Except for an out of focus poster in a Tulsa school room, the Oscar winner is never seen on-screen in HBO's Watchmen. However, Redford's multi-term Presidential shadow is an ominous specter in a sometimes shambolic and yet spectacular show full of shadows, good intentions gone wrong, mad trillionaire, and masks, literal and figurative.
Ardent series creator Damon Lindelof's October 20 debuting self-described “remix” of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's palpitating and iconic comic series from the 1980s doesn't seek to dissect the superhero genre as much as dig up the brutal roots in the American soil. As the Regina King-led Watchmen makes perfectly clear, to quote Richard Nixon: when you dig up the past, their sins come bellowing back to embody the present.
Following the faked alien invasion that curtailed a superpowers' nuclear war in the Watchmen comics, this provocative sequel of sorts Watchmen is set in the Tulsa, Oklahoma of a 2019 America that is very different from our own and so very similar.
It's an America where the extremely liberal Redford has ruled for decades, a green deal of sorts is in place, the distraction of the Internet and smartphones are absent and guns are strictly curtailed. Literally pulled by Lindelof from the pages of a Ta-Nehisi Coates article, it is an America striving to reconcile with atrocities like the officially sanctioned 1921 massacre of hundreds of African-Americans and the destruction of what was known as Black Wall Street. This slightly shoddy progressive's wet dream is also an America where reparations AKA “Redfordations” fuel the hate of the right, the show within a show American Hero Story is on everyone's TV and the often maladroit police wear masks after being nearly slaughtered by a white supremacist group known as the Seventh Kavalry, whose return after several quiet years incites the nine-episode first season.
Once again making it clear that she is one of the great actors of our time, King strides into that morass as the scarred Angela Abar, a Tulsa detective who carries out masked justice as Sister Night. To that end, there are a fair number of expertly choreographed fight scenes where an African-American woman kicks the crap out of racist asswipes in a way that should make everyone's ancestors proud. Drawing intentionally or not from the spirit of the Gibbons and Frank Miller created Martha Washington comics that debuted in 1990, there is also a warrior's journey to be had for Angela and King masterfully leads us on that path as only the best of the best can.
Stung by corporate politics in the past, the brambly Alan Moore won't even allow his name on this latest adaptation of one of his works. And, as they are prone to do, purist fans of the comics may dismiss the whole thing without a glance. Regardless, let me tell you as someone who marveled over Moore and Gibbons genius back in the dying days of the Reagan Era, you are going to have to either have read or take a gander of the original Watchmen comic series to have any idea what is going on here in the nine-episode series from the Lost and Leftovers boss.
Then, like Dr. Manhattan looking back at Earth from his sanctuary of Mars, you are going to have to shift your POV at least 290° away from all that to see that the heart of this Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr., Legion's Jean Smart, the wonderfully slippery Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Steven Norfleet and Hong Chau co-starrer is the perpetual American question of race, racism and nostalgia, which is a literal and figurative drug here.
Hoisted on its own expectations in a small screen landscape scattered with revivals and reboots, this Watchmen is much less of a dog's breakfast than Moore's mammoth Jerusalem novel and far meatier than Zack Snyder's 2009 Watchmen movie or the prequel and the recent DC Universe Doomsday comics of the WarnerMedia controlled property. Yes, this is another case of a white boy leading the charge on tragedies and great injustices that may be new to him but well known to many people of color, directly or indirectly. Nonetheless, and I say this as another white boy, Lindelof's aim is true with a far from recondite narrative that harnesses the mask of genre to tell a tale of our time and of America's true history.
'Watchmen' Series Creator Damon Lindelof On Classic Comic For America 2019, Regina King & Future Of 'The Hunt' — New York Comic Con
To that long game, woven irregularly here and there with aspects of the original Watchmen and like the homemade masks the bigoted Kavalry members wear based on the maladjusted Rorschach character of the comics, this Watchmen is more a fierce blaze than the slow burn that too-often exemplifies current prestige television.
Destined to pull many viewers way out of their comfort zones, HBO's newest big budget offering lacks the swinging swords of Game of Thrones, but ultimately cuts far deeper in its opening moves.
Shifting to the NYC of 1938, mesmerizing tactics and the birth of a not so golden age of costumed heroes, the exceptional Stephen Williams directed sixth episode pulls the pin on any warmed-over notion of how great America used to be and kicks the booster rockets for the last act. Slide in a parallel plotline of a scene feasting Irons' clearly playing the now elderly and exiled but still scheming Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias of the comics and you have yourself a saga about the extraordinary in a history of human degradation and masked truths that we have too often come to accept as ordinary in this country.
Now, Lindelof has hinted that the first season of Watchmen is a complete story and could end up as a one and done. That's an appreciated consideration, but unlikely to be the case as WarnerMedia and HBO seek to fill the Game of Thrones gap now the blockbuster series is over and the AT&T-owned unit seeks to ramp up its HBO Max streaming game for next year.
Deep within the first season, Irons' as yet unnamed Veidt says to one of his household staff that “to be alive you have to have purpose and you have none.”
Shoveling deep into the American dream and nightmare, Watchmen has purpose to burn.
Even before Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won the Audience Award, the World War II satire was getting plenty of attention from Hollywood — because it was a comedy about Hitler. The filmmaker had a cult following after his films Boy, What We Do In the Shadowsand Hunt For the Wilderpeople. After Thor: Ragnarok,Waititi's stock skyrocketed and his fanbase grew. Audiences have been waiting for Jojo Rabbitto hit theaters and with the critical buzz its been getting, Fox Searchlightcould possibly expect a delightful weekend.
Also opening this weekend is Feras Fayyad's The Cave.With his success, acclaim and Oscar nomination for Last Men in Aleppo, his The Cave will certainly be a documentary feature to watch during award season.
Also this weekend, the François Ozon drama By the Grace of God is another deep dive into the child sexual abuse horrors of the Catholic Church. For something a little lighter, there is the documentary Fiddlin'which is described as a “love letter to American roots and the uplifting power of music.”
Other films to note this weekend in the Specialty realm are A24's black and white horror The Lighthouse from director Robert Eggers The Witch and starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, as well as the Sundance suburban-set comedy Greener Grass. Also opening is the documentary Serendipity which follows French artist Prune Nourry and how her breast cancer diagnosis impacted her life and work.
Jojo RabbitFox Searchlight
Everyone seems excited over Taika Waititi's film about a little German boy named Jojo Roman Griffin Davis, his relationship with his wildly idiotic imaginary friend Adolf Hitler Waititi and how he navigates his life as he attends Nazi Youth Training Camp and then learns that his mother Scarlett Johansson is hiding a young Jewish girl Thomasin McKenzie in their attic. Even though many are excited to see JoJo Rabbit, which is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, the Hitler component has raised eyebrows and skeptics are wondering what kind of place this movie is coming from.
“When people see the movie you'll know exactly what Taika is trying to say and do with the movie,” producer Carthew Neal told Deadline.
He continues, “It has all of Taika's previous films wrapped up in one. The absurdist comedy from What We Do In the Shadows,the heart and soul of Hunt For the Wilderpeople and the spectacle of Thor: Ragnarok. It draws from all his past films and applies it to heavy subject matter that has lots of gravitas. He wants to say something with this film, and to do it through comedy is a way to engage audiences, bring them in, get them to really laugh and then feel something for Jojo as he goes through this process and learns that love can overcome hate.”
Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis in 'Jojo Rabbit' Larry Horricks/Fox Searchlight
Neal adds that they were very cognizant of setting the right tone for the film so that it is not misunderstood. “Taika is the type of filmmaker who makes films for audiences and part of his process is doing a lot of screening and testing and experimenting to get that balance right,” he said. “It's something he spent a lot of time on and he won't release it until it's ready.”
Frank Rodriguez, SVP General Sales Manager of Fox Searchlight Pictures tells Deadline that Fox Searchlight originally planned a four to five week rollout, but decided on a three to four week plan instead.
“The biggest markets are going to be done by the third weekend,” Rodriguez said. “By November 1, we'll be out to the 65 top markets‚ they signify most of the big gross on the picture.”
Roman Griffin Davis and Taika Waititi in 'Jojo Rabbit' Fox Searchlight
Jojo Rabbit is certainly positioned for awards season, but Rodriguez said, “Any time you release a film during this time, people think that we are really going for the awards — but it's not necessarily true. Sometimes it's just a really great time to release.”
October is a sweet spot for Fox Searchlight. In October 2013, they released 12 Years A Slave and in October 2014 they released Birdman, both did fairly well in limited release but went on to do even better: Both won Oscars for Best Picture.
Jojo Rabbit opens today in New York and Los Angeles in five theaters: the Arclight Hollywood and Landmark in L.A. as well as the Regal Union Square, AMC Lincoln Square and Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn in New York. The film will continue to roll out for the next three to four weeks.
The CaveNational Geographic
Feras Fayyad's The Cave tells the story of a secret underground hospital in Syria and the female-led team of civilians and medical professionals who risk their lives to provide medical care to locals. It made its premiere at Toronto to critical acclaim and puts Fayyad on an awards season track.
“Feras is a master of cinema verite,” said Carolyn Bernstein, EVP global scripted content & documentary films for National Geographic. “In The Cave specifically, that intense realism gives you a front-row seat to the heroic, selfless everyday work of Dr. Amani and her colleagues, all while destructions reign around them. It is a truly immersive experience.”
The film won the Grolsch People's Choice Award at TIFF and continues to put the spotlight on the turmoil in Syria. “This is not an easy film to watch, but it's a necessary one,” said Bernstein. “We have a 130-year history at National Geographic of shining a light on stories that matter — my hope is that this film can provide insight and context into why the world needs to pay attention to what is happening. And perhaps inspire audiences to fight for injustice wherever they see it, much like Dr. Amani.”
Dr. Amani in the operating room in 'The Cave' National Geographic
With Fayyad's acclaimed Last Men in Aleppoand the recent Oscar win for Free Solo, Nat Geo is becoming a documentary force to be reckoned with. “There has never been a better time for documentary filmmaking,” said Bernstein. “At Nat Geo we gravitate towards documentaries that are telling provocative, globally relevant stories in cinematic fashion. There is no limit to the lengths that documentary filmmakers go to tell these stories — the success of these films on the awards circuit is proof that documentarians are finally getting their due.”
The Caveopens in New York and Los Angeles today and will open to the top 15 markets by November 8.
By the Grace Of GodMusic Box Films
Music Box isn't a stranger to François Ozon's work. The company distributed Potichein 2011 and Frantzin 2017. Brian Andreotti, Director of Acquisitions & Theatrical Distribution at Music Box, said Ozon continues to surprise, as demonstrated with By the Grace of God.
“We were struck by the sobriety and fidelity of By the Grace of God,” said Andreotti. “The dedication to preserving and making legible the experience of survivors who are themselves still finding ways to articulate their trauma — we recognized that this was a new register that offers Ozon's long-time fans a fresh perspective on his craft.”
Based on true events, the film, which stars Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Swann Arlaud and Eric Caravaca, follows three adult men who band together to expose the code of silence in the Catholic Church that continued to empower a priest who abused them as boys. Ozon's extensive research and interviews helped inform with Father Preynat's real-life victims, who also supported the film.
Melvil Poupaud in 'By the Grace of God' Music Box
Becky Schultz, Director of Marketing & Communications at Music Box says By the Grace of God is different from other narratives on the subject because its point of view.
“It uniquely examines with great nuance and intimacy the varying effects that abuse and trauma can have on a person and their families, including their relationships to the church,” she said. “It's a difficult subject, to be sure, but Ozon's treatment is ultimately empowering. When the survivors band together to expose decades of abuse and subsequent cover-up, By the Grace of God becomes a powerful social justice story and an eye-opener to the global grassroots movements seeking justice for victims of pastoral abuse.”
By the Grace Of Godopens in New York today at Film Forum and in Los Angeles on October 25 at the Nuart. A national rollout will follow.
In the documentary Fiddlin' filmmakers and sisters Julie Simone and Vicki Vlasic travel to the world's oldest and largest fiddler's convention in Galax, Virginia. The sisters, who are from the area and were the first filmmakers allowed to bring cameras into the 84-year convention, not only had the opportunity to document the talented musicians but reconnect with their own roots. While doing so, the film became more than just a movie about uplifting music.
“It felt like this was not only the right time to make this film, but it was the right thing to do,” Vlasic told Deadline. “There has been so much hatred and animosity in our country and much of it, for political reasons, has been aimed at the people in this region.”
She continued, “While the music was, of course, the major draw, I also wanted to show in this film that the people here are like the people in every corner of our nation. They have the same hopes and dreams and suffer from the same problems as people everywhere. There is a moment of recognition for everyone at some point in this film regardless of their demographics, socio-economic status or political affiliation.”
“It was of utmost importance to me to show the area in a positive light as people from Appalachia have been [depicted] in a negative light for a long time,” added Simone. “They have been completely undervalued as a community. These musicians come together and they are harmonious in their making of music.”
Musicians from the documentary 'Fiddlin” Utopia
The film features an array of unique characters including Jack Krack, who is considered one of the best fiddle players in the world; Wayne Henderson, who is known as a “Guitar God”; Dori Freeman, who has been noted by The New York Times as a talent to watch; and the 11-year-old musical prodigy Presley Barker.
“As one musician said to me, 'We leave our problems and our politics outside when we play music and we all get along just fine',” said Simone. “There was such kindness and generosity of these people that come together and find total joy in connecting through their music.”
Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone's “The Elephant Queen” might be easiest to enjoy if you think of it as a necessary corrective to the recent “live-action” remake of “The Lion King.” Whereas Disney's hollow digital cash grab offered a soulless simulacrum of the African continent's animal kingdom — one that somehow felt anthropomorphized and utterly alien in equal measure — this kid-friendly nature doc takes the opposite approach, cutting four years of stunning vérité footage into a cute story about the circle of life.
Its best moments e.g. pachyderms stopping to pay respect to the dead, a bullfrog trying not to get squashed during the daily rush for water reveal a rich spectrum of natural expression that embarrasses the limits of photo-real animation, and make it seem as though Disney was insulting life itself by even trying to recreate it out of code. While horizon-expanding shows like “Planet Earth” have made this degree of access and precision feel somewhat de rigueur, Deeble and Stone's documentary stands out for its narrow focus and incredible tenacity.
The movie sticks with the same herd for long enough that young viewers can appreciate their plight, grow connected to these “characters,” and even see their own families reflected in the way these elephants interact. And vice-versa. Nature is inherently unsentimental, but the most powerful moments of “The Elephant Queen” are moving for how they reverse the flow of anthropomorphization — for how they trace human emotions back to animal behavior.
Alas, so much of “The Elephant Queen” does it the other way around, as the script that Deeble has written for narrator Chiwetel Ejiofor to read in his cheeriest voice is a hot mess of cheesy hokum that struggles to put kid gloves on the horrors of survival. After an overwrought intro “Oh wise and gentle soul,” Ejiofor intones, “do you remember when we had it all?”, the uneven story begins with Athena, a giant “tusker” in Kenya's Tsavo region who acts as the matriarch for her entire community; the setting is one of many crucial details that is never mentioned onscreen, as Deeble and Stone haphazardly try to align us with the animal POV by limiting our context to what the elephants might know of their world.
We meet Athena's daughter, Princess, and a toddler named Wewe who's desperate to be friends with her. There's also Mimi, a newborn, whose arrival during a biblical thunderstorm is edited to look as if she’s summoning all the animals of “The Kingdom” to the watering hole the next day. That's where we meet a clumsy Egyptian goose named Zazu wait, sorry, Stephen, an adorable little bullfrog who's just trying to mind his own business, and a host of other creatures whose lives revolve around an elephant-driven ecosystem. The cuter beasties get the lion's share of the attention, as Ejiofor coos over the sight of birds learning how to fly for the better part of 10 minutes. One brilliant sequence, in which “The Ride of the Valkyries” plays over the soundtrack as a dung beetle flies after a fresh mound of poop, is the exception that proves the rule.
For the most part, however, the shapeless first act is as light and candy-like as the aftermath of a bullfrog orgy Ejiofor refers to the foamy embryonic mess as a “meringue” for the predatory fish who like to snack on it. You can feel Deeble and Stone laboring to make you fall in love with these creatures — the elephants in particular — across the film's meandering first half, as countless hours of extraordinary camerawork are pared down to the most endearing shots. Recognizing that people need to care about endangered species before they can be moved to save them, the co-directors play up the cute stuff however they can. Emotion is the bonding agent here, and “The Elephant Queen” will do anything to earn it.
That well-intentioned approach doesn't always make for the most exciting of documentaries, as the narrative artifice required to hold everything together is too obvious in a world where “The Lion King” has already taken this to its logical extreme. But when Deeble and Stone step back and let nature take its course, the results can be overpowering. Athena is used to migrating when the dry season arrives, but “The Elephant Queen” catches her in a generational drought that threatens the survival of every animal she knows.
The annual trek to “The Refuge” is fraught with even more peril than usual; Athena doesn't know that climate change is the culprit, and so the filmmakers don't bother to fill in the cataclysmic why of it all a nearly fatal knock against a glorified piece of edutainment. Nevertheless, she's forced to reckon with the consequences all the same, and the sequence in which one of the young elephants dies from starvation is absolutely devastating; to watch Athena's herd stop to rub their tasks along that broken little body in the dirt is to recognize that saving another species is tantamount to saving ourselves. For all of the film's strange omissions, and its struggles to thread the needle between appealing to children and trying to show them how wild our world really is, this passionate and beautifully shot film is worth celebrating for how clearly it conveys the raw truth of that idea.
“The Elephant Queen” is now in theaters. It will be available to stream on Apple TV+ on November 1.
Damon Lindelof makes a habit of taking big swings. That's what happens when you pivot from wrapping one of television's most narratively ambitious shows Lost to playing in both the Star Trek and Alien sandbox and then masterfully meditating on grief, loss, and love with The Leftovers. With Watchmen which premieres Sunday at 9ET on HBO, he continues that trend, building a bridge from the mid '80s era of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' mightily revered comic book to 2019 and a host of spiritual plagues and slow rolling traumas that resonate despite the fact that the new series exists in the same alt-history space as the original. And because it's him, the journey across that bridge is indirect, fraught with interesting distractions, and ponderous.
Uproxx spoke with Lindelof in New York recently about this latest swing, revealing his reverence for the source material, his desire to speak to some of today's issues, and why he wanted to expand on the idea of a Robert Redford presidency. With regard to taking this on, is it that it scares you or that it interests you?
Both. I feel like a lot of thinking went into making the choice, and then, simultaneously, it was also just like an impulsive move. Certainly, once the decision was made, there was a tremendous amount of, oh shit-ness. “This was a horrible mistake.” But I was already kind of speeding down the hill and it didn't matter that I wasn't ready. It's just like you can't go back at that point. I did say no a bunch of times but it kept coming back. I don't have the hubris to say, it felt like it was meant to be. But I can be honest with you and say that there was a certain degree of professional jealousy and arrogance around the feeling of, “They're going to do this. There is going to be a TV show called Watchmen, and I have a choice. I can either be one of the people making it or I can be sitting at home on Sunday night when the HBO logo comes up and I hear the [sound].” Am I going to be thinking, “I can't believe that I didn't take a shot?” Did I not take a shot because I was scared or did I not take a shot because I felt like it shouldn't be done? Because it's going to get done.
The more important question, the only question, is just, was there an idea? Was there a story worth telling? Was there a way that you could do Watchmen where you weren't ripping off or doing another iteration of the original? Is there a way to do this in a way that feels original and fresh but still deserves the title Watchmen? That challenge felt so exciting to me, even though I knew that there was a massive and significant chance of failure. It felt like it was worth going forward.
Has the idea of what the show is changed substantially or [was it] pretty much you had the idea and just developed it out?
I think it's the latter. I mean, I think that the initial idea of what I wanted this to be about hasn't fully revealed itself yet. By the time you see the first six, then in the middle of the season, that's when I can say to you, that's the idea of the show. The first idea that I had is basically sort of revealed in the fifth and sixth episodes. You obviously get strong hints of it in the setup for the season. But what I wanted the show to be about is really encapsulated in those episodes. Then I hired a group of writers — and there were a dozen of us — and we worked for I think 10 to 12 weeks before I even wrote the pilot, talking about those ideas.
I'll say, for someone who's used to doing a lot of talking himself, I did a lot of listening at that point because... not just about other people's experience with Watchmen. In that room, there were people like me who are chapter and verse acolytes of the source material. And there were people who had never read the 12 issues until they took the job, and there were men and there were women and there were people of color and people from widely different vantage points that I had, all of whom were interested in Watchmen. And my job was not to pitch ideas that made everybody happy, but to do a lot of listening in terms of what should actually be on the screen. The building of the iceberg below the screen, you know, the 30 years of alt-history that occurred between the original Watchmen and our 2019 [version]. I wanted to treat Alan [Moore] and Dave's [Gibbons] original vision as cannon, so that was all done. That part was relatively easy. Once we got into the mechanics of episodic building and storytelling, that's always the hardest work and there's a fair amount of discovery there. But in terms of what was the original plan versus what we actually did, [it was] pretty close.
You mention the period in between. Is that fully flushed out somewhere, either in your head or in a show bible?
Yes, there is. It's not called a show bible, but there's like 25 pages of notes on legislation that the Redford administration tried to pass, and what the composition of the Supreme Court is, and the history of reparations, and gun legislation and all that stuff. That all exists. Some of it we're going to be releasing as ancillary materials as the season goes on in the vein of the original Watchmen.
Do you have an idea of how you want this to end or is it going to kind of reveal itself to you over time?
We wanted to design this season in the way that the original 12 issues were designed, which was as a self-contained story. There's no big cliffhanger in the ninth episode so that it's like, “Oh God, I can't wait to see what happens in season two” or “I can't believe they did that.” It ends. The central mystery of the season is resolved. In fact, I believe all the mysteries of the season are resolved. Is there a potential for there to be more Watchmen after this season? Sure. Am I going to be the one doing it? Unclear. I look at Watchmen, the way that I look at something like True Detective, which is that word doesn't necessarily need to be about the same characters moving forward. And so I definitely don't think that there should be another season of Watchmen set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'm not sure that the next season of Watchmen needs to be set in 2021 or whenever it airs.
The passage of time makes it relevant to do it like this, but I'm curious what it was, creatively, that made you want to set this 30 years after the events of the comic?
I'll tell you when my calculation was... I'll also say, I'm not sure that my calculation was correct. To some degree, we're all just like the people in Apollo 13 on that with our slide rule trying to figure this stuff out on the fly. The calculation was the original Watchmen was written in the mid '80s and it was about the mid '80s, an alternate mid '80s. But one of the reasons that it resonated was that if the problem that Adrian Veidt was solving was inevitable nuclear destruction in a conflict between the United States and Russia, I would put down an issue of Watchmen and be like, “That is a problem in my 1986.” We were still many years, half a decade away from the Berlin Wall falling. So, that would be something that I would have legitimately been worried about. To set a story in 1986 from the prism of 2019, it doesn't feel timely or relevant. So, in order to echo the sentiment of Watchmen, it should be in a contemporary 2019, albeit an alternate version of one and it should be dealing with some of the same political realities that we are in our 2019. And that was the calculation. On a lighter note, but seriously, we're not going to be able to do the 1980s better than Stranger Things or The Americans. I kind of feel like the '80s' nostalgia is played out and I wanted to do something contemporary.
How much research goes into this? Cults and domestic terrorism. Other dark places.
The answer is a lot. I mean, it's a fictional world, but when you're dealing with contemporary counterparts, you need to dot your I's and cross your T's. I mean particularly, as you know, reparations or as they're referred to on the show, Redford-ations, are a part of this. That required a tremendous amount of research. And because we're using Tulsa as a very specific flashpoint for that... it turns out that not only did the 1921 massacre happen in actual history much in the same way that we represented it in the pilot, but in the early 2000s, Johnnie Cochran actually represented four of the initial survivors of the Tulsa massacre and they sued the state of Oklahoma for reparations and won. But then it got overruled on appeal and the Supreme Court refused to hear it. So doing research like that and knowing that that stuff actually happened is really important. To know and be able to answer responsibly, where does real history end and alt-history begin. We're really curious about the sort of cult of the Seventh Cavalry and what we wanted to model them after. So, we ordered the Turner Diaries, which is the book that sort of inspired Timothy McVeigh to do what he did in Oklahoma City.
So you're on some lists, is what you're trying to say.
Yeah, I'm definitely on some lists now.
That's a really scary book, but yeah, you do research where it's necessary.
Can you talk about using Robert Redford and his specific ideology?
The hard and fast rule was don't deviate from the canon. And at the end of Watchmen, Robert Redford, is, in fact, running for president against Nixon, and that's in the original Watchmen. And so there's an election coming up in '88. We imagined that Nixon beat Redford in the '88 election and then died in office in '90, making Ford, who was his Vice President at the time, the president for a couple of years. Then Redford runs again and beats Ford in '92. So that was our decision.
Was there ever any consideration to make it Donald Trump?
I think having Donald Trump be the president in an alt-history makes it less of an alt-history. I'll also just say, I often feel like I'm living in an alt-history. I mean, you and I are having this interview today and the news this morning is that Donald Trump wanted to build a moat outside the border wall between us and Mexico and he wanted to put snakes and alligators or crocodiles in the moat. And if I put that in an episode of Watchmen, people would think that was the most ridiculous thing in the world. At least we can parody and make satire out of Robert Redford. I'm not comfortable doing that as it pertains to our current commander in chief.
What's the value in [satirizing] Redford's liberal ideology? Obviously, there are some things that have gone awry in the show world.
What's the value of that in the story?
I think that there's this sort of fantasy amongst liberals — of which I consider myself one — that if we controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, that the world would be some sort of utopia. I'm more interested in seeing what happens when liberal ideologies don't work out the way that we were told, because there's sort of a downside to over-regulation. I do believe that taking everybody's guns away is a really bad idea, for a variety of reasons. So I wanted to see what that would look like in practice. So I think it's a little bit easier to make fun of liberals, because I'm a liberal, than it is for me to make fun of conservatives. And I think that it's just a classic case of every Twilight Zone that I ever loved, which is, it starts with the wish. You know, “I wish that people would just leave me alone so I could read my books,” and then it ends up with the nightmare, which is, “I broke my glasses.” I think that this idea of like, if liberals were in charge, racism would no longer be a problem, is bullshit. Racism ain't going anywhere anytime soon and nobody's got a good solution for it.
Are there any Third Rails with regard to the Watchmen canon that you're just not interested in touching? Characters you don't want to revisit? Just things you want to leave alone that are best left alone.
Good question. Third Rails. Yeah, I'm sure there are. It's interesting. I think that my answer to that question would be, the Third Rail is the source material itself, that is to say anything that is in a panel of those 12 issues. Obviously I think that there are echoes of dialogue. Like you'll hear someone saying, “Nothing ever ends” in our Watchmen, which is obviously in the source material, but we're using it in a different context. But I think like the Third Rail is just any cover version of something that I considered to be perfection. You know, Alan and Dave did it better than it will ever, ever be done again. So the Third Rail in and of itself is that source material. So I can refer to it. It all happened, but I think that if we were to show any of it, why would we do that? Especially since Zach Snyder already did, you know? I mean, it's been covered and recovered.
Watchmen premieres on HBO Sunday October 20 at 9PM ET
HBO’s Watchmen TV series, developed by Damon Lindelof and based upon the groundbreaking 1980s comic book series from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, debuts on Sunday night. The source material has been widely considered “unfilmable,” and Zack Snyder’s 2009 film certainly divided fans on that note. So the new series is risky but ambitious and unexpectedly triumphant, not as a direct adaptation but as a continuation of Moore’s story, yet Lindelof doesn’t seem entirely happy with the process of making the series. This has nothing to do with the content itself but what he’s pretty sure is some psychological aftereffect, or even as he told Vulture a “magical curse” from Moore himself.
This discussion follows up on Lindelof’s recent respectful middle finger that he launched toward Moore, after more grumblings from the iconic writer who’s famous for expressing distaste toward efforts to adapt Watchmen. At the time, Lindelof’s attitude was that “the wrestling match” between himself and Moore was inevitable, and he seemed okay with it. However, he tells Vulture that he was and still is plagued by sleepless nights over taking on this project because he was miserable while making the series, perhaps because of an honest-to-god curse:
“I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, ‘Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.’ I should be!”
Lindelof goes on to state his observation, regarding Snyder, that the Justice League helmer was having the time of his life while making his 2009 movie, “[a]nd I did not enjoy any of this. That’s the price I paid.” He also concedes that psychologists would probably say that he “emotionally created the curse” in his own mind out of a sense of guilt. If true, that would go back to Lindelof’s own fanboy roots and ill feelings toward himself for being paid to give his own take on Moore and Gibbons’ seminal work after Moore was so furious that rights to his book didn’t revert back to him.
The Lost creator then says that he’s considered the “angry people” who may not watch his series out of nerd solidarity, and he concedes that this is “an admirable position.” However, it’s also true that this series can appeal to people who have no knowledge of Moore’s graphic novel at all, so it remains to be seen how the ratings will shape up.
HBO’s Watchmen series debuts on Sunday, October 20.
This Sunday night, HBO will premiere Watchmen, Damon Lindelof‘s live-action continuation of a story that began in the pages of a comic written by famed comic writer Alan Moore. Moore, who’s one of the biggest names in comics with credits like as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to his name, is a practicing occultist and magician who is notoriously unhappy to see any of his work adapted by anyone else, and in a new interview, Lindelof says he’s convinced that Moore actually put a “magical curse” on him because he made this new Watchmen show.
In an interview with Vulture, the interviewer essentially asks Lindelof about whether or not this version of Watchmen should even exist; the rights to the comic were initially going to revert back to Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, but they ended up staying with DC Comics instead, and this show was eventually greenlit. “That’s something that I think about a lot,” Lindelof said, and then he launched into a story about how he thinks Moore used his magic to put a curse on him:
“It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [ Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, ‘Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.’ I should be!
When Zack was making Watchmen — and I only know this because I watched the DVDs — I was like, ‘This guy is having the time of his life!’ And I did not enjoy any of this. That’s the price that I paid. Psychological professionals would probably suggest that I emotionally created the curse as a way of creating balance for the immorality.”
That’s pretty intense – but then, Watchmen seems like it’s dealing with some pretty intense subject matter. Sure, it’s the continuation of a comic book set in an alternate universe, but the show tackles real-world elements like racism and white supremacy, something that also weighed heavily on Lindelof in the early days of the writers’ room. The good news is it sounds as if wading through that unpleasant research paid off, because the show has received high praise for its first several episodes from critics who have already seen them. But was the whole thing worth being potentially cursed by Alan Moore? Here’s hoping someone asks Lindelof that question soon.