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Watchmen Set Revisited

Yep, no shit. I was one of the lucky dogs who got invited to go to Vancouver last year and take a tour of the Watchmen set during shooting. Here are some highlights from my experience.

I was invited with a just a handful of other journalists so it was a nice intimate group. As we pulled into the studio the first thing I saw was Patrick Wilson, dressed as Dan Drieberg, having coffee. He looked exactly as Dan is portrayed in the book. From that point on I had a feeling my visit was going to be incredible.

Our first stop was the “war room.” It was complete sensory overload as all four walls were covered with concept art, photos, maps — even a complete Watchmen timeline with real historical events, fictional Watchmen events, and even what years the position of the “Doomsday Clock” changed.

The first set we were brought to was the Owl Chamber — the converted subway station where Dan keeps his Owl suits and his Owl ship Archie. We entered through the subway tunnel Rorschach exits from in the book after he says to Dan, “you quit.” Walking up those subway tracks with Archie staring me in the face was absolutely surreal because it was like stepping into the graphic novel. There was even a photo of the Twilight Lady, a sexy female super villain that Nite Owl put in jail, on Dan’s workbench. Later, Patrick Wilson would tell us he insisted on having that photo on the set even though it would likely never be seen on film.

While we were there, we got the chance to watch Zack Snyder and his crew in action. Just inches away from his director’s chair, we watched Zack direct the actors Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson in the the scene where Dan is giving Laurie a tour of the Owl Chamber and lets her try on Nite Owl’s night vision goggles.

As the scene was being shot, Zack looked very relaxed. At times he would randomly quote lines from Star Wars and joke lightly with the crew. In between takes he took the time to answer some of our questions about the film. I couldn’t help but notice his very worn copy of the Watchmen trade paperback clutched in his hand the entire time.

We were fortunate to get a chance to interview some of the cast and crew. During Patrick Wilson’s interview he talked a little about the scene we saw them shoot that day and the effort he was putting into the development of his character:

There’s so much back story that goes on in the scene that we just did. The line about how [Dan] was fascinated with birds and airplanes and mythology. That wasn’t in the script until yesterday. I just said I’d love to get something in there. Because we lose the stuff about the aeronautics, engineering, and they’ve got the MFA at Harvard and all that stuff that maybe nobody needs to know. But I like that Dan tells Laurie that, and [Zack Snyder] was like, “that’s a great idea.”

As our visit progressed, we went back to the “war room” where we got a guided tour of everything that was posted on the walls from producer Debbie Snyder — which will be posted on this site at a later date. We went inside the wardrobe department where we got a close look at the numerous Nite Owl, Ozymandias and Comedian costumes that were hanging on racks. We even got to see Rorschach’s mask which resembled a white, cloth ski mask as the CG inkblot patterns will be added in post.

We were also guided into the art department offices to screen some “previs,” or pre-visualizations, which are rough, animated storyboards used to time and block the pace of visual effects sequences. One impressive previs showed the Vietnam War sequence where Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian fight side by side in the jungle. If the finished scene looks anything like this previs, I can guarantee that it will be nothing short of spectacular.

The last set we visited was Karnak, Ozymandias’ fantastic Antarctic retreat. This set was massive. On one side was Ozy’s wall of televisions and on the other, his dining table. The front of the set included a grand staircase, flanked by two towering Egyptian statues that were at least forty feet tall. At the top of the staircase was a giant Egyptian head on a platform which bore the inscription, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

During our tour, no matter who we spoke to, one question always seemed come up — how did they feel about Watchmen author Alan Moore refusing to be associated with the film adaptation. When asked about Moore not being on board with the film, Zack Snyder explained:

I think it’s a reason not to do it, but maybe we try harder because Alan’s not here and not really giving us his blessing.

Malin Akerman shared the same sentiments:

Of course I personally would have loved to have had him involved... I think it would have been nice to have some of his input and just see how he feels. It’s his work. But we got [Dave] Gibbons and that really was amazing to meet him and to see his excitement... we must have been doing something right.

Matthew Goode, who plays Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias, wasn’t shy about showing some allegiance to Alan Moore as well. When someone brought up whether a Watchmen sequel might happen, Goode explained:

I said all along if they make a fucking second Watchmen… why would you? How could you? If [Alan Moore] wrote it, then I’d do it.

The experience of being on the set and meeting those involved is one I’ll never forget. The stories of the cast and crew getting along so well must be true. From what I saw, there was zero tension on the set and everyone always had a smile and a kind word for us. Everyone we met was very gracious and extremely generous with their time. In fact, all of the other journalists I took the tour with agreed that it was one of the best set visits they had ever been on.

As the day came to an end it became clear to me that everyone I met, whether an actor or crew member, was taking the job of delivering a faithful film adaptation of Watchmen very seriously — and enjoying every minute of it.

Needless to say, I have tons of material from my set visit to share with you, as this is just a preview. I’ll be posting more exclusive interviews and stories as the release date for the film gets closer. I’ll also be at Comic Con at the end of the month and will be covering everything Watchmen that goes on there and reporting every night. I hope to see some of you there.

7.14.08 Source: - Written By Glenn Romanelli

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