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WATCHMEN

[Watchmen]A few weeks ago Comics2Film reported that the producers of the long-in-development-hell Watchmen are still working to get that project going. Subsequent to that, we heard from author David Hughes whose book, "The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made" arrives in UK bookstores this week.

The book contains a chapter on the Watchmen movie, including some interesting quotes from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Hughes shares the following excerpts with C2F readers:

...writer-director Darren Aronofsky was interested in finally bringing the graphic novel to the screen. Aronofsky had burst onto the independent filmmaking scene in 1998 with his directorial debut Pi, and followed it by directing the Oscar-nominated Requiem for a Dream, writing the science fiction submarine thriller Below for director David Twohy (Pitch Black), and earning a assignment from Warner Bros to script an adaptation of Frank Miller's ground-breaking comic book Batman: Year One. Could Aronofsky be the man to finally break the Watchmen deadlock?

"I think I read it in college, around 1988 or 1989," Aronofsky recalls. "I wasn't a comic book fan as a kid. I had a small collection, but I really wasn't into superheroes ­ I was more into Twilight Zone comic books. But when I got turned onto Watchmen by my roommate, who was an animator and totally into comics, it just blew my mind, because here was finally a story about comic book heroes that introduced Freudian psychology ­ what does it take for a real man to put on tights and fight crime? And it was a great concept for me, and that's why I really got into Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns." Aronofsky recently bought a page of original Watchmen artwork in an eBay auction, his first and only piece of comic book art. "That's how much of a fan I am," he says.

"I've entertained the idea at times that it would be something really fun to do," he says of the prospect of adapting Watchmen to film, "but I haven't studied it recently to think about what it would actually entail. But I think it's a tremendous property. It's such a great book, but it's huge in scope, and I think also now that we're post-Cold War, it's a very different dynamic in politics today. The whole conceit of the macro element of the story, the whole geo-political vision of the war between Russia and the United States, would have to be re-thought for the film." [Screenwriter Sam Hamm], who did not need to address these concerns in his screenplay, recently voiced similar concerns. "There's so much Cold War stuff that's gone by," he told the Coming Attractions website, "teens may be left scratching their heads about what's going on. There's a lot you would have to move around."

Aronofsky agrees. "I don't know how you would fix that," he says, "because the whole motivation for Ozymandias is the impending doom of the world. So I think you would have to figure out some kind of new threat that an audience of today would actually buy ­ that's the big invention that would have to be created." When Watchmen was first published, he observes, the threat of global thermonuclear way was a real one. "I remember, as a kid, going to sleep being terrified that I wouldn't wake up the next morning because of the nukes," he admits, "and that threat doesn't really live in the heads of anyone any more. The biggest threat is that the plan you're on is going to be blown up by terrorists. I guess you could create something like a Middle East meltdown, where people take sides," he suggests, "but you just don't buy that overall conceit of nuclear way is gone, you'd have to figure out something else.

"The other thing you have to remember is that in 1987, all the Rorschach conspiracy stuff ­ that there was this whole incredible conspiracy going on ­ was really a fresh idea," Aronofsky adds. "But now it's no longer cool to believe in conspiracies ­ it's become so 'pop,' because of JFK and The X-Files, it's entered pop culture consciousness, and Rorschach's vision is not that wacky any more." In other words, he says, there are many elements of Watchmen that would need updating, "but the drama of it is fantastic.

"Ultimately," he says, "it comes down to the characters in Watchmen, which are so well sketched, from the middle-aged and pouchy Night Owl, to the homeless, crazy, wild Rorschach, and the supreme being of Dr Manhattan, to the intellect of Ozymandias ­ you just have so many really great characters with all their different egos and complexities. And all the flashbacks that set up the characters. It's unbelievable stuff." Aronofsky admits that the writing in Watchmen has been influential on his own work. "I remember once a few years ago going back to read Watchmen and realising that I'd stolen certain lines unconsciously," he reveals. "I'd read it so many times that it just got in my head. What's the line with Rorschach, when he's in jail? 'I don't know if I'm locked in here with you or you're locked in here with me?' And there's no better scene than Dr Manhattan in Vietnam ­ it's fucking incredible. There are so many good scenes."

Aronofsky claims not to be discouraged by the budgetary issues which led to the collapse of the Terry Gilliam-Joel Silver attempt at the project, because of the advances in technology in the intervening years. "The reality is that, back in 1987, it was a different filmmaking world," he says. "Fourteen years later, we're two or three Jurassic Park and Toy Story films down the road, and what you can do for a certain budget is remarkable. If Jar-Jar Binks showed us anything," he adds, "it's that you can create real characters on the screen that basically look like live-action characters ­ he was as real as maybe some of the other real actors in Episode 1! So although $40 million probably isn't enough today, with a reasonable budget it is probably doable. It now becomes a question of, 'Does it actually play?'"

"The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made" by David Hughes is published in the UK by Titan Books. In addition to Watchmen the book covers James Cameron's take on Spider-Man, the live-action Thunderbirds, Steven Spielberg's Night Skies, Ridley Scott's I Am Legend, Tim Burton's Superman Lives and more.

BULLETPROOF MONK

The casting process has begun on the Bulletproof Monk movie and cameras could roll on it early next year. A source at Lion Rock Productions told Comics2Film that the project is in good shape and they're hoping to start production in February.

Veteran music video director Paul Hunter (this year's VMA winning "Lady Marmalade") recently signed on to direct the film. The script, by Cy Voris and Ethan Reiff (Demon Knight: Tales From the Crypt) is out to actors. MGM studios is apparently happy with the direction of the project and ready to move forward.

The Bulletproof Monk comic was written by Gotham Chopra and Brett Lewis with art by Michael Avon Oeming and Jason Baumgartner. It was published by Image and Flypaper Press. The comic tells the story of a Chinese refugee name Kar who travels to America seeking an enigmatic hero who can save his family from an oppressive Chinese government.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Cartoon Network has rolled out a new set of images promoting the upcoming Justice League animated show.

Calling the show "the Superfriends for a new generation," Producer Bruce Timm said that the the show will take a traditional approach to the Justice League.

"This is such a big thing for comic book fans, for DC Comics, and for us, that we wanted to make sure we do the show right," Timm said. "Based on what we've seen -- other attempts to do this kind of show in the past in cartoons -- we needed to go with the big guns, we needed to put the 'big seven' in there."

Of course, at the top of the "big seven" are DC's "big three": Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. While the first two are veterans of the animation scene, Wonder Woman hasn't appeared as a series regular in quite some time.

Wonder Woman will be depicted as being new to the civilized world after living mostly on Themyscira and a little aloof. "It's not that she's really arrogant or snotty, it's just that she's used to being treated like a princess," Timm said. "She's so, 'What is with these weird humans? They don't treat me right.'"

Timm also stressed the importance of having Wonder Woman's character differ from Hawkgirl's. "We wanted to be sure their personalities would really contrast with each other, and that they are not just 'the girls.'"

The Flash (Wally West) under the mask provides the comic relief for the show. "He's young, he's pretty much immature," Timm said of the character. "He's fresh out of puberty and ready to go."

The exuberant character will play off of Green Lantern John Stewart's disciplinarian character. "He's such a wild card. And our Green Lantern is such a straight arrow that we have to team them up as often as possible," Timm told fans.

Timm said that J'onn J'onnz's powers would be limited somewhat over what is seen in the comics. The Martian Manhunter will be depicted as strong (but not quite as strong as Superman), will retains his telepathic abilities, and is still a shape-shifter. "But we're trying not to overdo that because it would be a lot of, (mock-Wonder Twins) 'Size of... an elephant.'"

Justice League is set to begin airing on Saturday, November 17 on Cartoon Network.

In other League news, The Comics Continuum reports that Powers Boothe will voice Gorilla Grodd. The actor appeared recently in Men of Honor starring Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr.

THE HULK

Earlier in the week Variety reported that Aussie actor Eric Bana (Chopper) is the front-runner to play the lead role in the Hulk movie. Following up on that, the actor's agent in Melbourne, Australia reminded the Herald Sun that it's not a done deal.

"All I can tell you is there are a few OTHER projects that we are considering at the moment," the agent said.

Bana is currently at work on the Australian film Nugget.

Thanks to Moviehole.net for the lead.

SPIDER-MAN

[Green Goblin]Ain't It Cool has scored a couple of cool stills from the Spider-Man movie. One such image is a clear shot of the movie's villain, The Green Goblin. This is a much higher-quality look at the costume than fans have seen before. The site also displayed a nice shot of the wall crawler clinging to a building.

And there's more bad news for the web-spinner. Associated Press reports that the widow of welder Tim Holcombe, 45, of Monrovia, California, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Sony/Columbia pictures Wednesday. Deborah Holcombe seeks undisclosed damages for her "loss of love, comfort, society and support," according to Los Angeles Superior Court documents.

Tim Holcombe died on March 6 due to an accident that occurred during the construction of the Downey set for the upcoming Spider-Man movie.

Last month, California's Occupational Safety and Health division assessed $59,000 in fines against Sony. The studio has filed an appeal over the fines.

The studio would not comment on the suit.

The suit also names Ingersoll-Rand, which was responsible for manufacturing some of the equipment used by the workers.

ASTROTHRILL

Craig Clark, founder of Cheeky Press tells Comics2Film that he's about half way finished with the animated short based on his Astrothrill. The short can be downloaded in RealMedia format from the Cheek Press site (click on News and then follow the links from there).

Astrothrill is a comic book/music CD that tells the story of Zeon, a half human, half alien from the asteroid Nor, who's stranded in Hollywood. Zeon juggles his time between his rock band, Astrothrill, and his yen for extreme sports, all the while avoiding evil aliens and government agents.

SMALLVILLE

[Smallville]Canadian fans interested in Smallville may have to wait a bit longer than the rest of us. Sources inform Comics2Film that Global TV is the national broadcaster in that country. However, Global currently plans to hold the show until the new year. That could change though, depending on how well the first wave of new shows does, and whether or not any of them are canceled.

Fans in Alberta are in luck, though. The A-Channel will start broadcasting the show on October 16th, the same as The WB network in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Sci Fi Wire sat down recently with Clark Kent himself, Tom Welling.

Welling revealed to that site that he is completely unschooled in the Superman legacy. The actor said that he's never seen a Superman comic and did not make use of the background material on the character, provided by the network.

"I went into Smallville clear-minded," Welling said. He also stated that he based his performance solely on what was in the scripts.

Welling is also confident that the show will live up to expectations. "I think we've got a great show here. The scripts are solid. I think we've got enough quality and substance that I don't feel the pressure," the actor told Sci Fi. "Also, we're up here in Vancouver, so I'm separated from a lot of the hype. We're just going to do good work and, hopefully, that will speak for itself."

In other Smallville news, KryptonSite.com reports that episode #6 of the show is called "Cool." It's written by Michael Green and directed by Jim Contner (Dark Angel). For more details, check out that site for episode spoilers (minor).

FROM HELL

[From Hell]The movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel From Hell is due in theaters October 19. Now, 20th Century Fox has opened an official website promoting the film at FromHellMovie.com.

The newly launched site offers the usual assortment of content promoting the movie, but also an overview of the legendary aspects of one of histories most notorious serial killers.

On "The Movie" side of the site you'll find cast and crew bios, behind-the-scenes production notes, trailers, wallpapers, screensavers, an image gallery and a chance to subscribe to e-mail updates.

On "The Legend" side, the site offers an overview of the suspects for the unsolved case, various notes about the investigation (including the Ripper's taunting letters to the police), a list of the victims, a timeline to the murders and a guide to Jack the Ripper online.

From Hell stars Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane. It's directed by Allen and Albert Hughes (Dead Presidents) from a screenplay by Terry Hayes (The Road Warrior) and Rafael Yglesias (Death and the Maiden). Trevor Jones (The Last of the Mohicans) composed the score.

MEN IN BLACK 2

Men In Black 2 is one of the many films being reworked following last week's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The film's finale was to feature a sequence involving the structure.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld talked to TV Guide.com about the decision to change the movie's finish. The director stated alterations do not call for a major rewrite.

"It's so slightly different," Sonnenfeld is quoted as saying. "The ending took place at the base of the World Trade Center and will now take place at some other New York icon, but we hadn't shot any of the ending."

The effects-heavy climax will be filmed on an L.A. soundstage with a blue screen with a location plate dropped in the background. It's just a matter of picking a new location and getting a shot of it.

"In fact, the original version was written to take place at the base of the Chrysler Building, and I thought the World Trade Center would be neater," Sonnenfeld said. "But it's not like [the terrorism] in any way affects what we're doing or what we did."

With the production now filming on Los Angeles soundstages, set reports from the Sony lot are starting to appear online.

An anonymous scooper for Dark Horizons reports poking his head onto Stage 29, where they were filming a scene with Johnny Knoxville (Jackass, Big Trouble). Reportedly the actor was shooting some blue screen effects involving a large "mannequin version" of the actors head. Knoxville's role in the film has previously been described as that of a two-headed alien.

A different scooper for Corona Coming Attractions reports visiting Stage 30 and Stage 15 on the Sony lot.

Stage 30 is described as having a "subfloor" and walls adorned with lighted arrows with the word "Up" next to them. On one end of the stage the scooper saw a black backdrop with textured balls attached, which he said is a scene also found in Will Smith's previous MiB music video.

Hidden on Stage 15 was a more interesting sight. The black-walled soundstage is apparently home to an "this orange colored creature with 10 arms, kind of like a mutant octopus."

MUTANT X

With the series premiere only a few weeks away, the official Mutant X website is buzzing with activity.

Like many folks in the entertainment industry, the producers of Mutant X are trying to do their part in providing aid for the ongoing relief efforts. To assist victims of the recent terrorist attacks in New York, Washington.D.C., and Somerset County, PA, Tribune Entertainment Company is conducting a drive to raise disaster relief funds. Contributions to the fund may be made online or by check.

Last week the site rolled out a set of new images from the first episode of the show. A few of the screen grabs show the genetically altered heroes using their super powers.

This week the site has also posted a new 30 second promo for the syndicated program.

It also expanded the "MX Gateway", a fun component of the site that takes viewers to other websites in the Mutant X world. Newly opened sites include The Midnight Press.com and GenomeX.net.

Mutant X will be released into syndication the first week of October. Check your local listings for specific dates and times. Check the MutantX.net site to see which stations are airing the show near you.

The above fundraiser isn't the only charitable cause supported by Mutant X. The cast of the show will make an appearance as special guests at next month's auction by The Motion Picture Industry Charitable Alliance (MPICA) in Ontario, Canada.

Forbes March, Victoria Pratt, Lauren Lee Smith and Victor Webster from the upcoming syndicated superhero show are set to serve as guest auctioneers at the event.

While there are many charities and fundraisers benefiting the recent tragedies in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, this previously scheduled event aids other, equally worthwhile, causes. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Canine Companions For Indepndence and Kensington Youth Theater & Employment Skills.

MPICA is an entertainment industry-based non-profit organization that hosts charity auctions featuring items donated by studios, theatres, actors, directors, producers and crew members of popular movies, television series and stage productions. At these auctions, the fans of the shows are given the opportunity to collect special memorabilia while simultaneously generating funds for noteworthy causes. The selected charities benefit from both the generosity of the donations and from the enthusiasm and support of the fans. Each yearly event benefits one US and one Canadian charity, with different charities selected for each event.

The auction is set to take place October 19-21. The Mutant X crew are just a few of the many celebrities that will attend the event. Registration is still open, although space is limited. Check out the MPICA website for details.

DAREDEVIL

The Comics Continuum talked to Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige about what to expect from the upcoming Daredevil movie. Feige told that site that the top priority is casting the lead role for that film.

Although the Hollywood trades reported that Vin Diesel had been offered the part Feige told The Continuum, "A casting decision has not been made. A number of people are being discussed."

Comics2Film's own sources say that it seems unlikely that Diesel will sign.

Feige also talked about the casting of the other roles. "Kingpin has a very specific body type in the comic book," Feige said. "We're going to do our best to find someone who can represent that and who also has the acting chops."

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