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David Hayter on Watchmen

Published February 27, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros
Watchmen Watchmen

The Watchmen that comes to theaters is faithful to the graphic novel thanks largely to director Zack Snyder and screenwriter Alex Tse. Earlier drafts tried to adapt the material, setting it in present day, and even previous writer David Hayter conceded that it didn't work.

David Hayter Talks Watchmen(s)

"I didn't feel I had the leverage to do that at the time," Hayter said. "Plus, keep in mind when I was writing, I wrote between 2000 and 2005. That was all about 9/11 so when I first pitched it, I said, 'Look, I want young people to understand that when I was 15, we were under the impression that the Russians could launch their missiles and we would have half an hour's notice before the end of the world. That could happen at any time. I was terrified.' That's such a bizarre reality to try to explain to a current generation. I really wanted that to be part of the original thing but once 9/11 happened, it was very difficult to even justify it to myself, to talk about issues that were not primary in people's minds at that point. Fortunately, we have enough distance now that I think looking back on the Cold War is important and viable again."

Hayter tried a draft set in 1985 but the then studio bosses didn't appreciate the metaphor. "When I first had it in 1985, I talked about the Russians going into Afghanistan and Adrian saying, 'It always begins with Afghanistan. It always begins with that part of the world. Alexander knew it, the Russians know it.' At the time, America was going into Afghanistan and I thought, 'Oh, isn't this brilliant? They're going to love this.' Not so much."

Even the current script alters the ending of the story, though remains true to it. Spoiler alert for those who don't know the Watchmen story inside and out: Some of Hayter's drafts tried to make Adrian Veidt pay for his actions more explicitly than Alan Moore did.

"I crushed him with the Owl ship because the thing is, Dan Dreiberg to me is sort of the glue. He's the most human character and he's the one that's the audience's doorway into the film. I kind of felt like in the end, he's just sort of standing there and everything comes about. He watches his friend get killed. He's got Lori but he's not really active. I thought wouldn't it be interesting if this guy who has been human, who has not been committing serious violence in the name of the moral code, if that's what he gets from the death of his friend. That's what he learns from Rorschach, that sometimes justice has to prevail and sometimes it has to prevail in an ugly way, that some people have to be punished to the ultimate extent. So that's why I did it. I thought it would be more satisfying for Dan and I thought it would be more fun for me to be able to kill Adrian."

Even screenwriters are as fallible as the Watchmen. "That was me imposing my moral will on Watchmen which I shouldn't do because that was against my code for the movie, which was I don't exist. This is all about Alan Moore and bringing this story to life. But I did indulge myself. I did want to see Adrian pay."

Watchmen opens to theaters March 6th.

For the posters, trailers, stills, review and more info on the film, go to the Watchmen Movie Page.
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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Bros

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