Copyright 2001 Hollywood Reporter

[ October 26th 2001 ]

Universal Pictures is in the process of optioning rights to DC Comics' comic-book graphic novel series "Watchmen," with screenwriter David Hayter on board to adapt for the big screen with an eye toward directing the material.

The project will reunite Hayter with the studio for which he wrote drafts of such projects as the upcoming "The Scorpion King," "The Hulk" and "The Chronicles of Riddick" (aka "Pitch Black 2"); the latter two are being readied for production for next year.

"Watchmen," created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, was released as a 12-issue comic book in 1986 and is considered one of the most celebrated, critically acclaimed comic series of all time. The groundbreaking comic is credited for redefining the superhero genre and is often referred to as the "War and Peace" of comic books. It is a crime-conspiracy story that provided the first realistic look at the behind-the-heroics lives of superhero archetypes.

Set in an alternate America, "Watchmen" follows the costumed hero Rorschach, who is living a vigilante lifestyle because most masked heroes have retired or been outlawed. While investigating a murder, he learns that a former masked-hero colleague has been killed, prompting him to begin investigating a possible conspiracy to eliminate all masked heroes - retired or otherwise.

"Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' presents one of the most brilliantly plotted, exciting and original stories to ever grace the pages of a comic book, novel or any other genre," Hayter said. "It is my goal to realize that on film. My primary hope is to retain the relationships between what is being said and the images presented. In the graphic novel, everything you see and hear is interconnected on many, many different levels; I think this will translate very well to film. Like the book, people should be able to watch the film six or seven times and get something different from it each time."

Lawrence Gordon ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"), who holds the rights to "Watchmen," is producing the project. Universal production president Scott Stuber is overseeing. There was a previous attempt to bring the project to the screen. Helmer Terry Gilliam was developing the material in 1989, but the project never came to fruition.

"People have had trouble bringing this project to life over the last 16 years," Hayter said. "It was considered too dark, too complex, too 'smart.' But the world has changed. I think that the new global climate has finally caught up with the vision that Alan Moore had in 1986. It is the perfect time to make this movie."

Hayter, repped by WMA and attorney Dave Feldman, has established himself as one of Hollywood's top screenwriters in adapting comic books, having scripted 20th Century Fox's "X-Men" and its upcoming sequel, "X-Men 2." His draft of "Hulk" attracted filmmaker Ang Lee this year, with Eric Bana now on board to star as Bruce Banner for a spring start (HR 10/15). Hayter also is developing a television project for the WB Network titled "Lost in Oz."

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