Sunday, November 2, 2008

papa don't preach.

The first time I ever heard of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's epic masterpiece Preacher, I was perusing through Millenium Library, my favourite Montreal comic shop, when the clerk suggested that I pick it up. I was, and still am, pretty new to the comic book / graphic novel scene and I needed to be convinced, so I asked him what it was about. Without hesitation he responded by saying, "its about three of the coolest characters you could possibly imagine, driving through Texas and kicking ass in such a way that it makes you want to hang out with them forever." I was sold. It was one of the best endorsements I have ever gotten for anything, ever, and Preacher did not disappoint for a second. It was smart, funny, thought-provoking, extremely violent, and I never wanted the insanely epic trials and tribulations of the Reverend Jesse Custer to end.

So given my intense love of the series, I had been more than a little concerned about the long-in-development HBO adaptation of Preacher. On the one hand, HBO could give the series the time it needed to properly develop the characters and storylines, and could get away with all the vulgar language and graphic violence that the comic is known for. However, it was also being developed by Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote and directed Daredevil and Ghost Rider and was probably most well-known as the writer of the classic 90's old guy buddy comedy, Grumpy Old Men. Not exactly the ideal candidate to bring to life one of the most controversial and celebrated comic books ever created. And mark my words, when this project does finally comes to life, it will definitely be controversial. While in my opinion Preacher raises some very important and poignant issues about the notion of religion and its place in society, I imagine some of the more devout Christians in the United States and elsewhere would probably object to, amongst other things, the depiction of a direct descendent of Jesus Christ as a poo-flinging, jibberish-spouting inbred moron. And since it seems like devout Christians, for some reason, get to decide what is and isn't acceptable viewing material for most regular folks, this is definitely going to become a problem for whatever brave company ultimately ends up attempting to bring this darkly comic tale to the big (or small) screen.

The reason I bring all this up is because HBO recently killed its Preacher project, which I thought was pretty much the end of any prospect of seeing Jesse Custer, his wild-hearted girlfriend Tulip, and their hard-drinking Irish vampire pal Cassidy in action anywhere other than the pages where they were created. And maybe its best that it never is adapted. After all, in its current 9 volume state, Preacher is pretty much as perfect a piece of pop culture as you are ever likely to find - there's no way it can be improved upon, so by that logic its just going to get worse if it is reproduced in any other form. The only way I could be convinced and would get excited about a Preacher adaptation would be if the right people were involved...which is why I was pleasantly surprised when the rights were quickly acquired by Columbia Pictures with Sam Mendes attached to direct.

Mendes, director of American Beauty, who I mentioned a few weeks ago in connection to his upcoming Revolutionary Road, is a talented director that I really admire, and I am perfectly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as the creative force behind this project. He's definitely never made anything close to this genre-wise, nor has he attempted anything so epic in scope (he's definitely going to need at least three movies in order to tell this story correctly,) but he is unquestionably an immense talent and has a particularly good eye for casting, which is going to make or break this project. Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Christopher Nolan's the Dark Knight were two recent comic book adaptations whose brilliant casting elevated the source material to new heights, and Zack Snyder's Watchmen (another seemingly unadaptable graphic novel that is improbably on its way to theatres,) appears to have succeeded on that front as well, so if Preacher is going to work it is going to have to be perfectly cast.

But who should make up that cast? Here's my Preacher film adaptation cast wishlist:

Rev. Jesse Custer
In many ways this is the toughest casting decision, as this needs to be dead on, and its not going to be easy to find an actor that can effectively portray this extremely bad ass, supernatural power-wielding Southern preacher with the proper mix of humour, charm, and emotional gravity. I think the obvious choice here would be Johnny Depp, as he looks just like the character and has that quirky sensibility that could really work for a project as bizarre as this one. You could definitely argue that Depp is too old to get the part, but then again, I don't think Johnny Depp ages at the same rate as regular humans (he calls us normies.) If you absolutely had to go with someone younger, there are very few actors that spring to mind with the chops to make the character their own, and also be able to handle the physicality and the numerous action set pieces that this is going to require. Joaquin Phoenix? Ryan Gosling maybe? Heath Ledger would have been a fantastic choice so there's another reason why its sad that he's not around anymore. Tough call. I would be happy to see either Depp or Phoenix get the role, but Depp apparently just got paid about 9 billion dollars to star in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and Phoenix I guess has retired from acting to focus on "his music." What a wanker. I guess Gosling gets it by default but as much as I like him as an actor I'm not convinced he could pull it off. I will probably think of someone perfect for this as soon as this post is published, then in an Orwellian fashion I will erase what I'm writing right now and claim that was what I thought all along. So I guess I'll just move along then.

When you read a character description that says, "drunken Irish vampire," one name should immediately spring to mind: Colin Farrell. He could definitely do it, but I think the more interesting choice here would be the fantastic Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz.) He's definitely got the high geek factor and I get the sense that he would appreciate the gravity of the project, and although he's never played anything like this before I have a feeling he could knock this role out of the park. Every character in Preacher is ridiculously nuanced and layered, and Cassidy is maybe the epitome of this, but Pegg proved that he had mad range in the genre-bending Shaun and I know he could do it. As a sidenote I'm really excited to see what he brings the role of Scotty in JJ Abrams upcoming Star Trek. That was a pretty inspired casting choice to add to what was already a really interesting group of actors, and I can't wait to see how that plays out. Then again, Simon Pegg could be cast to portray a sympathetic, lonely, misunderstood Paul Bernardo and I would still watch it.

Tulip O'Hare
Ideally, for this role you would be able to go back in time and use circa-1995 Patricia Arquette, as Tulip is similar in many ways to Patricia's character of Alabama in the brilliant True Romance. In any case, since time travel hasn't been invented...yet...I am going to go ahead and call this one for Battlestar Galactica's Katie Sackhoff. Her great portrayal of Starbuck has showed us more than the requisite amount of spunky heroine-ness that would be required to bring this character to life accurately, plus she is blonde and is quite easy on the eyes. She also has the unparalelled geek factor working in her favour. This one is a no contest.

Herr Starr
It is going to be almost impossible to find an actor who not only has the range to play this character, but is also willing to humiliate themselves and have some fun with the role, as Herr Starr suffers pretty much every physical degradation you can possibly imagine in his never-ending quest to screw over Jesse Custer. At times this actor is going to have to portray a cold, calculating super soldier in some insane action sequences, and then, often in the same scene, switch to the broadest possible physical comedy. Nevertheless, he's an amazing character, and although there a few actors that could conceivably take it on, (Ed Harris or previous Mendes-collaborator Kevin Spacey for instance,) I would love to see Patrick Stewart in this role. Not only does he already look exactly like Starr, but it would just be amazing to hear an enraged Captain Picard utter classic lines like: "you turned me into a homosexual, you unbelievable prick!" while choking out a stunned and incompetent lackey. We also know from his hilarious appearance on Extras that he is able to poke fun at his image, so I think this would be brilliant casting.

Saint of Killers
Ideally you would want Clint Eastwood for this, but since he's too busy winning academy awards these days its pretty unlikely you would see him take this part. In a pinch you could also go with Kill Bill's David Carradine, but you know what, I'm going to go with the sleeper casting choice and pick Javier Bardem for this one. He played a savage, unstoppable killer pretty convincingly in No Country for Old Men and I think he would be great for this.

The role of Arseface would be played by this guy. Why? Because fuck him, that's why.

But seriously, Jack Black would play Arseface.

No matter who ends up getting cast in this thing, I will very likely be there opening weekend to see Sam Mendes' Preacher adaptation. Hopefully it will live up to my already ridiculously high expectations. And if you are still reading this and you have never read Preacher, please buy it immediately and check it out, I can almost guarantee that you will love it. Unless you are a devout Christian, you object to graphic violence, or it makes you uncomfortable to hear people say things like, "Ah Demi - I do hope I will have the pleasure of urinating on your cleavage later?" If that's the case than you should probably try and avoid Preacher at all costs.


Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taylor said...

I can't type properly, and I didn't want to seem like an idiot, which is why I deleted my last comment. What I was going to say was...

Hahaha, woooow.
This comic sounds hilarious... and slightly disturbing... hehe. Once I get a job and some money, I will definitely pick up volume 1!

my hero said...

i think it has been proven that no matter how shitty a movie is, if you are hyped on it you will like it.

thats why you are one of the better fan boys.
a lover not a hater.

but really come on, what about christian slater?

Grange said...

Yo Rousseau, my brother in law recently got me into graphic novels...i read Watchmen (which you have read I am sure) and am looking to get into more of Alan Moore's I am on Frank Miller's Batman:The Dark Knight Returns, and it's incred. The idea of Batman coming out of retirement and battling Superman is amazing. I strongly recommend it.

After reading this entry about Preacher, I believe I shall pick it up rather soon, thanks for the insight man....peace