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Filmmaker Spotlight: Daniel Espinosa

Sony Pictures calls Michael Morbius “one of the most compelling and conflicted characters” in its universe of Marvel roles, but fans of the antihero will have to keep waiting for Jared Leto to bring him to life on the big screen. Morbius was originally slated to debut in July of 2020 before undergoing a steady stream of release day bumps, most recently moving from January 28  to April 1 of this year. So if you’re someone who’s continuing to anticipate the release of the Spider-Man spinoff — and hoping the latest date isn’t some sort of sick April Fools joke — we’ve got you covered with the latest installment of Filmmaker Spotlight, in which we’ll take an in-depth look at the director behind it. 

Daniel Espinosa is a Swedish filmmaker who grew up in Stockholm after his parents escaped the Pinochet regime in Chile, according to an interview with The Guardian. The director referenced his heritage when speaking with Collider and sharing about his journey to making films. “I was really sh-tty at everything when I was younger,” Espinosa asserted. “I was a horrible athlete. Chileans have this rumor [about them] that they’re great soccer players, but I stunk.” He continued in the same interview about a lack of interest in academics and his dream career at the time of owning a coffee shop. But a friendship with the son of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape director Lasse Hallström led to Espinosa considering storytelling as a career for the first time. 

His early arthouse features include titles like Babylonsjukan and Outside Love, but it was 2010’s Snabba Cash — “Easy Money” in English — that won Espinosa critical and commercial success in Sweden. It paved the way for his first American feature in 2012, Universal’s Safe House. Espinosa made quite the entry into Hollywood with the action thriller, which boasted an all-star cast toplined by Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds and included names like Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, and Sam Shepard.

The director’s Soviet period piece that debuted in 2015, Child 44, also attracted some serious star power — Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, and Noomi Rapace to name a few. He continued his streak of collaborating with top talent for the 2017 sci-fi thriller Life, which was led by Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson. When asked by Screen Rant how he attracts such quality actors, Espinosa pointed to one key quality of his approach. “I think it’s honesty, man,” the director shared. “They are looking for somebody who is like a compadre — their brother or sister — who can tell them the honest truth and help them to become a better artist than they are right then.”

Come April 1, you can appraise how Espinosa’s directing approach worked with Leto’s performance as the titular character in Morbius, a doctor with a rare blood disorder who tries to save others from his same fate but instead unleashes a darkness inside himself. In the meantime, though, we think the director’s ability to helm anything from Swedish arthouse films to a tentpole in Sony Pictures’ universe of Marvel characters — while attracting an impressive roster of A-listers along the way — has certainly earned him a filmmaker spotlight.

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