mins) According to Jon Polito, Brandon Lee cut himself when he broke the glass in Gideon's shop. The glass was breakaway glass and it is very rare for anyone to get cut by it. Polito said that he told Lee that he feared Lee would die in an on-set accident like Vic Morrow did during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Unfortunately, Polito's prediction turned out to be true.
James O'Barr stated on the Crow DVD that when he met the movie's executives, they originally wanted to make this a musical staring Michael Jackson. He immediately laughed uncontrollably thinking it was a joke, only to find that they were quite serious. It was only until Brandon Lee and Alex Proyas came on board that the movie took a more serious role.
According to James O'Barr, he didn't like casting Brandon Lee as the main lead for his comic-book adaptation. At that time he had only seen him in Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) and feared it would end up like a Kung Fu movie and go straight to video. But he was thrilled when he first met Brandon on the set with the makeup and Crow outfit. He was amazed by Brandon's take on the character when he spoke the exact lines from the comics.
In his bluray commentary, Alex Proyas said that Brandon Lee was unhappy with the way his face paint looked when the makeup department applied it to him before shooting. Lee and Proyas then agreed that it would look best if Lee applied his own makeup every night before going to bed so that when he woke up his face paint would naturally look more worn out.
Prior to filming, Brandon Lee had somewhat of a morbid fascination with death, he would often drive around in a hearse he owned, visit famous graves, and would listen to The Doors.
According to Empire Magazine, cocaine abuse was rampant on set, with cameramen shooting whilst high, crew going into the toilets to snort between shots, and people cutting around. One crewmember recalls hearing the sound of a sneeze on the set one day, and an annoyed Brandon Lee quipping "someone just lost $50."
(at around 42 mins) The line, "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children," spoken by Eric as he drains the morphine from Darla's arm, is a quote from William Makepeace Thackeray.
Even though the movie, based on the comic, is called 'The Crow' none of the birds used in the film were actually crows. All of them were in fact Ravens, which are much larger than crows and have a longer more impressive beak.
Originally Funboy (Michael Massee) was not supposed to fire a gun at Brandon Lee's character (which ultimately led to Lee's death). It was changed at the last minute by director, Alex Proyas
Paramount Pictures initially developed and financed this film, but after Brandon Lee's tragic death (which caused production to shut down with an incomplete film) they wrote the project off. Entertainment Media Investment Corporation was created for the purpose of buying the film and completing it using then ground-breaking CGI special effects and body doubles for Lee's scenes.
While most of the scenes after Brandon Lee's death were digitally composed--- there was in fact a Mask that had been made directly from a mold of Lee's face (it had been intended for use on his stunt doubles if needed) They attempted to create the scenes using this mask, however the cast and crew were far too unsettled by the prop that it was destroyed and digital means were used to fill in the gaps.
During the first day of shooting in Wilmington, North Carolina, a carpenter suffered severe burns after his crane hit live power lines. On subsequent days, a grip truck caught fire, a disgruntled sculptor crashed his car through the studio's plaster shop, and a crew member accidentally drove a screwdriver through his hand.
Although the tone of the film is very similar to the comic, there were many changes. In the comics, Top Dollar is a member of T-Bird's gang as opposed to heading up crime in the city. Myca and Grange were also not present in the comic and there was never any mention about the crow being a power source. Also in the comic, Skank was not involved in the murders of Eric and Shelly, instead a character named Tom-Tom was. Sarah also served a minor role, first meeting Eric after his death and Albrecht as he appears in the movie is a combination of a street officer named Albrecht in the comics and Police Captain Hook. Another major change is Eric is a mechanic in the comic and his last name was never mentioned. He was changed to a musician as an homage to all the music references James O'Barr had in the comic. In the comic, the murders are actually a twist of bad luck with T-Bird's gang while high on drugs ambushing Eric and Shelly when their car breaks down. And in the comic, Eric is actually the one who lasts for thirty hours of intensive care with most of the events implied as possibly being a revenge fantasy as he lies in a coma.
(at around 47 mins) The latter part of the scene in Albrecht's apartment was ad-libbed by Brandon Lee and Ernie Hudson. The line about Shelley ("Believe me, nothing is trivial") was not in the script.
Production was so troubled that one of the neighbouring productions in the EUE studios began taking bets on mishaps...until a fire destroyed several of their sets as well.
Linda Lee Cadwell, the widow of Bruce Lee and mother of Brandon Lee, filed a negligence case against producer Edward R. Pressman, actor Michael Massee and 12 other defendants over the death of her son on-set. She settled out of court to the tune of $3 million.
(at around 58 mins) The incendiary device which Eric drops in T-Bird's lap is a white phosphorous grenade. When it detonates it burns at 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.
James O'Barr constantly listened to the songs of Joy Division and The Cure while shaping and creating the graphic novel this film is based on. He was delighted when Robert Smith of "The Cure" agreed to write an original song for the movie. Although a hugely popular song, introducing legions of new fans to "The Cure", they've only performed "Burn" live once, nineteen years after the film's release (even though it was often requested). When a fan asked if they'd play the song at a concert, bassist Simon Gallup replied, "Did we do that one for a soundtrack? I don't remember it." *The Cure has recently played this on their 2016 North American tour.
With his profits from the film, James O'Barr bought his mother a car, and a surround system for himself, then donated the rest. "I was really good friends with Brandon, so it just felt like blood money to me," he said at a comics convention in 2009. "I didn't want to profit at his expense. And I kept that secret for as long as I could. It's not charity if you get credit for it."
The production didn't have the money-or the space-to shoot a car chase sequence, so they did it with miniatures instead.
There were several accidents that befell the production crew, leading to a widespread belief that the film was cursed. A carpenter suffered serious burns on his upper body during the first day of filming; a manual worker had a screwdriver get embedded in his hand; an equipment truck burst into flames; a stuntman broke several ribs after falling through a roof; a rigger was horribly electrocuted; a disgruntled set sculptor went beserk and drove his car through the props room destroying it; and a hurricane destroyed several of the sets.
(at around 58 mins) T-Bird's final words are from Book IV of John Milton's "Paradise Lost". When Lucifer is found in Paradise by two Cherubs, he rebukes them for not recognizing him. They rebuke right back saying that his appearance has changed from being in Hell. "So spake the Cherub, and his grave rebuke. Severe in youthful beauty, added grace. Invincible: abash the Devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is, and saw virtue in her shape, how lovely. Saw and pin'd his loss, but chiefly to find here observed his lustre visibly impaired, yet seemed"
James O'Barr modeled the comic book "Eric's Face" on an amalgam of Ian Curtis and Daniel Ash. Iggy Pop served as the model for comic Eric's torso and more importantly, the comic Funboy's overall look and attitude. Iggy was slated to star as Funboy in the film, however he was forced to decline the role due to touring/recording conflicts. To make up for his cancellation he agreed to be in the sequel.
(at around 1h 12 mins) The line "I see you've made your decision. Now let's see you enforce it," is taken from a statement made by President Andrew Jackson regarding the ruling of Supreme Court that the Indian Removal Act was illegal. The line was altered from "That's John Marshall's decision; now let's see him enforce it," to use it in the movie.
T-Bird's car is a 1973 Ford Thunderbird. The song playing on the radio, "Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots, first appeared on the movie's soundtrack.
Michael Massee, who fired the shot that killed Brandon Lee and was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, was so traumatised by the incident that he took a year long sabbatical from acting to recover.
David Patrick Kelly brought an antique copy of Paradise Lost to the set so he could use it when his character quotes the story.
Set in Detroit (evidenced by references to "Devil's Night" (the traditional arson and vandalism "holiday") and "motor city").
It took between 35 minutes and an hour to apply Brandon Lee's makeup, which could stay in place for hours; special effects artist Lance Anderson created a rubber mask that had slits in it, so that the pattern of lines around the eyes and mouth would be consistent.
One of the crows used in this film, Magic, was used in all of the following movies.
There was a lot of cost and corner cutting on set. One of the crew recalled "they were trying to make a 30 million dollar movie for 18 million dollars". The film was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, because North Carolina was a "right-to-work" state. This allowed the producers to get away with pay, conditions, and, crucially, production schedules that would have been nuked by unionized Hollywood. They began filming at night outdoors, but the aforementioned hurricane destroyed the sets, so they moved the production indoors - without changing the schedule, as switching a production from nights to days requires a 24-hour turnaround, time the harried production team didn't have. Moreover, it was still so cold that the camera rails had to be de-iced during filming by riggers with blowtorches hiding out of shot.
Ernie Hudson's character, Officer Albrecht, is named after Joy Division member Bernard Sumner. While writing the comic on which the movie is based, artist/writer James O'Barr drew inspiration from the band's music as well as that of The Cure and Iggy Pop. In the early days of "Joy Division", Sumner had taken the surname of Albrecht for no apparent reason.
Besides his cameo in the boardroom shootout, screenwriter David J. Schow was frequently a double for several of the actors (T-Bird's feet in one scene, and so on).
After Brandon Lee died, Ed Pressman brought in writers Walon Green, Rene Balcer and Michael S. Chernuchin to rewrite scenes and dialogue to cover for Brandon Lee's absence. Notably, they are responsible for the voice-over narration in the film.
Top Dollar's nightclub was filmed in the abandoned cement factory called the Ideal Cement Factory in Castle Hayne, North Carolina. It was also used as the filming location for Shredder and the Foot Clan's hideout in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and Super Mario Bros. (1993).
Eric Mabius, who played in the lead for The Crow: Salvation (2000) auditioned for the role of Funboy.
(at around 26 mins) The poem that Eric Draven misquotes when he breaks into Gideon's shop is "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Draven says "Suddenly I heard a tapping..." while Poe's poem actually reads "Suddenly there came a tapping."
The crow guides Eric Draven to the villains, starting with Tin Tin who struck first blood, the remaining villains were in the order they raped Shelley. Tin Tin starts in on Shelley first but Funboy pushes him out of the way saying "me first".
Cameron Diaz was offered the role of Shelly, but turned it down because she didn't like the script.
According to screenwriter David J. Schow, who hung out with Brandon Lee before and during filming, Brandon thought Sir Peter Ustinov was a perfect fit to play Gideon, an idea he got after watching Spartacus (1960) late one night.
In the VHS release, there is a special "flashbang" bumper showing to home viewers to continue watching the film. In this case, the logo of the crow's face is featured on screen saying, "After the Feature, Last Camera Interview with Brandon Lee." The announcer is heard saying, "Stay tuned after the feature for the last on-camera interview with Brandon Lee, which includes never before seen footage" before the "Feature Presentation" screen is displayed, which was typical in a normal taping of previews before the movie played. This variant is a very rare version of the "flashbang" bumpers to be ever used to display variants to the viewers of what to expect before the movie plays in all VHS tapes, in all the films and/or TV shorts made by Disney, Miramax, Hollywood Pictures, and Touchstone Productions.
(at around 6 mins) When T-Bird, Fun Boy, Tin-Tin and Skank destroy the arcade, T-Bird says, "You know, Lake Erie actually caught on fire once from all the crap floating around in it. I wish I could've seen that." Something like this did actually happen, but it wasn't Lake Erie, it was the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio (which feeds into Lake Erie).
Brandon Lee requested that one Asian character from the comic who tries to steal Eric's powers be removed from the script, as he felt it was a stereotype.
Laurence Mason worked with stunt coordinator Jeff Imada to learn real-life knife-fighting moves in order to play Tin Tin.
For the opening sequence, which shows a city on fire, the production used miniatures and projection technology.
(at around 1h 27 mins) For a scene in which the crow attacks Myca, Lance Anderson built a mechanical bird to do the attacking; it had separate controls for the wings and the claws.
The set and outside building shots used during the apartment scenes, especially the iconic window, were reused for the kidnappers hideout in Baby's Day Out (1994). Also, Anna Thomson has a small role as Mrs. Mcray in that film.
The final rooftop confrontation between Eric and Top Dollar was shot not on the roof of a church, but on modular pieces, sitting on the soundstage floor, that were made to look like a gothic cathedral.
(at around 57 mins) Just before sending T-Bird off in his car, Eric roots through the trunk and picks up a bundle of TNT with a digital detonator. He apparently arms it, because when the car blows up the explosion starts in the trunk.
(at around 31 mins) For the shot in which Eric dumps a bunch of rings into the barrel of a shotgun and fires it, Alex Proyas cut to some oversized rings being dropped towards the camera through a puff of smoke.
The song "A Grave Mistake" from the American metal band Ice Nine Kills is based on the story of this film. The song comes from "The Silver Scream", the band's fifth album. Each song on the record comes from a different horror film or franchise.
One of the villains in this movie is named Skank. The Wraith (1986), another movie about an avenger who's back from the dead, also has a villain named Skank.
Eric uses a Mariner-finish Mossberg 500 Cruiser shotgun. He ignites spilled gasoline in the pawn shop by firing the shotgun at the front window, after pouring all of the shop owner's stolen jewelry down the barrel.
There were plans for a remake staring Jason Momoa, but in May of 2018 Momoa left the project.
(at around 43 mins) When Gideon is sitting at the bar after his shop is blown up he can be seen drinking Crown Royal, a Canadian Whisky.
Rochelle Davis came to the Philadelphia premiere on Delaware Ave. CD's of the soundtrack were given out as well as Promotional T-Shirts of the movie.
On the set of the film The Crow, Brandon Lee was accidentally killed when a prop pistol shot him in the abdomen. Two decades earlier, Bruce Lee's character was shot by a prop gun by Stick the Assassin (Mel Novak) during a take in Game of Death. This proved to unfortunately be a premonition of death for Lee's son.
The Crow was ranked 37th in IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes. In 2005, creator James O'Barr claimed that The Crow was: The best-selling independent black-and-white graphic novel of all time. Translated into almost a dozen languages and has sold over a quarter-million copies worldwide. The second American comic book to get its author the "Storyteller Award" by the Angoulême International Comics Festival held annually in Angoulême, France.
Funboy (Michael Massee) uses a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver as his weapon throughout the film, which he uses to kill Eric Draven in his apartment. After Eric kills Funboy, he takes the 629 for himself, and is seen using it in several scenes (most notably the shootout in the club, where he wields this gun "akimbo" with T-Bird's Taurus PT92). This is most likely the gun that killed actor Brandon Lee in real life.
Many characters throughout the film use Taurus PT92 pistols, most notably T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), the leader of the gang that kills Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancee. Eric himself later wields T-Bird's PT92 in a shootout at Top Dollar's (Michael Wincott's) club. Some of the gangsters in the club also use them, and Eric uses several other discarded PT92s (sometimes akimbo) in the course of the shootout. Top Dollar himself also uses what appear to be a pair of stainless PT92s during the climactic shootout in the church. They're never shown very clearly, but a handful of brief glimpses of the guns reveal them to be PT92s.