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Watchmen Screenwriter David Hayter on Putting Words in Rorschach’s Mouth

Watchmen Screenwriter David Hayter on Putting Words in Rorschach’s Mouth” width=”560″/>

Watchmen screenwriter David Hayter discusses his eight years with the project, bringing his favorite scene to life, and the difference between Watchmen and X-Men.

Q: You’ve been working on this movie since 2001.

A: Yeah, it’s really been a whole career unto itself, and I’m very excited it’s finally out. It’s a fanboy’s dream.

Q: So many people have said this graphic novel was unfilmable.

A: Having seen it filmed, I would have to disagree. I feel very good about the adaptation. Clearly, if I had believed it was unfilmable I wouldn’t have undertaken it. People say it’s unfilmable, and I tend to jump in with my middle finger raised and try to prove them wrong.

Q: You originally pitched Watchmen as a six-hour miniseries.

A: Doing a six-hour miniseries would have allowed us to take more time with it. But it would have been pretty much the exact same story, just injected with another four hours of air. I think that the miniseries idea was the safe idea. Would it have worked? Sure. But I’m a movie guy, and I am really so thrilled with the size and the scope and the sheer originality of this film.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

A: Protecting it from studio after studio that wanted to make it into something it wasn’t. They all wanted to cut the flashbacks. They would say, “Well you can’t do a big film with six main characters. Can you make it all about one character? Can you make it all about Rorschach and Dan, make a buddy movie?” That’s just not what Watchmen is. On the other hand, because the story is so good, the adaptation process was just pure fun. It was like building a house, or as Dr. Manhattan would say, a clock — just a matter of assembling the pieces in the right order

Q: As a fanboy, what was your favorite moment to write?

A: One of the reasons this whole movie exists is because I was shooting a film called Burn in 1997, and a crew member had given me his copy of Watchmen, which I hadn’t read since I was 15. I was reading it, and I got to the line where Rorschach is in prison and he attacks the guy and says, “None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with you; you’re locked up in here with me.” When I read that, I said, “That’s the greatest piece of dialogue I’ve ever read. I have to do that movie.”

Q: The irony, of course, is that he never actually says it in the book.

A: No he doesn’t say it — it’s in the psychiatrist’s notes. My own hubris drove me to say, “I’m going to be the one to put that in Rorshcach’s mouth.”

Q: After Cloverfield, people thought it was OK to beat up New York City again. But you still changed the ending to make the movie less gory.

A: I love the ending of the book. Those images are spectacular. But one thing that I think fans don’t really appreciate is how different things look from the page to a film. What you’d be talking about would be 1,000 extras splattered with blood lining the streets of Times Square. As much as I like to be hardcore, that’s too painful even for me. I also felt inspired by the idea of the Hiroshima shadows. I wanted to see people blown into shadows, so you would still see their death, but it would be done in a beautiful, disturbing, filmic way that was already set up in the book. So do I want to see piles of mangled bodies in New York? Not really. That borders on the exploitation of the deaths of a lot of people.

Q: How did adapting Watchmen compare to adapting X-Men or the video game Lost Planet?

A: There’s a big difference. With X-Men we were working from 35 years of comic books, we were looking at many different stories, many different character interactions. So you could mix and match things and create a whole new picture. Watchmen already had everything you need to be adapted. And Lost Planet has this beautiful world and incredible visuals, but the storytelling in the game is elliptical and not terribly linear. That’s a matter of taking the lead character, gleaning what they’re hinting at in the game, and turning that into a well-structured American-style screenplay. But now Lost Planet has come together into a really epic story — sort of a Lawrence of Arabia in the snow.

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