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

2015 2018 Paramount Network politics fast and furious SDCC President deadpool 2020 Election movies asian-american GoT indie twilight Song of Ice and Fire BAFTA composers true crime nbcuniversal ViacomCBS Amazon Prime space Comic Book documentary blockbuster cancelled television directors Adult Swim Trophy Talk Binge Guide LGBTQ archives films Awards Tour 2016 Acorn TV casting Arrowverse Brie Larson 21st Century Fox crime thriller Amazon Studios Captain marvel Disney+ Disney Plus hidden camera Calendar rotten Disney spinoff Polls and Games Tubi Tarantino quibi Music Creative Arts Emmys cancelled TV series Star Trek 72 Emmy Awards anthology crime drama Spectrum Originals rt archives Superheroe zombies concert dramedy Mary Poppins Returns Writers Guild of America medical drama Red Carpet spanish japan Hallmark Avengers godzilla BBC One stand-up comedy discovery Fox News Trailer GLAAD supernatural kids 2021 Film Shondaland comedies robots Fall TV technology Set visit franchise richard e. Grant Character Guide CBS police drama BET Awards Warner Bros. mission: impossible The Purge RT21 tv talk Ellie Kemper ABC Signature LGBT superman james bond canceled ghosts black DirecTV TV movies Holidays Nickelodeon diversity period drama Action dogs Pacific Islander Amazon Marathons feel good WGN young adult Winter TV WarnerMedia docuseries Animation IFC Films dc revenge cancelled CBS All Access Winners Columbia Pictures Chernobyl remakes Shudder Hallmark Christmas movies doctor who anime war Sony Pictures spider-man OWN criterion hollywood Horror Women's History Month Super Bowl nfl trailers VOD cooking lord of the rings nature TCA 2017 Travel Channel based on movie cinemax The CW Toys Apple SundanceTV Syfy DC Universe 2017 Watching Series Pop hist sequels Peacock The Witch The Walking Dead Marvel chucky high school TCA Winter 2020 Sundance Now Pirates comic book movies FOX ratings Amazon Prime Video Vudu biography vampires VH1 Dark Horse Comics FX on Hulu foreign Netflix Christmas movies Video Games AMC telelvision cancelled TV shows Paramount parents ITV TLC boxing Biopics miniseries Rom-Com theme song NBC Stephen King Interview Premiere Dates PlayStation historical drama ABC Family rt labs Black Mirror superhero political drama Pixar Podcast rotten movies we love adenture posters talk show CW Seed what to watch Exclusive Video women TruTV binge cops book batman classics National Geographic south america See It Skip It werewolf 24 frames Nominations sitcom emmy awards Photos cars Spike comic book movie marvel cinematic universe Kids & Family kaiju Teen Showtime sports NYCC Quiz mcc Pop TV Cannes joker Wes Anderson popular rom-coms stoner BBC 2019 ESPN justice league heist movie prank toy story halloween tv psycho worst Disney Plus Alien History Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Rock Disney Channel VICE scary movies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt mutant Fantasy football Lucasfilm Epix worst movies RT History Family spain YouTube Premium biopic italian debate Paramount Plus MCU suspense harry potter Television Critics Association Turner Endgame award winner 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Musical Freeform halloween Image Comics Grammys Apple TV Plus ABC Black History Month breaking bad USA Fox Searchlight new star wars movies Drama Esquire travel video spanish language Mudbound TBS sag awards live action ID DGA TNT french a nightmare on elm street news best toronto Extras jurassic park Sundance TV strong female leads wonder woman olympics zombie dexter Funimation name the review critics HBO Max hispanic heritage month Britbox comic DC Comics child's play christmas movies Legendary japanese free movies El Rey renewed TV shows Certified Fresh razzies Superheroes BET Musicals screen actors guild romance Bravo festivals Marvel Studios dragons natural history hispanic HBO Disney streaming service obituary 73rd Emmy Awards kong Rocketman Netflix serial killer TV One jamie lee curtis cats aapi transformers venice streaming movies game of thrones versus monster movies Film Festival slasher Reality Competition Martial Arts Masterpiece green book thriller adventure Countdown reviews American Society of Cinematographers psychological thriller Heroines game show OneApp MTV universal monsters Box Office YouTube Red series E3 target Pride Month golden globes documentaries action-comedy IFC comic books Marvel Television legend royal family Comedy 007 science fiction disaster Christmas Food Network king kong marvel comics adaptation reboot 1990s independent San Diego Comic-Con First Look Cartoon Network 71st Emmy Awards Mary Tyler Moore Best and Worst Star Wars Cosplay Holiday new zealand movie television blockbusters Crackle HBO Go Oscars crime The Walt Disney Company Apple TV+ Western The Arrangement PBS The Academy fresh comiccon CMT aliens E! scene in color australia BBC America cults die hard video on demand Lionsgate SXSW elevated horror Lifetime gangster Crunchyroll APB Tokyo Olympics Nat Geo USA Network 45 Sci-Fi finale New York Comic Con CNN TV Summer NBA Sneak Peek king arthur children's TV Awards X-Men stop motion YA Trivia Valentine's Day GIFs FXX golden globe awards Baby Yoda slashers A&E Broadway boxoffice Elton John Reality Hear Us Out crossover Emmy Nominations zero dark thirty YouTube DC streaming service laika Universal sequel animated spy thriller rt labs critics edition Comic-Con@Home 2021 Lifetime Christmas movies Infographic Mindy Kaling festival Logo Schedule Year in Review Tomatazos dceu mockumentary Thanksgiving Comedy Central Ovation know your critic First Reviews romantic comedy canceled TV shows blaxploitation streaming indiana jones docudrama critic resources Mary poppins Spring TV latino Hulu 93rd Oscars Discovery Channel Ghostbusters Pet Sematary screenings Walt Disney Pictures Anna Paquin satire facebook FX Starz pirates of the caribbean A24 international teaser Television Academy 90s cartoon Country 20th Century Fox TIFF social media new york saw witnail Rocky PaleyFest book adaptation TCA Awards singing competition Tumblr TCM Opinion unscripted TCA Mystery Sundance all-time 4/20 Comics on TV MSNBC Emmys dark scorecard Academy Awards TV Land 99% Classic Film comics Turner Classic Movies TV renewals basketball