The Watchmen series from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons has frequently been hailed as one of the greatest comics of all time. IT deconstructs the typical superhero genre in numerous different ways. It was an ambitious comic to begin with, taking characters from Charlton Comics and DC Comics to turn them into a tale about an alternate timeline. The heroes are pulled out of retirement when one of their former teammates is murdered in his own apartment, and they slowly uncover a conspiracy that could put the world at risk. So as we said, it’s quite ambitious.
It’s a huge project to bring to screen, especially with the nature of one of its biggest characters, Doctor Manhattan. Inevitably, Hollywood snatched up the movie rights back in 1986, before the series had gained global fame. A production team was put in place, and several different scripts were written before we finally got a live action Watchmen movie from Zack Snyder. It was his second comic book project after 300, and the studio had high hopes. Luckily, they weren’t disappointed. But with a long history, there are also many things you might not know about the film. We’ve done our research, and here are 15 things you never knew about Watchmen.
15. ZACK SNYDER’S CAMEO
Extras in movies can sometimes give us the best cameos in film. But sometimes directors like to put themselves in as a wink to the audience. Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino are two obvious names, but Zack Snyder is also on that list. He makes an appearance in Watchmen during a flashback sequence. Since the film is set during an alternate timeline, America wins the war in Vietnam. Mainly because Doctor Manhattan helps in battle by annihilating their soldiers with his powers.
The director appears in the film wearing a pair of sunglasses and a beret. We see Snyder riding the helicopter alongside The Comedian and then stood next to The Comedian as the anti-hero burns one of the soldiers alive. Lovely. He later appeared in Wonder Woman as a soldier during WWI.
14. SOMEONE ELSE PLAYED RORSCHACH
When a trailer for Snyder’s previous film, 300, debuted online the director actually included a test shot of Rorschach in the trailer as part of a bet with his wife Deborah. She bet him $100 that no one would spot the single frame inclusion of the anti-hero inside the trailer. He won the bet, as people found it almost instantly.
The frame showed Rorschach stood against a New York skyline holding the iconic button. But it was actually the producer of 300, Wesley Coller, in a quickly made mask stood against a backdrop. It was designed to be an example of the style Snyder was going for in his Watchmen project. But it also fueled the fire for fans excited for the adaptation. It’s quite reminiscent of the finished film, don’t you think?
13. A PREVIOUS SCRIPT KILLED OZYMANDIAS
One of the most notable parts of Watchmen is how it deconstructs the whole hero versus villain scenario, and teasing the audience with the idea that the two may not be as clear cut as they might think. With Ozymandias’ plans to usher in world peace by also triggering a nuclear apocalypse, the Watchmen are understandably enraged. And when Rorschach has to die because he’d reveal the secret, Nite Owl loses his cool.
In an original script by David Hayter, not only did Nite Owl beat Ozymandias to a bloody pulp, but he killed the ‘villain’ of the story too. He impales him on one of his boomerang/batarang substitutes. So even though he’s left alive at the end of the final film, we would have seen a stereotypical villain death originally.
12. GERARD BUTLER WAS PROMISED A ROLE
We all know Gerard Butler previously worked with Zack Snyder in 300 as King Leonidas, and who can forget the immortal “This. Is. Sparta!” war cry. But after the two worked together, Snyder promised Butler a role in his next project, Watchmen. But when it came down to it, all the roles had been cast and Butler was not on the list.
Fans of the comic will know that there’s a comic within a comic, Tales of the Black Freighter. The animated adaptation centers on a lone sailor who is attacked a sea and has to travel home to warn the town. The animated version of the comic features Butler as the lone survivor of the attack, since he wasn’t given a role in the main cast.
11. RON PERLMAN WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE COMEDIAN
Paul Greengrass was originally one of the frontrunners to helm the Watchmen movie when Warner Bros. got the rights to the film. And in the script written by David Hayter, the director wanted to bring on Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, to play The Comedian. Now although we love Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Eddie Blake, there’s something about Ron Perlman that really peaks our interest.
Maybe it’s the gruff demeanor and the no nonsense attitude. But seeing Perlman in the outfit and being allowed to be an anti-hero as well as a morally ambiguous figure would captivate us. It could be said that his performance could be a little too similar to Hellboy, but we’re sure that the Perlman could find a way of absolutely owning that character. Shame it’ll never happen.
10. $7 MILLION DOLLARS HAD BEEN SPENT BEFORE ZACK SNYDER
Filmmaking is no cheap affair. With budgets for huge action blockbusters sometimes coming in at eye watering numbers, it’s no surprise that studios spend a lot of time wanting to get them right beforehand. Well Watchmen is one of those projects. The project had been in development for quite some time before Zack Snyder was even in the running for the job.
Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox had both explored avenues with multiple directors such as Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass and even Darren Arronofsky. There had been multiple script drafts and rewrites, before the rights were acquired by Paramount. By the time that Warner Bros. brought Zack Snyder onboard to helm the film, $7 million had already been spent trying to bring the Watchmen to the big screen.
9. TIM BURTON WANTED IN
Around the time that Snyder was hired to direct the film, Warner Bros. had been shopping for other potential big names to bring a superhero team to life. And since Tim Burton had experience with bringing dark heroes to life after his time on Batman, it turned out that he was interested in leading the project. We’ve seen what his version of a dark gothic city could look like, but what about a realistic gritty New York setting?
Well to the surprise of absolutely no one, Burton wanted to bring Johnny Depp onto the project with him. He wanted to cast Depp as The Comedian. Just take a second to picture that version of the character. Although The Comedian’s violent view of the world has a level of exuberance to it, we still think that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was the better choice for the role.
8. OZYMANDIAS’ COSTUME IS A PARODY
It’s safe to say that the live action version of Ozymandias’ costume is definitely toned down considerably compared to the purple and gold look from the comics. The suit looks more in line with the superhero costumes that we’re all familiar with today. But, if you pay close attention the suit is definitely making a joke out of some previous superhero costumes that we’ve all made fun of in the past.
We’re talking about nipples. Specifically, Bat-Nipples. That’s right, according to Dave Gibbons the suit is a parody of the George Clooney Bat-Nippled suit. And it’s not difficult to see the similarities on both suits. Chiseled muscle suit with pointy nipples on a superhero? It’s a clear reference to the infamous Clooney suit. But which hero is better? That’s a question for another day.
7. BILLY CRUDUP WORE A MOTION CAPTURE SUIT
Let’s face it, Doctor Manhattan isn’t the easiest character to bring to life when it comes to his powers. He has the ability to teleport everywhere, he can manipulate matter as he sees fit, he spends a lot of time on Mars and then there’s the part where he’s constantly glowing blue.
It would have been easy for the development team just to CGI him in after filming, with actors pretending he was there. But Billy Crudup donned a motion capture suit covered in glowing blue lights to help bring the lighting of Manhattan’s body to life and to provide help in post-production so they could see how it reacted on certain surfaces as he moved. Crudup was constantly filmed by two cameras, one to capture his facial expressions and the other for his physical performance.
6. FOX SUED WARNER BROS.
Watchmen has been in development as a film for many years, with the idea spanning back to 1986, shortly after Watchmen hit the shelves. The rights to the film were originally owned by Fox and it was going to be produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver.
But as we know today, Warner Bros. were the ones to create the film with Zack Snyder. But shortly before the film’s release, Fox sued Warner Bros. over the rights as Lawrence Gordon never paid 20th Century Fox for taking the project to a completely different studio. For a while, it looked like the film’s 2008 release was going to be delayed because of the lawsuit. Luckily the two studios came to a settlement agreement and the film was released as planned.
5. ALAN MOORE WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FILM
The legendary writer is infamous for his outspoken nature on studios adapting his work into live action films. And after the terrible League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it’s hard not to agree with him. But the writer viciously believes that because his work was written for a comic book format, it should be left that way completely.
So when the tricky part about royalties, credits and paying homage to Moore in the filmmaking process, the writer asked for name to be kept completely away from it. He went so far as to assign all royalties from the film over to the artist of the original book, Dave Gibbons. Maybe it was the condensing of his content that put him off alongside the format. We wonder what his thoughts are on the upcoming television adaptation of Watchmen.
4. JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN THOUGHT THE COMEDIAN WAS A CAMEO
Can you picture Watchmen without The Comedian? No? Us neither. He’s a vital piece of the puzzle, and also the character that pulls us into the story when he’s murdered. Without him, we never get the bloodstained smiley pin badge either. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan assumed on a first read of the script that The Comedian was simply a cameo role in the film because he dies so early on. He was so unimpressed by the small scene in fact, that he very nearly didn’t take up on the offer.
The first time we meet Blake just didn’t quite capture Morgan’s imagination. Luckily, his agent managed to persuade him to keep on reading the script and after that he saw Comedian’s life would be explored in flashbacks he decided to take the role. We can’t really picture anyone else sporting that look.
3. JOEL SILVER THINKS HIS VERSION WOULD’VE BEEN BETTER
Snyder’s take on the Watchmen has been truly divisive amongst fans. Some see it as one of the best comic book movie adaptations of the last thirty years. And others feel that it forgets the tone the superhero genre to satisfy a dark and grungy theme. It’s a bleak timeline, so there’s no need to sugarcoat it in our opinion. But according to Joel Silver, who previously worked on getting Watchmen off the ground, his version would have been better.
The script he worked with Terry Gillam on saw the characters transport to a different Earth in the finale where there are fictional version of themselves. The story is already a film with large ideas and a huge scale, but adding another alternate universe into the mix may have been too much. Thankfully, we didn’t get this version.
2. DAVE GIBBONS DREW STORYBOARD ART
In the original comic book, instead of the world thinking Doctor Manhattan had made an assault on numerous different cities, Ozymandias faked an alien invasion to stop nuclear war. The huge squid-like creature isn’t exactly easy to miss. But it isn’t the most film-friendly portions of the story because it drastically contrasts the rest of the realism in their world. So it’s understandable that Snyder wanted to leave it out.
So because of this different ending, Zack Snyder actually worked with the original artist Dave Gibbons to create art and storyboards for the finale of Watchmen. So it’s good to know that even though Alan Moore didn’t give his blessing on the movie adaptation, at least Dave Gibbons had some input as to how the film would look as a finish product.
1. THE FILM REFERENCES A NON EXISTENT CARTOON
Remember the Watchmen kids cartoon? No? Well, that’s because it didn’t happen. But an animator created a fake trailer/opening credits of what a Watchmen “Saturday morning” cartoon could look like. The look of each character tries to capture the comics more closely, like Nite Owl’s cape for example. It even had a cheesy rock score over the top.
But the film actually makes reference to this fake animated cartoon at one point. Rorschach finds a matchbook with a logo for “Happy Harry’s” on it. This is the alias of the man who fueled the cartoon project. It even managed to gain the attention of the original artist Dave Gibbons, who appreciated the self-parody of the trailer. He mentioned that it captured the silliness of ‘80s cartoons whilst also poking fun at itself.
Which of these facts shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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