Watchmen is finally back in the public spotlight following news last month that Damon Lindelof might be bringing Alan Moore's groundbreaking comic series to life as a television show on HBO. The project would mark the first time the property has been adapted since Zack Snyder's film all the way back in 2009.
Although Snyder's version was divisive among fans and critics, the film did gross a profit at the box office (bringing in $185 million worldwide), leading many to assume a follow-up was inevitable given the sequel-heavy mindset of modern cinema. The property was never revisited, though, and its eight-year absence is a surprisingly lengthy one given Hollywood's predilection towards marquee comic book properties and its willingness to pull the reboot trigger. Now, thanks to some new comments from Rorschach actor Jackie Earle Haley, we might know the reasoning behind the sequel's absence.
"I wish they would have gone on," Haley said in an interview with Cinema Blend. "You know, I think they probably would have gone on and done more films with Watchmen, different versions of it, because I think there was enough success that they could have gone back in time or done something with it. But I think the thing that really kind of held it up was the fact that there was this contention of ownership between Warner Bros. and Paramount."
The dispute that Haley is referring to is in regards to the convoluted rights history behind Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's original comic series. Paramount held the rights to the property at first, but after years of possessing the property and not putting an adaptation into production, the studio floated the project out for external turnaround. Warner Bros. purchased the option to distribute the film, culminating in a deal between the two companies. Paramount was set to handle international distribution of the film, while Warner Bros. would take care of domestic theaters. The deal apparently didn't go as smoothly as originally intended, with Haley adding, "Dude, it was like Paramount waited until [Watchmen] was pregnant. We were at the end of production, when Paramount said 'Oh, and by the way...'"
The messy rights negotiations (in addition to a box office intake that was neither underwhelming nor spectacular) looks to potentially be the reason that Rorschach and company have remained relegated to the shadows almost one decade later.
HBO has stated that their Watchmen is in early pre-production, and Lindelof remains non-committal regarding his involvement in a new adaptation of the beloved comic series.