Posted on: July 18th, 2009 PREACHER: From Page to Screen

After Watchmen finally hit the theaters, comic book fans have been asking themselves what’s next? What’s the biggest, most revered comic book that could be adapted into a movie?

The answer is simple, it’s Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Duh.

But creeping up right behind Dark Knight Returns is what is widely considered one of the greatest self-contained stories ever told in comics, the story of Jesse Custer and his search for God. Literally. That story is the hilarious, violent, gritty ride known as Preacher, created by comic book mainstays, writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon.

preacher2_prev2If you haven’t read Preacher, it tells the story of Jesse Custer, a small-town minister in Texas who gets possessed with the spirit known as Genesis – an entity created when an Angel and a Demon conceive. The second Genesis was born, God up and quit his post in heaven and now walks the earth. Jesse, who now has all of Genesis’s powers including the word of God (anything he says must be obeyed), doesn’t take the news of God’s absence too well and sets out on a country-spanning journey to find God and give him what for. He’s not alone though, joining him on his crusade is his ex-girlfriend Tulip and a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy. I’ll stop there with the synopsis; if you haven’t yet checked this series out, you really should, it’s phenomenal.

Just like Watchmen, Preacher has had a few false starts with live-action adaptation. From 1998 through 2000 Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier were attached to produce a film based on the first story arc of the series for Electric Entertainment, with Rachel Talay directing a screenplay by Ennis himself. The film lingered in developmental hell for a while until being greenlit for pre-production. The film had no shoot date or release date, with problems stemming from the $25 million budget.

For two more years, the Preacher movie hung around in the back. James Marsden (X-Men films, Superman Returns) had been cast as Jesse Custer, and another two years later, a whole six years since Smith and Mosier became involved, the entire project crumbled due to financial issues.

The live-action Preacher film was back to square one, and it wasn’t going to get any better.

2006 rolled around and HBO became involved in adapting Preacher into a television series, each issue being one episode. Now, that sounded awesome; surely that format would be able to take its time and capture the breadth and intricacies of the whole series. The problem being that HBO tapped Mark Steven Johnson to helm the show, the dude that adapted Daredevil and Ghost Rider to the big-screen. Thankfully, 2 years later in August 2008 HBO passed on the project citing it’s tone and religious controversy. Preacher fans will remember feeling quite the tinge of excitement when a picture (see further down) of an actor in full Arseface make-up hit the net. Makes you wonder what the series could have been, even with Johnson at the wheel.

27-sam2The Preacher film seemed all but dead after this string of false starts, but in January of this year Columbia Pictures purchased the film rights. Things are looking better for this stage of the development; acclaimed director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road) is signed on to direct. Although Garth Ennis isn’t on board to write the screenplay for the flick, John August is officially taking that role. August is responsible for such screenplays as Go and Big Fish, with uncredited re-writes for Minority Report and Iron Man. He did also write Jurassic Park III and the Charlie’s Angels films though…

No other details of the film are known as of yet.

Comparing this film/property to Watchmen again, Preacher fans are a feverish, passionate bunch. Every little detail, absolutely everything will be put under a microscope and scrutinized. And just like with Watchmen, it will be impossible to please everyone. The fans typically have their guns loaded before the film even gets released. The casting of these indelible characters will be one of the most talked-about and debated factors of the success of the Preacher film. Yes, I know that when it comes to casting our favorite characters Hollywood almost always messes it up, but I like to have a little faith. For the most part the Watchmen casting was inspired and spot-on, and Heath Ledger proved hordes of fans wrong after they balked at the announcement that he would be playing the clown prince of crime. There’s just no doubt about it, once a fan gets their dream-cast in their head, there’s no one else good enough in their minds until judgment day – the film’s release.

I’ve thought long and hard about the Preacher film for the last few weeks as I’ve been re-reading the series from start to finish, falling in love with it. I’ve come up with what I think is my own personal cast list for Preacher, be it if I were in charge of casting the film. My cast list would look something like this:

Jesse Custer – James Franco

Jesse Custer is the lead character so much so that if he isn’t just right, the whole thing could fall apart at the seams. So much of everyone’s dynamic and context works solely because of Jesse’s normalcy and natural righteousness. He is as complex as he is ordinary. This will no doubt be a challenging role for any actor looking to do the character justice. Jesse is the everyman, the American man. He’s could charm the pants off you one minute and punch your teeth out the next. I think James Franco (Spider-Man films, Pineapple Express) has the natural screen-presence, acute acting abilities and wide enough range to pull off Custer’s subtleties. He’s also not a super-huge star that would overshadow or oversell the film, but he’s a strong enough young talent that could justifiably land this lead role. He’s also handsome but not too handsome. Jesse’s a good looking farm boy, but he’s more John Wayne than Zac Efron.

Tulip O’ Hare – Elizabeth Banks or Uma Thurman


Jesse’s ex/current lover Tulip is many things. She’s sexy. She’s a strong woman. She’s also handy with a gun or her fist. She’s also madly in love with, and very much devoted to Jesse and his cause. Chemistry with whomever is playing Jesse is absolutely imperative for the role of Tulip. Any young woman can play sexy and slightly tom-boyish with a lethal side; it takes a specific actress to pull that all off and still melt Jesse’s heart (as with ours). Although my first pick, a common one, lies with Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction), realistically she looks too old for the part. My next best choice is with Elizabeth Banks (40 Year Old Virgin, Zach & Miri Make A Porno). Banks is very good looking, has that sharp sarcastic wit, and could be believable with a gun. I can close my eyes and see Franco and Banks together gelling quite well.

Cassidy – Robert Pattinson or Jonathan Rhys Meyers


Oh boy, I can see the hate-mail flooding my inbox already. You read that right, I think Robert Pattinson, the star of Twilight and millions of girls dreams nightly, would be a visually perfect Cassidy. Can he pull off Cassidy’s perpetual drunken swagger? I don’t know. His Twilight role (also a vampire) was quite the opposite – stiff and lifeless (kinda like my Saturday night, hey-o), but I have faith in the young people of today; I say give this cat a chance. Being a Londoner, it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to pull of a believable Irish accent. But for those of you who just can’t possibly wrap your mind around separating a young actor from a breakthrough role, I’ve come up with a close-second choice for the smack-talking Irish bloodsucker: Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He’s actually a damn good pick for Cassidy, far more experienced than Robert Pattinson and has had his fair share of actual drunkenness, apparently. For what he has in acting chops over Pattinson, he lacks in physical resemblance of Cassidy, though with some stubble and a pair of Ray-Bans you’ve got your Proinsias Cassidy.

Herr Starr –  James Marsters


This was by far the toughest character to wrap my brain around in terms of casting. Like Jesse, Starr is one of these incredibly particular characters. He’s very subtle yet so complicated. Starr is just completely unpredictable in how he will react and what he will say. Inadvertently Starr also provides for some of the funniest moments in the book – he has a natural resilience to injury. My first instinct was to cycle through every bald actor in my head, with Bruce Willis being the one I leaned towards the most. Willis is too big for the role of Herr Starr though. I went with a dark horse pick here, but I really think that James Marsters (Buffy, Angel, Smallville) has that stern and subtle strength about him. Shave his head bald and he also looks the part, albeit a few years young. Again, as much as Jesse, the role of Starr is as important as it is delicate.

The Saint of Killers – Ted Levine


Ask anyone who has read the book who they would get to play the unstoppable Saint of Killers and I guarantee you’ll get the same response: Clint Eastwood. And I totally agree, Eastwood is absolutely perfect for the role. I’m certain a huge part of shaping that character came from Eastwood himself. But as a fan of the comics and movies in general I’m being totally realistic in saying that casting Dirty Harry ain’t gonna happen. No way, Eastwood pretty much acts in 2 flicks a year, both of which he directs. I would eat my shoe if he even read the script. So, who’s next? Now I’d say David Carradine, but he got strung up by tranny hookers in a Bangkok hotel a few weeks ago, and unless life imitates art, he’s not going to many auditions anymore. That leaves Mr. Buffallo Bill, Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs, American Gangster). He’s big. He’s scary. He’s older. He fits the physical profile.

Arseface – N/A


The last major role for the Preacher flick is one that really doesn’t need a visually-accurate portrayal as the actor will most definitely be  completely covered with facial prosthetics. Although I wasn’t too big on Mark Steven Johnson’s series for HBO, that make-up artist absolutely nailed Arseface. Hire that effects dude and get Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) to appear in flashbacks as a pre-shotgun faced Arseface.

The story of Preacher is so long and dense that it could not be done justice in one 2 hour movie. We as fans are going to have to come to terms with whatever we see adapted is going to be heavily edited and abridged. I suspect the most content will be taken from the first collected story arc Gone to Texas, with bits and pieces of the main storyline of Jesse’s mission to find God borrowed from the eight other collected volumes ending with Alamo. We as fans are so used to having our beloved stories shit on, though Watchmen had a similarly sordid journey to the big screen and that came out exceptionally. It really depends on the team that’s heading the film and how much the studio will allow the property to just be as it is. But regardless, we will always have the books, which are some of the very best ever written.

Now is your chance to sound off on my casting picks, your picks, and Preacher itself.

Fuck communism.

7 Responses to “PREACHER: From Page to Screen”

  1. Blog Article and Video about  Giant Killer Squid » Blog Archive » PREACHER: From Page to Screen - Zac Efron Says:
    July 19th, 2009 at 12:37 am

    […] ex/current lover Tulip is many things. She’s sexy. She’s a strong woman. … Daily […]

  2. Someasshole Says:
    July 28th, 2009 at 3:18 am

    I couldnt buy Franco as a tough guy. He’s ‘more zac efron than john wayne’ as you put it.
    Elizabeth Banks is a remarkebly boring actress.
    Your Cassidy selection is something of a curiosity, do you have a vagina?. I dont know who could play Cassidy, but they better fucking be irish. One of the comic highlights of the books is the contrast between the attitudes of Jesse and Cassidy, and that is in part due to their nationalities.
    Now hears where you go so far wrong its not even funny, i’m guessing your a buffy fan (suprised you dont have that douche from Bones playing Jesse) and i liked Buffy, it got better as it went on, and probably out grew some of its fan base. But come on man, are you serious?, out of all the quality bald headed actors in the world you pick this one-hit wonder?????. Try Ben Kingsley or John Malcovich.
    I dont know who that guy you’ve got marked for the saint is, i really hope he’s not from some dire crap like Firefly or worse Stargate. The saint of killers will probably be the hardest thing to cast, and with the wonders that todays make up artists, can conjure up it’s anyones guess. But if i had to pick i’de say ron Perlman.
    Thank you for your time.

  3. Ryan Ferrier Says:
    July 28th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Hi Someasshole, thanks for the comment. Do you really need to be so abrasive though? Surely you’ve read a fantasy casting before, in which 90% of the choices are based on visual appearance. No?

    Is Jesse really a “tough guy”? I didn’t get that at all from his character. Yes he’s a strong, American type guy, but does he look a thing like a cowboy? Hardly. He’s physically average and incredibly polite. Yes he can take anyone down in a fight, and does so without breaing a sweat, but he is closer to a preacher than John Wayne. Franco not only has a similar build and look, but is a pretty diverse actor, from James Dean to Pineapple Express.

    I said flat-out that Pattinson is a bold choice. I also said that the dude is ridiculously similar looking to Cassidy. No I do not have a vagina; I’m just not so close minded to think that an actor should be written off after one niche role. I could give a fuck about Twilight, in fact I wrote an article where I mentioned I won’t report about it on my site. I also mentioned in the article above that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is probably the better choice for Cassidy. Again, the Pattinson pick was based on physical presence.

    And why does he HAVE to be Irish? Would you scoff at the thought of someone from Wales playing Batman? If you can act and pull it off I don’t care where they’re from.

    And why does Herr Starr HAVE to be a bald actor? Ben Kingsley? John Malcovich? Why don’t you just throw Bruce Willis’ name into the mix… I chose Marsters because I think he would work with the character visually and through the performance. Malcovich has no subtlety at all, and Kingsley is a horrendous actor. Dude will be in anything with a paycheck. I haven’t seen a single episode of Buffy or Stargate (thanks for the assumption, someasshole). I was pretty impressed with Marsters on Smallville; I think he captured the subtle calmness that Herr Starr is famous for. But surely not, he has hair! No actor has ever shaved their head for a role!!

    As for Elizabeth Banks being boring… I don’t know. Is Tulip REALLY that dense of a character? Banks can play serious, she can do comedy, she’s got the look and she can be a strong female presence.

    You don’t know who Ted Levine is? Really? Go imdb him. He only portrayed on of the most memorable roles of the 90’s. And he looks like the motehrfucking saint. Ron Perlman?! The living boardwalk characature? He doesn’t look a thing like the saint, and nothing he has done so far leads me to believe he can do anything but sarcastic bad-ass (Hellboy, Blade II, what else?).

    Thank you for your time, someasshole.

  4. Sam Mendes Off PREACHER? « Giant Killer Squid - Film, Comics, News, Reviews and more Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    […] comic book movies never put to screen, but that’s not to say they haven’t tried. As I wrote in this article about the bumpy road in a Preacher film adaptation, this is one property that just can’t seem […]

  5. Blue Jean Says:
    July 18th, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Fascinating choices, Ryan. No, I don’t think you’re a Buffy fan. If you were, you’d probably note that Cassidy is a lot like Spike, what with the fall from a naive romantic mortal to a hard drinking, cynical vampire, the lovelorn misadventures, and the final fiery self sacrifice. And he was, of course, was played by James Marsters, your pick for Herr Starr. It’d be fun to watch Spike and Cassidy pub crawling together for a night.

    If it was up to me (which it’s not) I’d choose Rufus Sewell for Jesse (based on “Dark City”) and Renee Z. for Tulip (based on “Chicago” and “Nurse Betty”). But hey, that’s just me.

  6. eric Says:
    June 7th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Blue Jean, right after I read your comment, I thought I was back in 1998 for a second. There are lots of things that I want to see in a Preacher film, but Rufus Sewell and Renée Zellweger are def. two things I don’t want to see. Besides, are they even alive anymore?

    More importantly, I want to know who’s going to play D’Aronique

  7. Blue Jean Says:
    June 14th, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Oh, yes, they’re both still alive, though they’re probably…shall we say…”too mature” to play the roles now. You don’t like them? Well, to everybody their own. Personally, I thought Sewell’s look was right for the part, and his scary intensity would have fitted Preacher’s “demon voice”. Renee–same thing, plus she has this “I could do something violent at any minute and then laugh about it” quality that would have been great for Tulip (check out her work in “Chicago” sometime, if you want.)

    But, as I said, to each their own. Neither one is going to play the parts anyway, even if the film gets made, so what the hell.

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