Preacherman, or “Seth Rogen stole my baby!”
On Never Sleep Again, a documentary about the making of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, producer Jeff Katz relates a story (which he also tells on the Friday the 13th doc), about first hearing talk of a Freddy vs. Jason film as a young fan of both franchises. The very notion saw Katz vowing to do whatever he could to break into Hollywood, so he could work on the film by the time it came to pass, which he did. Preacher is my Freddy vs. Jason, and all the work I’ve hammered out over the last eight years happened with at least one dreamer’s eye glancing towards a future where my foot’s far enough inside that door to be part of the adaptation. As you can see, that’s turned out just swimmingly, posting this as a nobody of some renown.
Regardless, Garth Ennis’ super-violent, wildly blasphemous, and outright amazing comic turns up in movie news stories every few years, as film or TV versions get greenlit, before fizzling out or getting dropped, when studio bosses realise antsy religious protest groups would burn their networks to the ground before the opening credits were done. The virtually unadaptable material would surely only work on HBO (or Starz), which almost happened a few years ago (yes!), albeit show-run by the guy behind the Daredevil and Ghost Rider movies (kill me). I guess there’s Netflix now too, but any network, even cable, that has advertisers to answer to, would never get away with anything but the loosest of adaptations, like Under the Dome or World War Z, where they essentially take nothing but the title. “Stay tuned for NBC’s Preacher, where Jesse Custer, as penance for farting at a funeral, is forced by God to move back in with his parents!”
I truly believe(d) that, like the similarly ‘definitely happening real soon!’ every few months Ghostbusters 3, Preacher would jump between studios and producers forever, but never get past pre-production. Although it was ironically cancelled by HBO, Carnivàle always felt like the closest tonal equivalent to a Preacher show, with its dusty, religious-realism horror, and ‘going home’ episode that was lifted straight from the comic. My own The Ostrich and the Insects from Frantic Planet: Volume II is a hat-tipping homage, in lieu of the Preacher movie that would never, ever work. Considering the Paul Bettany-starring Darwin biopic struggled to find any distribution in the US, what with evolution being such a controversial topic in the 21st century and all, you can forget about Preacher hitting big screens without its central core torn clean out. There’s also no natural ending until the ending-ending, so studios would want what they got with the Ennis-penned screenplay, which is bookended by a bar-side Cassidy telling you the story of his wacky adventures, and ends with Tulip shooting Saint of Killers to death. A movie would be like adapting the entire Game of Thrones books into 120 minutes of screentime.
Latest news, out of nowhere, is that AMC have ordered a pilot. AMC, that’s hopeful, right? Breaking Bad and Mad Men (and the awful Walking Dead), and all the bold, gritty storytelling that goes with them; a good fit for Preacher. Well yeah, but for all its brilliance, Breaking Bad was gifted a single, censored ‘fuck’ per season, even blurring one out when it was written on a piece of paper. Obviously mucky language isn’t the be-all and end-all, but every page in Preacher is littered with the kind of mayhem that’s never been seen on television, outside of HBO or Starz, so it needs a home willing to let it tell the whole story, or just not bother.
For me, the news of an actual pilot is the fanboy writer equivalent of watching the football captain take the girl you’ve long loved from afar to the prom; as seen through a telescope from the giant pile of rotting garbage you call home. That said, it’s all going to depend on who’s show-running the thing, which it turns out, is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen’s tweet about “seven years of hard work” makes me think he’s been chasing the rights since the HBO deal, around the time he started to get that Hollywood pull himself. If it’s going to happen, a pair of fans who’ve got a handle on dark, R-rated comedy, and don’t give a shit about blasphemy, is the best of all possible non-Millard outcomes.
With that in mind, I’m going to do what squealing Tumblr folks do, when they suggest Cumberbatch or Hiddleston for every uncast role in the entire world, and list my dream castings for a Preacher adaptation. Before you accuse me of doing obvious ‘lookalike’ casting, I deliberately chose similar pictures.
Cleans up nice without the tin face, doesn’t he? I always mentally struggled to cast Jesse, but here’s as good a pick as any.
Admittedly, I dream-cast Maggie Grace in everything (most notably in the role of definite-future wife), but in your hearts, you know I’m right.
This might seem like stunt casting, but as soon as it came into my head, I couldn’t picture another Cassidy. I feel like it’s the most obvious born-to-play role since Patrick Stewart and Professor X. Another pretty brilliant suggestion I’ve seen is Matt King, aka Superhans from Peep Show.
6’10”, Texan, a voice like someone throat-fucking a naval mine; we know he’s got that swaggering, measured presence down, and now he’s finally aged into the weathered cragginess required. There isn’t a better pick. There just isn’t.
There’s other roles too, like Joel Grey for Odin Quincannon, Terry O’Quinn as Herr Starr, or Marilyn Manson as Jesus De Sade, but I should probably stop procrastinating and get back to work, so I can be there when Hollywood greenlights the adaptation for Everybody Poops. Any other casting suggestions, drop them in the comments, and if you’re interested in The Ostrich and the Insects, it’s available here, with a bunch of other stories, for a nominal fee, above a flyer I made for it once and might as well show off here, now I’m talking about it and that.