The acclaimed DC/Vertigo comic book series Preacher has suffered a long and formidable journey to the big screen. Since the late '90s, various studios and filmmakers have tried in vain to adapt the controversial source material and as a result the project has endured some unique permutations.
Budgetary concerns ultimately killed the first attempt at a Preacher movie, which would have featured James Marsden in the lead role of Jesse Custer and a script by co-creator Garth Ennis. The property was next conceived as an HBO series with Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider) handling writing duties. Although the network originally responded enthusiastically to Johnson's pilot script, a regime change amongst HBO executives lead to the series' termination due to their concerns over its dark tone and religious subject matter.
The rights to Preacher were then picked up by Columbia Pictures for producers Neil H. Moritz and Jason Netter. John August wrote a new script and Sam Mendes was signed to direct. Unfortunately, just as the film began making some headway, Mendes dropped out to direct the next James Bond movie instead.
Joe Carnahan (The A-Team) expressed interest in taking over the film and there were rumors that Darren Aronofsky might be circling it as well, but neither scenario came to fruition. Still, Moritz reportedly remains quite pleased with August's script and he's determined to see Preacher get made. Back in September, he told Total Film Magazine that a new director had signed on but remained coy about this person's identity.
Now, one of /Film's spies has it on good authority that D.J. Caruso is the director in question. Caruso is responsible for films like Disturbia, Eagle Eye, and the upcoming I Am Number Four. In fact, the box office performance of I Am Number Four is said to be a major factor in determining whether or not he'll land the Preacher gig.
August's script is evidently very faithful to the original Preacher comics, so fans don't need to worry about a PG-13 version of this decidedly R-rated material. It's also reassuring to hear that rather than trying to cram the entire tale into one movie, the current intention is to spread the main storyline out over the course of several films.
But something tells me that if this turns out to be true, there will be a very mixed reaction to Caruso calling the shots. I wasn't thrilled when he was attached to the Y: The Last Man film adaptation and to be honest, he doesn't strike me as a particularly great fit for Preacher either.
Nailing the tone of this story is paramount to the project's success because in the wrong hands there are moments of perverse humor that could come across as feeling grossly irresponsible or ridiculously offensive. The comic always knew exactly what it was and who it was for, but I'm not sure it's a property that's meant for a general audience.
In my opinion, there are certain sections of the U.S. that a Preacher movie just would not play well in. And if they're hoping for a franchise, that first movie has to be capable of pulling off a miracle - making the story accessible for a broader audience while staying true to the quirky and extraordinarily dark source material.
Can it be done? I suppose nothing is impossible, but is Caruso the filmmaker best suited to direct Preacher?