Screenwriter David Hayter is this week’s guest on the “Script Apart” podcast (via NME) and reveals new information about the different iterations of the “Watchmen” movie that took shape before Zack Snyder signed on to direct. Snyder’s theatrical release changed the ending of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel by replacing Ozymandias’ giant squid attack on New York City with a more realistic plan involving the detonation of energy reactors. The ensuing attack is blamed on Doctor Manhattan.
According to Hayter, the original “Watchmen” script was even more of a departure from the source material. Instead of just switching the kind of attack Ozymandias unleashes on New York City, Hayter drafted an ending where Night Owl murders Ozymandias by running him over with his Owlship vehicle. The murder prevents Ozymandias from seeing his mass attack through. Night Owl then projects the equivalent of a deep fake video around the world that shows Doctor Manhattan destroying major cities. The end result is the same as the comic book as the trickery ends the Cold War.
This “Watchmen” draft was being developed by Hayter for director Paul Greengrass, best known for his work on “United 93″ and the Jason Bourne movies. Hayter added, “Everything is orchestrated by Adrian/Ozymandias. All the steps to armageddon that Paul Greengrass was asking for, the murder of The Comedian, all of that was set up by Adrian.”
The Greengrass iteration of “Watchmen” also took place in the present day and not during the source material’s 1980s time period. “We knew it was going to be very difficult to do the ending of the book, plus 9/11 had happened and I didn’t think we should have images of bodies in Times Square, I felt that was not appropriate,” Hayter said. “So that inspired me to say, people should just be blown to shadows, like the Hiroshima shadows that are painted in the comic book.”
After Greengrass left the project, Darren Aronofsky boarded the tentpole. Hayter reveals Aronofsky was involved with “Watchmen” for just one week because Paramount wouldn’t let him take on another project with post-production still unfinished on “The Fountain.” Aronofsky left “Watchmen,” but not without giving Hayter one idea.
As Hayter explained, “He sent me a note which said, ‘I have a friend who is a physicist and he had an idea for the movie. What if Doctor Manhattan is the agent of destruction.’ That just clicked into place in my brain.”
Listen to Hayter’s full appearance on the “Script Apart” podcast in the post below.
The great @DavidBHayter talks me through a *wildly* different early draft of 2009 superhero epic WATCHMEN⚡️
— Al Horner (@Al_Horner) July 15, 2020