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

Chernobyl Fantasy Apple quibi Mary Poppins Returns Emmys Video Games NBC Columbia Pictures Pixar Peacock Spike Mystery Marvel YouTube Superheroes DC Universe blaxploitation historical drama A24 Brie Larson joker Kids & Family Fox News Amazon Prime Video latino social media CBS All Access TCA Winter 2020 Trivia Hallmark mockumentary YouTube Red TIFF Election discovery theme song Nickelodeon finale 71st Emmy Awards X-Men indie National Geographic period drama Action werewolf Oscars Comedy independent blockbuster Disney TCM christmas movies GIFs Epix ESPN Extras Country biography Turner Classic Movies Nat Geo Best and Worst supernatural Britbox Creative Arts Emmys YouTube Premium Star Trek New York Comic Con Horror Amazon Cartoon Network Elton John Comic Book series Drama spain Hulu strong female leads Bravo halloween TLC Spring TV kids directors movies DC streaming service batman screen actors guild Lifetime Christmas movies BBC America versus Netflix Pirates travel Holidays spy thriller Sundance Cosplay miniseries Warner Bros. television Spectrum Originals Teen TNT ABC Avengers LGBT IFC Film ITV 24 frames unscripted TCA 2017 Mindy Kaling Ghostbusters cartoon hispanic cults Logo cancelled television SundanceTV MTV SDCC Arrowverse psycho robots Syfy Writers Guild of America Awards Television Academy name the review Disney Plus adaptation Rock E! First Reviews Emmy Nominations vampires anthology RT History YA Discovery Channel space aliens Super Bowl Rocketman renewed TV shows Comedy Central Disney streaming service GoT Showtime Masterpiece Winners Pop Reality singing competition crossover USA sag awards cars Anna Paquin game show police drama Disney+ Disney Plus 2018 harry potter spinoff Marvel Television Shudder festivals Sci-Fi true crime boxoffice diversity Nominations Awards Tour nature golden globes sequel hist Holiday Valentine's Day medical drama 007 toy story Sundance Now adventure zero dark thirty Universal award winner Sneak Peek crime Music Mary poppins foreign President MCU richard e. Grant Quiz Lucasfilm transformers book Sony Pictures OneApp politics reboot Dark Horse Comics Captain marvel Character Guide GLAAD cops Song of Ice and Fire Rom-Com canceled TV shows Heroines Biopics Rocky See It Skip It dramedy Calendar Mudbound Esquire Paramount Binge Guide children's TV spanish language Musical Grammys DGA FX tv talk canceled ghosts Vudu cinemax Cannes Paramount Network comics Tumblr RT21 Box Office E3 Food Network Year in Review comiccon USA Network 2020 Infographic screenings what to watch VH1 crime drama Comics on TV SXSW Endgame cooking DirecTV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt El Rey Baby Yoda breaking bad zombie TBS American Society of Cinematographers Disney Channel Acorn TV Lifetime FOX Crackle IFC Films Women's History Month Turner doctor who Polls and Games CW Seed animated TV Opinion political drama 45 dc Podcast Star Wars PBS LGBTQ BET romance VICE talk show Interview Mary Tyler Moore Superheroe TV Land sports Apple TV+ Christmas war streaming Fall TV The Walking Dead 2017 natural history anime crime thriller Adult Swim composers Netflix Christmas movies Thanksgiving Ovation south america jamie lee curtis game of thrones Pet Sematary Premiere Dates spider-man Certified Fresh justice league Classic Film Tomatazos The Witch First Look zombies Shondaland comic 2019 docudrama elevated horror 21st Century Fox Ellie Kemper Film Festival Watching Series Family facebook video stand-up comedy casting Tarantino slashers psychological thriller FXX Academy Awards 20th Century Fox NYCC serial killer binge green book Freeform Musicals Pride Month Lionsgate Marathons cancelled TV shows Stephen King 2015 WarnerMedia dceu Martial Arts Tubi Toys thriller cancelled TV series based on movie CBS TCA Set visit ratings Countdown sitcom A&E Apple TV Plus TruTV Crunchyroll WGN MSNBC ABC Family science fiction Trailer CNN Reality Competition San Diego Comic-Con dragons PaleyFest rotten movies we love Animation AMC Photos technology 2016 witnail DC Comics Schedule Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Amazon Prime Walt Disney Pictures Sundance TV free movies Western mutant TV renewals BBC Winter TV Trophy Talk HBO Max Red Carpet romantic comedy Hallmark Christmas movies disaster CMT OWN The Arrangement APB Starz Marvel Studios Black Mirror Summer teaser The Purge cancelled cats History revenge The CW HBO