“Preacher,” Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s epic comic book mash-up of Westerns, Southern Gothics, black comedy, metaphysics and good old-fashioned horror, has been trapped in Hollywood development hell since the late ’90s. Every few years, a new white knight turns up to rescue it: first Kevin Smith (to produce a movie version that might have starred James Marsden in the title role), then Mark Steven Johnson (who wrote an aborted series version at HBO), and more recently Sam Mendes and D.J. Caruso (each briefly attached to an attempt to make a “Preacher” movie). Now, two new saviors have appeared, and they are…
… Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg?
Earlier today, Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci reported that the screenwriting duo, who made their directorial debut with this summer’s “This Is The End,” will be making a “Preacher” pilot for AMC. Rogen himself offered a few not-so-cryptic tweets – one referring to how “seven years of hard work are about to pay off,” the other namechecking several “Preacher” supporting characters (including, yes, John Wayne himself) – suggesting Faraci is on the right track. An AMC rep said they “can’t confirm right now,” but there appears to be at least some fire behind this smoke.
Now, there’s a reason it’s been nearly 20 years since the first issue of “Preacher”(*) without a film or TV adaptation getting close to production.
(*) “Preacher” For Dummies: Jesse Custer is a handsome young Texas reverend with a dark past and a deep love of John Wayne movies who becomes bonded with a creature known as Genesis – the offspring of an angel and demon – that at times makes him as powerful as God Himself. As Jesse, his ex-girlfriend Tulip and their new friend Cassidy try to figure out why he has this power, what to do with it, and why God appears to have forsaken His kingdom, they cross paths with saints, vampires, serial killers, many many inbred people, the Army and a global organization with their own ties to the Almighty.
It’s not just that it’s a sprawling narrative that can’t be easily squeezed into a two-hour movie (though Smith and Scott Mosier’s original plan was to simply adapt the first story arc), but that “Preacher” is a mix of so many disparate tones and styles that have no business being pushed together in this way. It’s a series that can present a straightforward, thrilling action sequence in the same Monument Valley location where Wayne and John Ford made so many classic Westerns, but also one that has much fun at the expense of a recurring character known as Arseface, because, well, he looks like this. It revels in its graphic imagery (particularly in the downward physical spiral one of its main villains endures) and wildly blasphemous (which makes me stunned an ad-supported operation like AMC would consider it), but also incredibly sincere in its emotions.
There are only a handful of creative types in the business I would think would even have a prayer of taking “Preacher” from the page to the screen, and I would not have necessarily put Rogen and Goldberg on that list. They’re comic book fans, but they struggled to adapt “The Green Hornet” to modern times – though some of that difficulty came from casting Rogen as the hero, which presumably will not be happening here – and this thing is going to be a monster to wrestle down, even if AMC lets them get away with even half of what Ennis and Dillon did. Even on the network that just gave us “Breaking Bad,” for instance, will they be able to pull off all the widescreen Western iconography?
That said, my expectations would be much lower if I hadn’t seen and liked “This Is The End,” which is itself a blend of tones and styles that should not work together, shifting from autobiographical self-satire to genuine metaphysical dread. (There’s some of that in their “Pineapple Express” as well, minus the demonic phalluses so prevalent in “This Is The End.”) I’m skeptical they’ll be able to make it work, because “Preacher” seems designed to defy adaptation, but there are at least traces of the skills needed to pull it off in some other things they’ve made. And if they’ve really been trying for seven years to make this happen presumably they’ve thought long and hard about what parts of the comic can be adapted and what needs to be thrown out immediately.
What does everybody else think? If “Preacher” is ever going to make it to the screen, do you think these are the guys to do it? Does the success of the gore-filled “The Walking Dead” suggest AMC won’t be squeamish about at least some of the comic’s most infamous imagery? And in terms of actors who are the right ages now and might be amenable to doing TV, who would you like to see as Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy?