Comic-Con 08 Live: Warner Brothers' Watchmen Panel!
by Alex Billington
July 25, 2008
This is easily the most highly anticipated panel of all of Comic-Con this year! After Zack Snyder debuted the first amazing footage from 300 at Comic-Con back in 2006, he's back again this year with his adaptation of one of comic's most beloved and legendary works - Watchmen! Snyder will be joined by Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson today and we can only imagine what kind of goodies they've brought to share with all of us. New poster? Complete scenes? An extended trailer? After watching the first trailer countless times in front of The Dark Knight, this has quickly become the movie I'm most looking forward to and I'm incredibly excited to see what Snyder has cooked up. Stay tuned and follow our live coverage below as it unfolds!
11:40AM - Currently sitting and waiting in Hall H for the panel to start at 11:55AM. The auditorium is entirely full...
11:52AM - The screens just showed a panel that allowed people to enter into a contest to win a custom Watchmen Xbox 360. The audience cheered, texting ensued, and the quietness resumed...
11:57AM - Nothing yet... still waiting... anticipation is high... everyone is anxious!
11:58AM - Directing of Programming for Comic-Con takes the stage.. time to begin!!
12:01PM - Entertainment Weekly rep takes the stage to introduce Watchmen. Two years ago Zack came to Comic-Con to show footage from 300, today he's here to show us footage from a comic that has often been called unfilmmable. Everyone in the cast makes their debut on stage: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Dave Gibbons, and Zack Snyder.
12:05PM - Asks Zack Snyder to recap "how we got here." Watchmen has been knocking around Hollywood for a while, a bunch of directors have been attached. He was working in post-production on 300 and Warner Brothers called and asked him if he would be interested. He said "yea... it seems like a crazy idea, but..." Once they asked him, he felt responsible and even if he said no, someone else would've made it and if it didn't turn out, it would've still been his fault, so he thought why not make it his fault anyway. Zack says the cast has been awesome in helping him understand the characters. All discussion has been about what is consistent with the book and so on. In that respect, they've been a "super great" cast.
Zack explains that when people heard there was a teaser they thought it would just be the title and the date, but that they actually decided to put some shots together for what we saw in front of The Dark Knight. That's the history up until what "he's going to show us."
12:11PM - Asking Dave Gibbons what is what like to see it become real. He said it felt like a dream and he was expecting to be pinched and would wake up. What really made it real was to stand inside of the Owl Ship and smell the Comedian's cigar and have him slap Gibbons on the back and proudly show him one of his guns - was just amazing. "It was incredible to actually tangibly touch it." It was the "every day things" that impressed him. Gibbons said that he plastered his trademark letter "G" up all over the place and he feels like it now has his signature "all over the place" in it.
Dave wishes that Alan Moore could feel the same experience he's having cause he's having a really great experience so far...
12:14PM - Zack Snyder sets up the shot we're about to see. Explains that he was going to bring the original trailer and show it again but thought that most of us have seen The Dark Knight already... So it's some of the shots from the trailer extended to show more of the non-PG aspect of the movie. He just wanted to put a couple of shots together to say "this is how we're doing it."
12:20PM - Absolutely stunning extended trailer. Just beautiful, just amazing. Zack continues on talking about how he thought that this would be relevant to today. In the end it asks a lot of moral questions and you've got to answer those yourself and he thinks "that's what Watchmen is."
12:21PM - Asking a question to Billy Crudup about filming completely nude in the blue. Billy making a joke about technically playing the character and how he has to act as that guy. He explains his two big obstacles and said he "did the best he could." Time to go to the audience for Q&A...
12:22PM - Question: What was it like to bring Rorshach to life? Haley: It was a blast, it was challenging, it was mind-numbing. There's a lot to this character. I've studied the script, I've studied the book and had long conversations with Zack about the character and his multiplicity. I've learned a lot from you about who Rorshach is from reading the internet and blogs and got into the character when he finally got on the outfit.
12:24PM - Question: Who is Zack Snyder's favorite Watchmen character? Snyder: "I like them all for different reasons" and the audience boos. "Everyone likes Rorshach the best so... that rules him out. Everyone else likes The Comedian because he is kind of like a badass and is morally... you know! So there's those two I can't vote for." Also, you have the girls, which he thinks are awesome, but also another cop out. But he sticks with the girls in the end!
12:26PM - Question: What goes into playing a blue man and was the Blue Man Group mad? Asked by our man Bob $tencil! Crudup: Mostly sucking it up and being humiliated and enjoying the process and working with these guys on such badass material.
12:27PM - Question: Nite Owl - how did you find the character and what did the costume mean to you? Wilson: He fell out of shape and said it was pretty cool to sit back when everyone else had to get "ripped" and he could just relax. "You always pull for Dan, you do..." What's so amazing, because he's flabby and down on his luck and lost, and yet when you look at the first few panels, especially when Rorshach and him go down to the Owl chamber and there's the shot where he says "don't you think that's a little paranoid" and there's a smile on his face. That's the stuff you don't get when you read the book. It helped him so much to see a guy who could be so down and yet has this light in his eyes and he loves that the artwork is so informative as an actor. Every day he got in the suit was a gift because he felt and looked like a badass. "It's just awesome..."
12:30PM - Question: The book is dark to the point of nihilism - did you balance it out? Snyder: We never thought about "is the movie too dark?" and whether people would slit their wrists in a theater (joking). There are characters that are trying to find their way in a movie and it is a reflection on all of us and those answers... there's a moral question that gets answered but there is no "real" answer. "It becomes up to you." It's really also about "what is darkness?" in a movie. Is it dark just for the sake? Explains that he rambled, so no real answer, "sorry"...
12:33PM - Question: The text and artwork are very complex with complex themes - what are the challenges of adapting that into a script? Snyder: That was a challenge. We also tried to include the supplemental material that's in the graphic novel as well. He wanted to try and include some of that in the movie as well. "You saw Dollar Bill with his cape caught in a revolving door and it's an interesting sort of superhero moment - the idea that capes are an issue. Those are moments of importance when you talk about superhero mythology." They kind of have a basic structure and they will have some stuff that isn't in there, but if anything they had to cut out some bits that were more actiony (maybe?) and things that weren't about the "big picture."
12:35PM - Question: Does he expect the mature audience trend to continue with comic book movies? Snyder: "Dark Knight is just a good movie." Pop culture has to deal with comic book movies no longer existing just as "summer" popcorn mindless entertainment, they actually... they're important and talk about humanity and talk about a bunch of stuff that is serious. Serious filmmakers and serious actors are making these into cool movies. "There are a lot of other graphic novels out there, but I would love to see Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight' made into a movie... but that's just me. There is a new wave of superhero movies coming, maybe?"
12:37PM - Question: What was it like working on green screen? Gugino: She worked very little on green screen. Crudup: He worked very little on green screen too, except for Mars. Jokes about not shooting on Mars even though there was a big budget. "It was an imaginative challenge" and was much harder for people opposite him when he was covered with dots and electronic material. Akerman: You have to tap into your imagination at that point. You have to go back to your childhood days with your imaginary friends... Most of it was done pretty realistic and only her and Crudup had the challenge of Mars. It literally brought tears to her eyes because it looked so fantastic to see finished.
12:40PM - Question: Speaking of nihilism - what was it like to play The Comedian? Morgan: There were days that he would go home from work and he would be in a little bit in a daze. He does some particular things that he wouldn't naturally do... "Like Dan's character, we all pull for The Comedian (joking)." Every day was a challenge and getting into costume and sticking a cigar in his mouth was a great way to get him into the mood of killing people. There were also days he felt like shit...
12:42PM - Question: In private speaking in the movie, he speaks a little bit of German - what's that about? Goode: He had no idea about Watchmen until he first got the script. After that, he read the script and the "bible" that is Watchmen, but he still had to make the character "flesh" and he's still really a mystery. To get to the answer... In certain scenes, he had his own kind of vision quest in Vancouver which if you've been there "you know what I'm talking about."
12:46PM - Question: About the trailer - about the music, Smashing Pumpkins, and if it will be included in the movie? Snyder: We felt tonally it made sense and said some things that were cool in relation to Watchmen. It also has irony based on it's lineage. We made a movie that had to be self aware but never that it knows "what it is." And that's what the song does. It's not in the movie because the movie takes place in 1985 and that song had not been written yet. Probably won't appear on the soundtrack either.
12:49PM - Question: Was anything omitted or was anything added? Snyder: "Yes and yes." That's it!
12:50PM - Question: Wanted to hear from the other actors about how they got into their characters. Akerman: Because the characters were so full and real... The thing about Laurie, except for Dr. Manhattan, is that they are all real people and they have their good sides and bad sides. She's a real woman on top of the fact that she can kick ass. Everyone in life goes about finding out who they are... I feel like she's this young girl caught in a women's body and needs to come out and show the world who she is.
Gugino: This was such an amazing character to play because she's this exhibitionist costumed crime fighter who loves attention. Film noir, 1940's, pin-up, is something that she's always loved and that was fun on an aesthetic level. There is a moment when the flash bulb goes off (in the footage we saw taking this picture) where she finally gets to see the character and how she could've been something and the rest of her life is about trying to get to that point again.
12:55PM - Question: Heard a rumor about the DVD - was going to try and get everything from the other director's productions to do a comprehensive overview of the 20-year process of getting this developed. Snyder: Has not heard of that but will look into that. Sounds great! Why not? It would be cool to see...
1:00PM - Footage one more time! Looked absolutely AMAZING! If you thought the trailer was breathtaking, this was even MORE incredible than that. Whenever Dr. Manhattan was vaporizing people, you could actually see the blood and organs and bones explode out of the body. It was much more detailed and gory (in a minimal sense) and really showed that they're not holding back (with the rating) in comparison to the trailer. There were a lot of scenes of Rorshach with his moving-ink mask walking around his apartment looking at newspaper clippings, as well as Nite Owl sitting down and taking off his glasses with old costumes behind him. There was no dialogue, but it looked absolutely stunning, gorgeous, some of the best footage of anything I've ever seen. I've got such high expectations for this movie and I think it will definitely deliver. We're in for one hell of a movie next March! Great panel and great footage!