CCI: "Watchmen" Movie Panel

Welcome to CBR's continuing live coverage of Comic Con International in San Diego. Warner Bros. is holding its Watchmen movie panel Friday afternoon from 11:55-1:00 Pacific time, so be sure to click "refresh" often to get the latest info.

CCI's Director of Programming Eddy Ibrahim introduced the session, to loud applause. He announced that the large Hall H had true high-definition screens for the first time this year, and admonished the crowd not to record the footage shown.

Jeff Jenson of Entertainment Weekly then took the stage to recap the history of the "Watchmen" comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. "Two years ago, Zack Snyder came to Comic Con and gave fans their first glance of '300,'" Jenson said. He then brought to the stage Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre), Billy Crudup (Dr Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Carla Gugino (Silk Spectre I), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorshach), Jeffery Dean Morgan (Comedian), and Patrick WIlson (Night Owl). Finally, Dave Gibbons emerged, followed by director Zack Snyder.

Snyder said his cast was eager to see a true translation to film. "See this little bubble? That's what my character says!" the director said was a common comment on set. He was also pleased that they had read the graphic novel, which is not always the case. "They've been a super-great cast to help me as a filmmaker to get this thing shot and realized."

Unlike last year, when fans demanded footage that Snyder was unable to provide because it was still in pre-production, the director promised he would have something for this Comic Con. He also joked about online rumors about the trailer: "I know what it's going to be! It's going to be the word 'Watchmen,' and nothing else!' So I was determined not to do that," Snyder said. "It would be easier, if that was acceptable."

Gibbons talked of his wonder standing inside the Owl Ship, "and smelling the Comedian's cigar smoke, and having the Comedian slap me on the back. It was just incredible."

He noted also the subtle appearance of Gibbons's graffiti "G" signature, and a sign in the background with the word "Judomaster," who was an original Charlton character that would have been in the original concept of the "Watchmen comic."

Regarding Alan Moore, Gibbons joked, "I see there is an elephant in the room." "I'm sorry it's been such a bad experience for him, because I am having such a good experience," Gibbons said.

Snyder said the trailer shown today would be "less kid-friendly" than that shown in theatres.

The trailer opens with a shot of Rorschach, then cuts to a giant Dr Manhattan blasting apart Vietnamese soldiers. We then see Rorshach searching an apartment. His morphing mask gets a lot of play. We also see the Comedian's armor, a plain-clothes Night Owl collapsing in sorrow. And a flashback of the heroes in better days.Ozymandias's fortress rises from the desert, Night Owl and Silk Spectre kiss in front of a mushroom cloud, Time pieces feature heavily, we see the Owl Jet in flight, and the clip ends with the Comedian falling from a window, the bloodied Smiley falling after him.

Snyder said the movie will not overtly make comparisons to the real-world war on terrorism, but will prompt readers to difficult questions through the story, as the original comic did.

The panel was then opened to fan questions.

What was it like playing Rorshach? "It was a blast, it was challenging, it was mindnumbing�"this character, there's a lot to him," Haley said. He said he studied the graphic novel, as well as fan sites to discover "who Rorshach is."

The next fan was dressed as a Dark Knight version of Batman, causing the panel and fans to laugh. His question was to Snyder, asking his favorite Watchmen character. "That's a good question, Batman," he said. "That's not really a fair question, though�"I like them all for different reasons." Fans booed. "Everybody likes Rorshach best, so that rules him out." Next up was Comedian, which he also skipped over. "The girls... awesome, but also a cop out," he continued. "Maybe I'll just stay with the girls; I like the girls best. Thank you, Batman."

To Crudup: "Was the rest of te Blue Man Group jealous that you got that part? "I don't know, because we're not on speaking terms anymore," he joked. On getting into the role, "I had to get in shape, learn how to shift my molecules... that's not something they teach you in acting school."

The moderator then noted that Wilson had to "fall out of shape" to play Night Owl. "It was pretty cool when everybody else had to get all ripped, and I could sit back with a carton of Haagen Dazs and a couple beers." He also said "you always pull for Dan [Dreiburg, Night Owl], you always want him to pull through."

Wilson also noted that the art helped him find the personality of the character, including his humor. "You see the sense of smile," he said of his downtrodden character. "That's something you don't get in adapting a regular book." He also said his putting on the suit "makes you look like a badass, makes you feel like a badass... which is probably just what Dan felt."

Asked how to "balance the nihilism" seen in the book, Snyder replied "Why would you want to do that?" "We never thought about whether this movie was too dark, that if we were leading down this path where people were going to call it quits and slit their wrists there in the theatre," he said.

"What is darkness in a movie?" Snyder asked, noting psychotic and moral bankrupt characters. "The question is, is it real?" He noted the darkness of "Saw," and said, "People get their arms sawed off in our movie too--but for different reasons!"

On the supplemental materials found in "Watchmen," Snyder said he wanted to get some of this into the movie, "but the stuff with images alone could give you a five hour movie." "We kind of had a basic structure, and look, there's going to be some stuff that just isn't in there."

The next fan was dressed as Rorschach. He asked whether the trend of mature comic book movies would continue, and what Snyder would like to direct. "It's awesome, that you ask that question about a mature audience and you're dressed like that," Snyder joked. "I love it." He did indicate that what should be taken away from the trend is that movies should be "good" rather than strictly "mature," and that these would hold out better than traditional "popcorn" action movies.

Gugino said that there was very little green screen shooting in the movie�""except for Mars," Crudup interjected, "it's more expensive to shoot there." Crudup said Akerman "lauged in my face for the first two weeks" he was in his CGI-generating costume, which involved blue dots and "big battery packs on my hips."

On the Comedian, Morgan said, "I think he's hilarious." "He does things you wouldn't normally do as a person, but like Dan's character I think you pull for the Comedian," he joked. "Putting that cigar in my mouth really got me into character and put me in the mood to kill people."

The moderator asked Goode about his accent. Goode, who is British, speaks in the film with an American accent as Veidt and something closer to a German accent with the Watchmen. He said he saw the script and thought, "I have two scenes, one where I'm like Lee Iacoca, the other where I'm saying I've killed fifteen million people. And I thought, what the fuck!" His research involved phoning up friends, and extrapolating a German origin for Veidt, with an early immigration to America completing his intrepetation. "It's not in the book; it's just for me, the dick, trying to make sense of the character," he said.

The next question was about the Smashing Pumpkins song used in the trailer, and whether it would appear in the completed film. "Tonally, to me, it made sense," Snyder said. "Subtly, I think it also has irony, because of its lineage," the director said, referring to the fact the song was also used to promote "Batman & Robin." He said the song would not appear in the movie "because it takes place in 1985, the song had not been written yet."

The next question was from twins, completing each other's sentence, which made everyone on the panel laugh. They asked about additions and cuts to the film from the graphic novel source. "Yes and yes," to both additions and subtractions, Snyder said.

"When I first read the script, I was not familiar with Watchmen," Akerman said. "And i loved the script, I thought it was one of the best scripts I'd ever read." She noted that, in this movie, "we are all real people, who have our good sides and bad sides," discussing her character's conflicted history and search for identity. "I felt like I could relate to it from the very beginning, even though she's different from anything I could possibly imagine. I hope I gave Lori what you guys see in the graphic novel."

The final question (from a fan not in costume) was about the eventual DVD, asking whether it was true that Snyder would try to include materials from previously-planned and scrapped versions of "Watchmen." "I have not heard that," Snyder said. "That would be really cool."

Goode then asked to have the trailer repeated. And it was.

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