When Zack Snyder brought Watchmen to the big screen in 2009, it was touted as one of those stories that just couldn't be filmed. Snyder had to significantly change the ending for his adaptation, but he was far from the only A-list director who tried to make Watchmen. There is a long line of failed Watchmen pitches, and open of those people was Bourne director Paul Greengrass. Greengrass was recently on MTV's Happy Sad Confused podcast (via IndieWire) for his new film News of the World, but he also spoke about his failed Watchmen pitch and how much of a disaster it would have been.
"Whatever the vision was, I didn't articulate it clearly because the movie never got made," Greengrass said. "I loved the graphic novel, and I loved Zack [Snyder's] movie, by the way, which was a very faithful rendition of it. My view was, I didn't want to do a faithful adaptation, and that might have been a disastrous endeavor and perhaps why I didn't get the movie made. … I wanted to believe these characters lived in the real world and that a lot of what they were thinking and doing was delusional."
When it came to comparing his pitch to a recently released comic book movie, the one that Greengrass cited was the most similar to his Watchmen pitch was Joker. However, he believes that Christopher Nolan threaded the needle better than he could have when it comes to this approach to superheroes.
"There was something in 'Joker' that had [a similar] quality to it," Greengrass said. "The Joker was in a real-world, and he was filled with delusions, and [so the story idea was] superheroes' identities were within people's minds and were interior delusions as opposed to actualities. And the [movie] idea would have been where [the two ideas] join if that makes sense. … I'm not sure if it would have worked, but I've always thought about that. I think Christopher Nolan did it far, far better than I could with Batman. 'Cause that's what he did with Batman in a funny way, [he grounded it]. [Gotham] was the perfect place where you could make those characters live in a world that felt real and yet wasn't real."
Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen has a mixed reaction from fans, with some thinking the changing ending works [this writer is one of those people] and some believing that it failed because it diverts from the source material. The Watchmen TV show that HBO made last year was rightfully universally praised as something that was a sequel to the source material that absolutely worked. This pitch from Greengrass sounds pretty bonkers, but considering the pushback from the deviation that Snyder made, something completely different would have been rejected wholesale by fans.