Monday, 18 November 2013

AMC are making a PREACHER pilot?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Preacher is a supernatural horror comic-book written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon. It concerns Texan preacher Jesse Custer, who finds himself possessed by a supernatural entity that endows him with the 'Word of God' (a power that allows Jesse to impose his will on anyone who hears his spoken word). The birth of this power results in the destruction of his church and death of his congregation, so Jesse goes on an insane road trip to find God (who mysteriously vacated Heaven at the exact same moment), joined by sharpshooting girlfriend Tulip O'Hare and an Irish junkie vampire called Cassidy. Along the way he's pursued by a quick-shooting cowboy angel called the Saint of Killers, a facially-disfigured rock star nicknamed 'Arseface', a secret organisation called The Grail who protect the bloodline of Christ, Jesse's redneck family that includes his Cajun grandmother, and many other diabolical ne'er-do-wells.

You can probably tell any adaptation would be a contentious issue. A film struggled to get off the ground after Ennis sold the rights to Electric Entertainment in 1998, but found investors deemed it too "religiously controversial". Bob Weinstein was pitched to Miramax didn't want to share box-office takings with Electric Entertainment and there was confusion about the characterisation of Jesse himself. By 2001, Storm Entertainment stepped in and announced pre-production on a movie to be directed by Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) and James Marsden (X-Men) came aboard to play Jesse. Unfortunately, budgetary concerns saw the project fizzle out. Five years later, HBO commissioned Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider) and Howard Deutch to write a pilot, with Johnson determined to bring the comics to life frame-by-frame, only with Ennis writing new storylines to pad the show out. After years in development, HBO eventually passed on the idea in 2008, having decided the comic was "too stylistically dark and religiously controversial" to be worth the risk.

So it was back to the movies, with Sam Mendes (American Beauty) attached to direct a film version in 2008 from Columbia Pictures, but that never really went anywhere.

Given the success US cable network have enjoyed in recent years with projects like serial killer drama Dexter and vampire thriller True Blood (which both pushed envelopes in terms of sex, violence, and gore on th small-screen), it still seems feasible that Preacher will become a full-blown cable series. Just days ago, AMC greenlit a pilot that's being produced by Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, This Is The End) and his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg. Rogen tweeted "Looks like about seven of years of hard work are about to pay off. I may get to bring one of my favourite stories ever to life", which appears to confirm he's been working on getting this comic to television for awhile.

Adapting comics is also more popular now than ever before, helped by the fact The Walking Dead has been successfully transformed into a ratings behemoth for AMC. Graphic novels make it much easier for executives to comprehend what a finished product's going to be like. But maybe that's the problem with Preacher; which is full of extremely edgy, graphic and shocking ideas. America's a very religious marketplace, so I can see the difficulty in making a TV series out of Preacher that won't just generate negative press. But to make anything less than incendiary wouldn't be worth doing.

Preacher is one of my favourite comics, so I can't wait to see what any live-action translation looks like. I just hope it doesn't make too many concessions; but if it does, it still keeps the flavour and tone its fans have lapped up.