Much like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original DC Comics graphic novel, HBO's Watchmen series is one that roots itself in alt-history. Series creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof has now offered greater insight regarding this fact. More specifically, Lindelof has dished on just how different Hollywood looks in Watchmen's world without Robert Redford -- or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the Watchmen universe, prolific actor Robert Redford walked away from Hollywood in the 1980s to pursue the office of President of the United States. In 1988, he failed to unseat Richard Nixon (who was still in office following the abolition of term limits). Following Nixon's death, however, Redford was able to handily defeat Gerald Ford in the 1992 election, and has remained President through 2019.
As revealed by Lindelof in an interview with /Film, due to Redford sitting in the oval office, he was unable to direct or star in 1998's The Horse Whisperer -- which he did in real life. -- being replaced by Silence of the Lambs actor Scott Glenn. However, The Horse Whisperer in the Watchmen universe shares one key similarity with the one from our reality: it launched the career of one Scarlett Johansson.
In Watchmen's world, however, Johansson did not go on to star as Black Widow in Marvel's Avengers. Rather, she went on to star as the character Black Sash in Charlton's Marauders -- a franchise of pirate films. Watchmen's Scarlett Johansson is next expected to reprise her role in Crisis on Infinite Seas (a reference to DC's own Crisis on Infinite Earths). That said, it is unclear of Glenn went on to star in whatever Charlton's version of Daredevil is.
Of course, in the real world, "President" Redford himself also had a role in the MCU -- first appearing as senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Meanwhile, in Watchmen's world, it was Lost alum Terry O'Quinn who played the role of Admiral Pierce in Charlton's 2014 film Marauders: The Winter Pirate.
In addition to the obvious Marvel metaphors, the use of the Charlton name deserves its own dissection. Charlton Comics (originally T.W.O Charles Company) was a real-life publisher founded in 1945 before officially closing its doors in 1986. By 1983, DC had already acquired most of Charlton's properties. In fact, the original plan was for Charlton's costumed heroes to be used in Moore and Gibbons' original Watchmen comic. Plans changed, however, and the characters were integrated into the main DC lineup as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
It appears that in the universe of HBO's Watchmen, Charlton fared a bit better than it did in the real world. Rather than Marvel taking Hollywood by storm with its Avengers films, it was Charlton that rose to the top through the pirate-themed Marauders franchise (not to be confused with Marvel Comics' own mutant-themed Marauders title, of course).
Developed by Damon Lindelof, HBO's Watchmen stars Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, James Wolk, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon. The series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.