On the promotion trail for his Agatha-Christie-at-altitude thriller Non-Stop, producer Joel Silver shared some fascinating Watchmen insights with Coming Soon into Terry Gilliam’s planned ending to the movie. Gilliam and his Brazil writer Charles McKeown were attached to the Alan Moore adaptation for a time in the ‘90s, with Silver producing, before circumstances conspired against them.
It was Zack Synder, of course, who eventually brought a faithful version of the seminal graphic novel to the screen. “It was a much, much better movie,” Silver enthused of Gilliam’s version. “Zack came at it the right way but was too much of a slave to the material.”
Synder’s major change, the ending, took some serious justification to Watchmen aficionados. Gilliam, explains Silver, had no such compunction when it came to jettisoning Moore’s third act: “What Terry did was he told the story as-is, but instead of the whole notion of the intergalactic thing which was too hard and too silly, what he did was he maintained that the existence of Doctor Manhattan had changed the whole balance of the world economy, the world political structure.”
Instead of that Manhattan holocaust, whether giant squid or energy-wave inspired, Gilliam planned to have the iconic blue-perhero retcon himself – and his Watchmen colleagues – right out of the story.
“[Gilliam] felt that that character really altered the way reality had been,” Silver continues. “He had the Ozymandias character convince, essentially, the Doctor Manhattan character to go back and stop himself from being created, so there never would be a Doctor Manhattan character. He was the only character with real supernatural powers, he went back and prevented himself from being turned into Doctor Manhattan, and in the vortex that was created after that occurred these characters from Watchmen only became characters in a comic book.”
“So the three characters, I think it was Rorschach and Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, they're all of the sudden in Times Square and there's a kid reading a comic book. They become like the people in Times Square dressing up like characters as opposed to really being those characters. There's a kid reading the comic book and he's like, "Hey, you're just like in my comic book." It was very smart, it was very articulate, and it really gave a very satisfying resolution to the story, but it just didn't happen. Lost to time.”
The Zero Theorem – a Gilliam project we can see – arrives on March 14. For that fascinating Silver interview in full, head over to Coming Soon.