“Watchmen” is back in the cultural zeitgeist this fall, thanks to Damon Lindelof’s acclaimed HBO drama series that serves as a sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons 1986-87 comic book series of the same name. Screenwriter David Hayter has marked the occasion by making public for the first time just over four minutes of test footage for his unmade “Watchmen” feature film (via Entertainment Weekly). The test footage was shot in 2003. Hayter was coming off the blockbuster success of “X-Men” (2000) when Universal hired him in 2001 to write and direct “Watchmen.”
As seen in the test footage below, Hayter recruited “Game of Thrones” breakout Iain Glen to play Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl II. The character of Rorschach is played by “Dexter” actor Ray Stevenson. Glen was coming off the success of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” at the time. The test footage depicts one of the early scenes in the “Watchmen” comics in which Rorschach surprises Nite Owl at his home to inform him of the Comedian’s death.
Hayter never went into production on “Watchmen” because of creative differences with the studio. However, the roots of Hayter’s story would survive over the years as the project eventually found a home at Warner Bros. with director Zack Snyder. Screenwriter Alex Tse was hired to rewrite Hayter’s script, but Hayter maintained a screenwriting credit when the film opened in March 2009. Snyder’s “Watchmen” starred Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.
After his version of “Watchmen” never got made, Hayter went on to work on the scripts for “The Scorpion King” and “X2: X-Men United.” His other memorable unmade project is a movie featuring the Marvel superhero Black Widow. Long before the MCU started in 2008, Hayter was attached to write and direct a Black Widow movie at Lionsgate. The project did not move forward and the rights to Black Widow ended up reverting to Marvel Studios, paving the way for Scarlett Johansson. A Black Widow standalone movie is finally being released by Disney on May 1, 2020.
Watch Hayter’s 2003 “Watchmen” test footage in the video below.
For any curious #Watchmen fans,
Here is the final, color corrected clip of the Watchmen test I directed in 2003.
Iain Glen as Nite Owl, Ray Stevenson as Rorschach.
Score by the brilliant @joekraemer
— David Hayter (@DavidBHayter) November 26, 2019