Sam Mendes To Direct Preacher

Graphic novel series gets the go-ahead

Now here's something we did not see coming - Sam Mendes is set to direct the eagerly-awaited big-screen version of Preacher, one of the greatest comic book series of all time.

Created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon, the 66-issue Vertigo series followed Jesse Custer, a small- town preacher imbued with a strange and terrifying power, who travels across America with his hitwoman girlfriend, Tulip, and his Irish vampire best friend, Cassidy. Their aim? To find God for deserting mankind... and kill Him.

Simply crackling with indelible dialogue that out-Tarantinos Tarantino, superbly drawn characters and a storyline that embraces pathos, absurdity, darkness and optimism in equal measure, it's Ennis' masterwork.

But it's also hugely controversial - not just because of the whole 'kill God' thing, but because of Jesse himself. This is a lapsed Preacher - a fightin', drinkin', smokin', swearin' Texas-born'n'raised throwback, a cross between James Dean and Bill Hicks. And the minute this film goes into production, it'll encounter a shitstorm that will make what Kevin Smith went through on Dogma look like a walk in the park.

But Mendes should be able to handle all that, and certainly he looks like the right man for the task. He's drawn to projects teeming with emotional and psychological complexity - which Preacher has in spades - and he's gone down the graphic novel route once before, with Road To Perdition.

It'll also make a nice change for him, after his most recent movie, the 50s-set drama, Revolutionary Road. This one has considerably more action - and people with faces like an arse.

Neal Moritz (I Am Legend) and Jason Netter (Wanted) are producing Preacher for Columbia, and are also developing The Boys, also by Ennis, together.

There is no word on casting as yet, although James Marsden was once attached to the role, when Rachel Talalay was set to direct. Most recently, Daredevil director Mark Steven Johnson was trying to set it up as an ongoing series at HBO, but he had no cast attached.

So who should play the Preacher? Based on looks alone, James Franco gets Empire's vote. Yours?