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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II In Talks To Star In Jordan Peele's Candyman

With his hook for hand, he's coming to terrify a new generation of audiences.

The Get Down star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in talks to star in the Jordan Peele-produced "spiritual sequel" to the 1992 horror classic Candyman, although no deal has yet been finalized, according to a report by Variety. Nia DaCosta, who is set to make her directorial debut with the forthcoming Tessa Thompson-starring thriller Little Woods, will helm the picture, working from a screenplay by Peele.

Back in November, we reported that the sequel/reboot was in the works from Peele's Monkeypaw Productions, one of an absolute plethora of projects the production shingle has on its plate. Peele, formerly best known as one half of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, earned the title of Horror Auteur in one single stroke with the release of his 2017 masterpiece Get Out; he appears to be attempting to add the title of Superproducer, as the number of projects he has his hand in has ballooned to approach the absurd. In addition to his sophomore directorial effort Us (which hits screens next month), Peele has projects on tap for Netflix (the animated horror comedy Wendell and Wild), Amazon Prime (the Nazi-tracking period thriller The Hunt), and CBS All Access (the long-awaited reboot/reimagining of the seminal anthology series The Twilight Zone), to name just a few.

But Candyman, which was adapted from a Clive Barker short story and starred the great Tony Todd as its titular vengeful spirit, was a film that had a profound influence on Peele, meaning that the "seboot" (if you will) is an endeavor near and dear to his heart. In a statement announcing the project, he said, "The original was a landmark film for black representation in the horror genre. Alongside Night of the Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as a filmmaker — and to have a bold new talent like Nia at the helm of this project is truly exciting. We are honored to bring the next chapter in the Candyman canon to life and eager to provide new audiences with an entry point to Clive Barker's legend."

Maheen is an actor who is on a serious roll. His debut feature came less than two years ago, in the 2017 Elle Fanning-starrer The Vanishing of Sidney Hall; previously, he had appeared as gangster Clarence "Cadillac" Caldwell on Baz Luhrmann's canceled-too-soon Netflix series The Get Down. He's also popped up in the Hugh Jackman-starring P.T. Barnum biopic The Greatest Showman and as the villainous Black Manta in James Wan's smash hit Aquaman, and in the coming year, he'll be gracing the big screen in Us and the small one in HBO's Watchmen sequel series.

He promises to bring a steely presence to the role originated by Todd — that of Daniel Robitaille, AKA Candyman, the son of a former slave who was mutilated and murdered by a mob in the late 19th century over his affair with a white woman. The 1992 film deals with the efforts of a young graduate student (Virginia Madsen) to get to the bottom of a persistent urban legend involving Robitaille, which claims that his spirit can be summoned by saying his nickname five times in front of a mirror. It turns out, of course, to be much more than a mere legend.

The film took place in and around the infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects of Chicago, at the time as dangerous a place as any in the U.S. The last vestiges of the old projects were demolished in 2011, and in recent years, the area has become thoroughly gentrified — which seems like the exact kind of narrative hook that Peele loves to hang his hat on. Just as the area's real-life revitalization can never erase its shameful history of urban neglect and gang warfare, it's safe to say that the presence of a few luxury high-rises and coffee shops will do little to deter Robitaille's bloodthirsty quest for the retribution he deserves.

While the new flick is about as loaded with talent as any fan could reasonably hope for, there's one thing it isn't likely to have going for it — an appearance by Todd. While the horror icon has been open about his desire to be a part of the project "one way or another," it thus far does not appear as if that will pan out. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, however, the star waxed philosophical about the project and what it could mean for the legacy of the original, regardless of his involvement (or lack thereof). "I know [Peele is] a fan. We're waiting just like the rest of the world. I'm hoping I will appear in the film... but it's Hollywood, so I won't take it personally if for some reason it doesn't work out," he said, adding, "If this new one is successful, it will shed light back on the original. I think the subject matter is more important than any individuals. And I mean that."

At least Todd can rest easy knowing that the project is in the best possible hands. We'll have more news on its casting and production as it becomes available; the flick is currently slated to hit the big screen on June 12, 2020.