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An Inside Perspective At The ‘Watchmen’ Trial
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The Movie God   |  @   |  
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WatchmenDrew McWeeny had the chance to speak with Lloyd Levin, who along with Larry Gordon, are producers on Watchmen. As you all know, the movie has been in it deep with their legal battle with Fox about who owns the rights to the movie.

Mr. Levin took the time to write a very thorough, in-depth open letter covering the seemingly infinite amount of complications that they’ve faced in their efforts to bring Watchmen to movie form as well as why Fox beyond a doubt doesn’t at all deserve any piece of that movie. Yes, they may be more moral reasons instead of legal, but they’re sufficient.

Definitely follow the link to Hit Fix and read the entire letter, but I’ll try and cover some of the more important bits.

Starting off, Levin sums up how difficult it was over the past 15 years trying to get someone to believe in this project as a faithful adaptation of the book and not something else:

There were those who considered the project but who wished it were somehow different: Could it be a buddy movie, or a team-up movie or could it focus on one main character; did it have to be so dark; did so many people have to die; could it be stripped of its flashback structure; could storylines be eliminated; could new storylines be invented; did it have to be so long; could the blue guy put clothes on… The list of dissatisfactions for what Watchmen is was as endless as the list of suggestions to make it something it never was.

Also endless are the list of studio rejections we accrued over the years. Larry and I developed screenplays at five different studios. We had two false starts in production on the movie. We were involved with prominent and commercial directors. Big name stars were interested. In one instance hundreds of people were employed, sets were being built – An A-list director and top artists in the industry were given their walking papers when the studio financing the movie lost faith.

After all these years of rejection, this is the same project, the same movie, over which two studios are now spending millions of dollars contesting ownership. Irony indeed, and then some.

From there, he went on to lay out the point there the movie was offered to both Fox and Warner Bros. and the decisions that were made by both.

From my point of view, the flashpoint of this dispute, came in late spring of 2005. Both Fox and Warner Brothers were offered the chance to make Watchmen. They were submitted the same package, at the same time. It included a cover letter describing the project and its history, budget information, a screenplay, the graphic novel, and it made mention that a top director was involved.

And it’s at this point, where the response from both parties could not have been more radically different.

The response we got from Fox was a flat “pass.” That’s it. An internal Fox email documents that executives there felt the script was one of the most unintelligible pieces of shit they had read in years. Conversely, Warner Brothers called us after having read the script and said they were interested in the movie – yes, they were unsure of the screenplay, and had many questions, but wanted to set a meeting to discuss the project, which they promptly did. Did anyone at Fox ask to meet on the movie? No. Did anyone at Fox express any interest in the movie? No. Express even the slightest interest in the movie? Or the graphic novel? No.

That’s something that caught my eye — Fox’s flat denial of the offer. Next is the part that kind of makes you really realize how much WB has put into this project and why Fox just really doesn’t deserve anything at all.

Now here’s the part that has to be fully appreciated, if for nothing more than providing insight into producing movies in Hollywood: The Watchmen script was way above the norm in length, near 150 pages, meaning the film could clock in at close to 3 hours, the movie would not only be R rated but a hard R – for graphic violence and explicit sex – would feature no stars, and had a budget north of $100M. We also asked Warner Brothers to support an additional 1 to 1.5 hours of content incurring additional cost that would tie in with the movie but only be featured in DVD iterations of the film. Warners supported the whole package and I cannot begin to emphasize how ballsy and unprecedented a move this was on the part of a major Hollywood studio. Unheard of. And would another studio in Hollywood, let alone a studio that didn’t show one shred of interest in the movie, not one, have taken such a risk? Would they ever have made such a commitment, a commitment to a film that defied all conventional wisdom?

Only the executives at Fox can answer that question. But if they were to be honest, their answer would have to be “No.”

Shouldn’t Warner Brothers be entitled to the spoils – if any — of the risk they took in supporting and making Watchmen? Should Fox have any claim on something they could have had but chose to neither support nor show any interest in?

The answer is no, no they shouldn’t.

As simply as it can be, Fox saw how big the movie was shaping up to be and thought to themselves “Shit, we probably should have got in on that… wait, don’t we still have like a 23-year-old contract we use for that little trash can basketball net? Fantastic, we should iron that little sweetheart out and mooch the ever-loving fuck out of Warner Bros…. oh, and when that’s taken care of, make sure that you send them a bag of Werther’s Original as a thank you for funding the next TV show that we’ll likely cancel before it airs.”

Kinda sorta makes you sick, don’t it?

[Source: Hit Fix via CHUD]

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