'Candyman' Director Nia DaCosta Says Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Is Not Replacing Original Candyman Tony Todd

Director Nia DaCosta has confirmed something we theorized about earlier this month: reports of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II taking over Tony Todd's role of Candyman in the Candyman reboot were not entirely accurate. The news of Abdul-Mateen II joining the film came with the claim that the Aquaman actor was the new Candyman, but according to DaCosta, that's not correct.

Who is playing the new Candyman? It looks as if there's no easy answer to that. A month ago, Variety claimed that Aquaman's Black Manta, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, would slip on a big overcoat, swallow some bees, and play the hookman –  a part originated by Tony Todd. Case closed, right? Not so fast! Speaking with Collider, reboot director Nia DaCosta attempted to set the record straight:

"Well, it's been slightly misreported. I can't say what's happening in the film because we want it to be a surprise, but he's not replacing Tony Todd. That's been reported, and I was just like, 'I don't know what to say about this. This is not right.'"

So just what is going on here? When we last theorized about this, I offered up a potential answer. Originally, it was reported that Sorry to Bother You star Lakeith Stanfield was in talks to play a character in the reboot described as an artist. Shortly after that, word of the casting of Abdul-Mateen II broke, with Variety flat-out calling him the "new Candyman." Not long after, however, we learned of another piece of casting: Teyonah Parris. In the news about Parris' casting, it was revealed that she would be playing the girlfriend of an artist...played by Abdul-Mateen II. And there was no mention of Stanfield anywhere.

I'm assuming talk of Stanfield joining the film was premature, and the actor eventually left the project – if he was involved at all. At which point the role he was rumored for went to Abdul-Mateen II. Since Variety is a trusted trade publication, writers (including those of us here at /Film) felt confident in reporting Abdul-Mateen II as the new Candyman. But now we know that's not the case.

And yet...something still feels off here. The way DaCosta phrased her clarification gives me pause.

For one thing, she says: the news is "slightly misreported", adding: "I can't say what's happening in the film because we want it to be a surprise." For another, she doesn't say Abdul-Mateen II is not playing Candyman. Instead, she says he's not replacing Tony Todd – which isn't quite the same thing.

What's going on here? I have a theory: at some point during the movie, Abdul-Mateen's character finds himself turning into the new Candyman – the legend of the character finds a way to live again through him, perhaps. I have zero evidence to back this up – it's just a hunch. But it's worth noting that the actor's character is an artist – the same occupation as original Candyman, Daniel Robitaille. I could be entirely wrong here, but that's my current guess.

In the same recent interview, DaCosta talked about the approach she and co-writer Jordan Peele were taking to their Candyman – specifically how it relates to the overall work of Candyman creator Clive Barker:

"There's so much specificity and dark whimsy in his work. Dark whimsy is not the right word, but there's so much reality and truth in it, at the same time. Being able to take genre and expansive worlds and expansive people, and doing that as well as he's done it, is a big thing. Also, there's the weirdness of it that I think is really special, and how specific that weirdness is. That's what I want to draw into our Candyman."

Candyman opens June 12, 2020.