COMMENT | Producer Joel Silver has discussed the unproduced version of 'Watchmen' he worked on with Terry Gilliam, claiming it would have been a "much better movie" than Zack Snyder's eventual 2009 film.
The ground-breaking graphic novel, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons for DC, had been in development for the big screen ever since the late 1980s.
Silver had the rights to produce the film, and Gilliam was attached to direct for some time, until reportedly deeming the project unfilmable and walking away.
Snyder took the reins of the film after Paul Greengrass, Darren Aronofsky and David Hayter had all been briefly attached to direct; ultimately Hayter's screenplay was used.
Quizzed on what Gilliam's version would have compared to Snyder's, Silver tells Coming Soon, "It was a MUCH much better movie… Zack [Snyder] came at it the right way but was too much of a slave to the material."
Silver explains, they were working from "a Sam Hamm script--who had written a script that everybody loved for the first "Batman"--and then [Gilliam] brought in a guy who'd worked for him to do work on it [Charles McKeown, co-writer of "Brazil"].
McKeown, it seems, had a very bold take on the already bold material…
"What he did was he told the story as-is, but instead of the whole notion of the intergalactic thing which was too hard and too silly, what he did was he maintained that the existence of Doctor Manhattan had changed the whole balance of the world economy, the world political structure. He felt that THAT character really altered the way reality had been."
"[McKeown] had the Ozymandias character convince, essentially, the Doctor Manhattan character to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. He was the only character with real supernatural powers, he went back and prevented himself from being turned into Doctor Manhattan, and in the vortex that was created after that occurred these characters from "Watchmen" only became characters in a comic book.
"…So the three characters, I think it was Rorschach and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, they're all of the sudden in Times Square and there's a kid reading a comic book.. and he's like, "Hey, you're just like in my comic book." It was very smart, it was very articulate, and it really gave a very satisfying resolution to the story, but it just didn't happen. Lost to time."
Still, with typical Hollywood diplomacy, Silver concedes, "I did like [Snyder's] movie, very much. Zack did great stuff in it!"
And of course, Silver understands all too well the difficulties of adapting Alan Moore for the screen, having worked with the Wachowskis and director James McTiegue on the 2006 movie of 'V for Vendetta' - which the producer says he spent eleven years trying to get made.
Silver admits the movie wasn't as true to the text as it might have been:
"There were things in "V" that I missed... The character of the Five Fingers and the Eye and the Ear was really intriguing stuff, because he is a very smart guy. We stripped all that out because we couldn't keep it all going.
"[But] It's a really good movie... When Natalie [Portman] looks up and says, "God is in the rain," that's just an incredible moment."
And though he doesn't dwell on the matter, Silver describes Alan Moore as "unpleasant to deal with." This tends to be a common reaction from most movie people who have crossed paths with the notoriously anti-establishment writer, who has famously severed all ties with his earlier DC properties to the point of refusing all royalty payments.
Do you think Gilliam's version of 'Watchmen' would have topped Snyder's? Let us know in the comments section below.
Ben Bussey is a freelance writer, comic book reader and film fanatic - and while he has his issues with Snyder's 'Watchmen,' he has his doubts that the Gilliam movie would have completely worked either.
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