Q&A With 'Watchmen' Screenwriters

Watchmen co-screenwriter David Hayter recently put out an open letter urging people to see the movie again. The short and paraphrased version of what he said was that people need to go see more movies like Watchmen to show the powers that be that this is the type of quality material we want projected onto our local movie theater screens.

I really hope people do exactly what he urged - although by the film's extremely disheartening 67% box-office drop in its second weekend, it looks like the fans Hayter was addressing haven't taken his advice quite yet. Here's hoping that if Watchmen leaves theaters before people decide to go and see it again, that a lot of support gets shown for it once it hits DVD/Blu-ray in the hopefully near future.

More recently however, Hayter and his co-writer on Watchmen, Alex Tse, did a 100-plus minute question and answer interview over at Creative Screenwriting; an interview which was described by our good friends over at First Showing as "fascinating." It's a lengthy interview (you could probably watch over half of Watchmen again in the time it takes to listen to the full interview), but going by just the little bit of it that I listened to, it indeed sounds like a fascinating listen.

Those who have listened to the full interview say that Hayter and Tse talk about all aspects of writing Watchmen, from trying to figure out just how in the world they were going to successfully put it into script form at the start, right up until the final edits about what to cut out and what to leave in. (For those of you particularly interested in their decision to change the ending from the infamous giant squid to what we ended up getting in the movie, you'll be glad to know they talk about that decision in quite some depth.)

Just as a teaser (or for those who don't have the 100 minutes to spare), here is a transcript of what they had to say about the change of ending:

"It takes a lot of setup to introduce an interdimensional space squid, it just does... You can't just say, oh there it is, and look, there's my squid... The difference between the novel and the movie, and this is the real difference, is, we don't have the appendices afterwords. And the whole thing with that storyline is all setup in the Wizard magazine, the stories about the comic book, and it's also setup in Tales of the Black Freighter, to a certain extent - there's stuff about the secret island, these artists... That's all stuff that I would have to spend screen time explaining at the end of a movie where I've already spent two hours explain a lot. Clearly the movie does not shy away from piling information on top of you. But I felt that that was going to come out of nowhere."

"For all of the infinite possibilities of film, I believe, you have to be very circumspect about the number of magical things that happen in your movie." Hayter tangents onto X-Men and the mutant gene briefly, then continues. "You have Dr. Manhattan, who was your element of magic in the story, and then you have the squid, who came out of another dimension and could cast psychic waves of destruction, and that seemed like an extra bit of magic that came in at the end, and needs a lot of setup to justify it. So, it became obvious that if you use Dr. Manhattan, well, it's already setup, and he is the force, and he is the outside threat that has been throwing the whole world into chaos anyways, the has thrown off history. So in the end, it seemed to make sense."

Obviously the squid isn't all they talk about for the whole interview. But it is an extreme point of interest for fans of the Watchmen graphic novel, who maybe didn't care for what these two did with the ending of the movie. It's also just one of the points of discussion which shows that these two (particularly Hayter) aren't just a couple of writers hired at the last minute to adapt "just another comic book" - they're real fans like a lot of those out there who were chomping at the bit to see the finished film.

I fully admit that I haven't yet had the privilege to sit down with a copy of the Watchmen graphic novel, but by the feel I got from the movie (which I loved, by the way), and from what fans have been telling me, if I've seen the film I've basically read the graphic novel. Whether loved or hated, it seems to be universally accepted and agreed that it's the most faithful comic-book (or graphic novel) adaptation ever made. And clearly the debate about whether that's a good or a bad thing is what's splitting most audience opinion straight down the middle.

From what I can gather about the original graphic novel ending with the giant squid, I'm definitely glad they changed it (about the only thing they did change, by the look and sound of it). From what's been described to me, it sounds like something that may work on the printed page, but would ultimately just look ridiculous on-screen. If they were to sacrifice anything from the original source material, the giant squid was probably the wisest choice.

If you're a hardcore Watchmen fan (of either the graphic novel or the movie); are just interested in what goes into writing a movie; or are just looking for something movie-related to kill some time, then you can download the full interview with David Hayter and Alex Tse in mp3 format here.

Enjoy. And then come back and tell us what you think.

Source: First Showing and Creative Screenwriting

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