News

How Watchmen Landed Oscar Winners Regina King and Jeremy Irons

The Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof and his stars explain how he lured the two renowned actors into very unlikely roles in his graphic novel adaptation.

by | October 8, 2019 | Comments

Long before Zack Snyder’s big-screen stab at Watchmen, prevailing wisdom was that writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ epic, genre-defining graphic novel was impossible to adapt for the screen. The 2009 feature film treatment did little to counter the argument — the movie has a 64% score on the Tomatometer.

Damon Lindelof’s upcoming HBO effort might have better luck. The new series is not an exact adaptation, but a sequel in series format, and it is still under particular scrutiny going into its October 20 premiere.

Fortunately, the creator has a secret weapon up his sleeve: namely, a pair of Oscar-winning leads in Regina King and Jeremy Irons.

Set 30 years and change after the events of the original source material (which Lindelof considers canon and does not stray from), this Watchmen follows — among other things — the rise of a white supremacist terrorist group called the Seventh Cavalry and the masked police force in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tasked with finding them out and taking them down. King stars as detective Angela Abar (aka Sister Knight), while Irons’ character, on the other hand, has been sealed tight in secrecy. Many theories and leaks suggest that he’s playing an aged Ozymandias from the original novels, but how he fits into the plots of Sister Knight and the Seventh Calvary remains unclear. One thing is certain: Both roles give the inimitable acting talents a lot to play with.


Jeremy Irons in Watchmen. photo: Colin Hutton/HBO
(Photo by Colin Hutton/HBO)

The two joined Lindelof, series director Nicole Kassell, and castmates including Jean Smart, Hong Chau, and Tim Blake Nelson on stage at New York Comic Con on October 4, where they teased what’s to come in the much-anticipated, 10-episode first season, and King and Irons shared exactly how the creator of Lost and The Leftovers courted them for his latest buzzy project.

“Damon took me to lunch,” Irons said in his iconic drawl, admitting that he didn’t fully understand what he was getting himself into. “[He] talked for an hour and a half, very quickly, with enormous enthusiasm, showing me that he had an imagination of an enormous wit. And I ate, and I understood about, I don’t know, 10 percent of what he was saying…. So I ate well, and at the end, I thanked him for his time and I left.”

While the content of the graphic novel and the world that Lindelof was creating here was lost on Irons (“He was talking about this graphic novel/comic book world of which I knew nothing because I live in England and I’m over 45. Somehow that whole world had passed me by!”), the actor was left “fascinated” by the man pitching him from across the table.

“He gave me bits of the script, which I had read, and it amused me hugely,” Irons continued, “but mainly all I thought was: That man who I just had lunch with has such energy and enthusiasm, I don’t know what he’s going to do, and I don’t know what he’s going to make, but if he thinks that I can be of some help in this story, then I’m on board.”


Watchmen keyart Regina King (HBO)

King, an Emmy nominee for her work with Lindelof on season 2 of The Leftovers, was similarly wooed, but not until he broke one of his own filmmaking rules to hire her. Prior to King, the creator had adamantly never worked with actors on more than one project.

“It was a dumb rule!” he exclaimed to the NYCC audience.

“I’m glad I didn’t know about rule, because I would’ve thought that it was a joke,” King chimed in before recounting how she received a letter and script from Lindelof to her personal address. “It came directly to my house and it had the loveliest letter that said this is his next project, it’s dear to him, and he couldn’t see anyone else to be on this train with.”

Talk about an opening line — King admitted that from that moment, she didn’t “even really care what I’m about to read, I’m in it!” But what really sold her was Lindelof’s inclusion of a sealed envelope midway through the script that instructed: “Regina: Don’t open this until you get to this page. Don’t cheat!” So upon getting to the envelope in the script (it was tucked between the first pages of Sister Knight’s introduction), she opened it. “I opened it up and it was an artist’s rendering of my face as Sister Knight,” King said to a round of applause from her audience.

“It would’ve been very awkward if you had said no,” Lindelof said. “Very, very awkward.”

King’s first thoughts on reading the script? She related: “I had never read anything like this. I had never seen this world, I had never seen this woman before. So complex… How could I not say yes? Just tell me where I have to show up.”

Watchmen premieres Sunday, October 20 at 9 p.m. on HBO.


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

MSNBC A&E Logo spy thriller free movies television renewed TV shows historical drama mockumentary Showtime Disney Kids & Family politics supernatural Britbox Esquire cults Cannes true crime talk show dramedy sequel Photos The CW based on movie halloween GIFs Trivia Christmas cancelled TV shows SDCC PaleyFest Tumblr Set visit Mystery Syfy Sony Pictures Comedy Central Elton John animated Awards Tour Black Mirror travel MTV Election cats Rocky Awards Biopics Rom-Com zombies political drama VH1 Trophy Talk spider-man Reality Competition 20th Century Fox Comic Book Spike Tomatazos cancelled TV series sports Bravo blaxploitation transformers composers Paramount Network what to watch Drama DGA disaster FOX New York Comic Con NBC Vudu WGN theme song biography TNT quibi foreign thriller Warner Bros. hist adaptation Comics on TV Oscars canceled TV shows robots ratings Pet Sematary Paramount Sci-Fi comiccon YA GoT singing competition Disney Channel Amazon dc medical drama Fantasy TIFF 007 hispanic Peacock Superheroe natural history Freeform Best and Worst Captain marvel GLAAD Countdown psychological thriller Comedy Emmys BET game show psycho toy story Rock TCA 2017 Lucasfilm sitcom Starz El Rey 24 frames Watching Series Premiere Dates elevated horror Ellie Kemper zero dark thirty Mary Poppins Returns BBC Animation Trailer TV renewals Spectrum Originals Red Carpet 2015 ITV richard e. Grant Adult Swim Schedule south america spain IFC Films Mary poppins OWN Mudbound dragons teaser Hulu Masterpiece American Society of Cinematographers dceu Shudder Winter TV cars WarnerMedia YouTube Dark Horse Comics Winners streaming Superheroes DC Universe LGBTQ Podcast DirecTV harry potter Crackle Sundance Women's History Month Certified Fresh Holidays Disney streaming service Nominations Columbia Pictures Nickelodeon Lionsgate social media strong female leads finale TBS kids anime Pirates discovery Opinion Grammys USA TCM romance HBO Max TCA Valentine's Day Musicals San Diego Comic-Con Ghostbusters HBO Acorn TV Marathons unscripted CMT ABC Family Cartoon Network award winner adventure latino Mindy Kaling 2016 period drama Extras Walt Disney Pictures Teen Reality The Arrangement Stephen King Lifetime Film serial killer APB CW Seed festivals Music movies Pixar Heroines Tarantino ESPN slashers Shondaland Rocketman tv talk 71st Emmy Awards Brie Larson ABC Summer E! crime Chernobyl police drama Character Guide canceled FXX Universal Fall TV President First Reviews anthology 45 golden globes Netflix Amazon Prime Video E3 NYCC 2018 Anna Paquin RT History TLC Marvel See It Skip It science fiction cinemax justice league Star Trek The Walking Dead TV game of thrones Calendar facebook Toys Mary Tyler Moore nature diversity crime thriller CBS Polls and Games Star Wars Video Games Super Bowl Pride Month Nat Geo Binge Guide Sneak Peek Writers Guild of America cancelled Quiz VICE ghosts spinoff cops witnail batman IFC Disney Plus Fox News Chilling Adventures of Sabrina jamie lee curtis cooking series Pop Film Festival crossover RT21 video First Look Creative Arts Emmys Spring TV BBC America space Television Academy CBS All Access TV Land Song of Ice and Fire children's TV FX crime drama Interview History LGBT Apple TV+ 21st Century Fox green book Thanksgiving Year in Review Emmy Nominations revenge YouTube Red CNN SXSW cancelled television Cosplay DC streaming service vampires AMC National Geographic Martial Arts Food Network boxoffice Horror The Witch technology 2017 Sundance Now Western Country war comic zombie Infographic Box Office spanish language Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt MCU Family Musical SundanceTV Arrowverse TruTV Ovation Action Apple Epix Amazon Prime PBS book mutant YouTube Premium stand-up comedy aliens docudrama 2019 X-Men binge doctor who joker miniseries USA Network DC Comics casting