So when I was 15, we obviously didn’t have Internet, and barely anyone I knew had a home computer (we had yellowing Macintosh green-screens at school). So when a film script leaked, it had a different way of circulating- photocopies. A script would most likely end up in the hands of a studio exec’s assistant, or tossed in the trash, and into someone else’s hands. These would then get photocopied many times, a colored paper cover attached, and then end up on a table at a comic convention, for sale. You could get classic scripts (mostly, sci-fi, or fantasy films) but you could also get something far more valuable- unproduced comic-book film screenplays. They didn’t make comic book movies back then, or if they did they were pretty much unrecognizable as comic book movies. Then Tim Burton made Batman and there was a huge influx of scripts at the cons, as Batman was a huge success. This is, at least, the way I remember it happening as a young comic shop clerk. I am sure there were many unproduced comic book screenplays before Burton’s Batman but things definitely heated up after that.
The holy grail of all these scripts was an unproduced screenplay by Sam Hamm for Watchmen. Sam Hamm also wrote the screenplay for what would end up becoming Burton’s Batman, so I am guessing Mr. Hamm had a lot of heat on him at the time.
There are varying opinions on the Watchmen screenplay, as it does deviate from the graphic novel, but one thing it does in my opinion, is get the essence of the characters while visualizing some pretty reckless scenes. The opening alone is one of the most brutal ways to open a film I have ever read. Later, there is a scene involving Rorschach and a payphone that to this day I want to rip off and put in a comic, as I felt the movie would have been worth it alone for that simple scene.
The film was also supposed to have been directed by Terry Gilliam, which would have made it one of the craziest films ever produced in my opinion. And for the graphic novel purists, if you know anything about 80’s Hollywood- this was absolutely the best version of The Watchmen we could have ever hoped for at the time. Yeah it involves time travel, but three of our heroes are actually going to assault New York City police officers at the end, locking in the defiant tone of the whole script, and some of the DNA of the original comic in my opinion. I would have bought all the poorly produced toys.