Who Watches The 'Watchmen' Test Footage From David Hayter's Unmade 2003 Adaptation?

Before Watchmen became an acclaimed TV series, it was adapted into a feature film by Zack Snyder. But before that, Hollywood spent decades trying to bring Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' iconic comic series to the screen. At one point, writer-director (and voice-over artist) David Hayter was attached to write and direct a Watchmen movie, and even shot test footage for the project. Hayter's take on Watchmen obviously didn't pan out, but the filmmaker was nice enough to release the test footage he shot for all of us to see (via Polygon). It's not the flashiest of footage, and is very far removed from Zack Snyder's ultra-slick take on the material. But it does involve a lot of talk about beans, and that's what matters most.

Watchmen Test Footage

Well...that was certainly something. This is, of course, test footage, and therefore shouldn't be criticized too harshly. Still, it's very weird to hear Rorschach, as played by Ray Stevenson, speaking with such a proper, polite voice. It's also weird to hear Iain Glen, as Dan Dreiberg AKA Nite Owl II, talking about bean juice, but you have to work with the material you're given, I guess.

In any case, this hints at Hayter's unmade Watchmen being a subdued, even restrained adaptation – something Snyder's film definitely was not. Hollywood spent years trying to make Watchmen happen, first enlisting Terry Gilliam to direct a film version. When the Gilliam Watchmen failed to work out, Hayter signed a big deal to write and direct the film in 2001. Hayter then spent the next few years developing the project. By 2004, though, Hayter was no longer in the director's chair. Darren Aronofsky was hired to direct Hayter's script, but left the project and was replaced by Paul Greengrass, but as we all know, that didn't pan out either. The movie also shuffled around studios over the years, starting off at 20th Century Fox, then moving to Warner Bros., then Universal, then Paramount, then back to Warners.

"It was protecting the integrity of the project from all the different studios we took it to," Hayter later said. "I had it at four different studios and it would inevitably come down to the same notes, which were 'It's a six-person movie, can we make it about one person?' and 'We don't like all these flashbacks, can we get rid of these flashbacks?' Well, we're stretching over events that reach for 40 years, so we kind of need the flashbacks, and it's not about one person, it's about six people. So, I can write you a movie with no flashbacks and only one main character, but that's not Watchmen, that's a different thing, and you're gonna have to pay me again. So eventually, we would part ways with each successive studio as they lost their nerve to make that movie and what we knew."

Hayter's script differed significantly from the comic. While Moore's work has Watchmen in an alternate version of the 1980s, Hayter's Watchmen script was set in 2004. Other changes include changing Silk Spectre's name to Slingshot, and the famous giant squid ending being changed to "a series of nuclear explosions around the world."