If you aren’t already familiar with Garth Ennis’s brilliant graphic novel, then read further. If you are and don’t need an intro, skip on down to the meaty bits of the post.
Preacher is a series written by Irish writer Garth Ennis, who before Preacher was most famous for his work on Hellblazer, a book that starred John Constantine. Constantine is one of my FAVORITE series ever, and on another day I’ll do a post about that. But today is for Preacher.
In Preacher, young man of God Jesse Custer has lost his faith and sets out on a quest to find and question God concerning the state of the world. That’s really the absolute bare bones of the story, and it’s so hard to write that without going into all the juicy story bits that make this series so awesome and ruining it for first-time readers. There is nothing about this series–well, there’s violence, and ADULT SITUATIONS– that isn’t well-told, fascinating, and though-provoking. A freak occurrence with a divine presence means that Custer is imbued with the Word of God, meaning no one, providing they speak his language, can refuse his direct orders. Such a power in the wrong hands would be a huge disaster, but as Custer is a humanist with his own strict moral code (‘Don’t take no shit off fools, and be one of the good guys, because there’s way too many of the bad) he does not take advantage of this power and only uses it in times of real need.
In high school, someone recommended the book to me for all the wrong reasons, and I didn’t read it. Their stance was ‘it’s awesome because it’s violent and he goes around kicking ass.’ That’s definitely true, violence surrounds Custer the way that small birds and animals surround a Disney heroine–not because he seeks it out, but because its drawn to him. I wish I’d read this brilliant dissection of masculinity and American values years ago, but at least I’ve read it now.
Custer is joined on his quest by his girlfriend Tulip, a gun-toting chick who is a walking case of Awesome, and drunken reprobate Cassidy, an Irish vampire almost a hundred years old with dark shadows in his past but a rakish, devil-may-care attitude that you can’t help but be drawn to. Cassidy’s optimism about the US and how many opportunities the country affords is one of the most interesting things about the book, and makes you remember all the stuff you want America to be, rather than all the stuff that it is.
Since the story is a quest, a goodly amount of meandering is done, but there is never a part of the book that’s boring or worth skipping. Their journey takes the group from Texas, to France, to New York City, to New Orleans, to Monument Valley in Utah, and everywhere in between. It’s a sweeping epic at the same time as an incisive character piece.
Which is why adapting it has hit so many roadblocks.
Originally, it was a film, with James Marsden set to star. Then, it was an HBO series, which would have honeslty been the BEST way to adapt such a broad story without cutting out details or screwing around with the characters too much. Then it was a film again, with Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame, set to direct. Now he’s off the project and the last thing heard was Joe Carnahan, of Smokin’ Aces, saying he would like a crack at it while doing press for The A-Team.
Which is nice, but totally wrong.
What I think is necessary for the film to work on the same level as the book is to get a great dramatic director who can bring the right level of emotional weight to the story, and have to work hard to do the action. Don’t get an action director and expect them to be able to deal with the depth of the material. Edgar Wright would be great, especially since the entire series is an outsider’s view of the US. Michael Apted, who has a long history of drama and action, would also be ideal, if he were interested in the project.And there are oodles of other young directors with a firm grasp of both emotional resonance and drama that could do a decent job.
And just because I’ve been wanting to do this for years, here is my dream cast for a Preacher movie, if there ever is one.
Cassidy – Ideally I’d like Robert Carlyle for this, even though he’s Scottish. If he’s not available find an unknown, not some 19-year old, someone with some mileage under their belt. Cassidy’s some some messed up things, and although he’s nigh-indestructable he really needs to project that he’s been around for as long as the century.
Tulip – Christina Hendricks. I like her because she can turn from innocent, All-American sweetness to icy badass on a dime. That kind of range is important, but there’s a lot of area in-between that someone playing Tulip needs to inhabit. Tulip is strong, but she’s been scared, she’s been angry, she’s been petulant. This is a job for a real actress, not a model who’s just getting into acting. I’m sure there are other blondes out there who’d want this role, but I’m definitely biased as i’ve seen her as a badass and would like to see more in that way. No, I have not seen Mad Men yet.
Jody – This is a tough one. Ideally I’d like Woody Harrelson since he played a psychopath with such chilling presence in Natural Born Killers. And Jody is an older man, he’s not some 30-something. He’s got miles on him too, and whoever plays him has to bring that to the role. Every moment he’s on screen the viewer should be imagining Jody as a child perfecting the art of putting nails through the eyes of a puppy or something. And he HAS to be on screen. Other possibles would be Bruce Willis (come on, it’d be great!) or Ray Stevenson from the recent Punisher movie and Rome, but only if they can do decent Texan accents. Whoever is chosen, it has to be someone who can do both serial killer and twisted father figure, since Jody raised Jesse, though they were never close.
Jesse Custer – this is a difficult one. In the books, Jesse is only in his early twenties, but I’ve always read him as someone approaching thirty just because he’s so level-headed and sure of himself. I thought Timothy Olyphant might be right after loving him in Deadwood so much, but his accent left a little to be desired. There’s probably an undiscovered twenty-something out there who can play this– just please steer clear of stunt-casting. No Jake Gyllenhaal, no Toby Maguire, no Anton Yelchin. EDIT: Oh man, Justin Theroux would be GREAT for this, IF he can do a Texan accent.
Herr Starr – Oo, man, this is a tough one. Except not, because ever since Christophe Waltz wandered onto the scene, he is MEANT to play Herr Starr. It’s important for whoever plays Starr to remember that the character really wants to make the world a better place, no matter who he has to kill to do it.
I’m a little surprised that the Preacher movie has been dragged to screen by now, if only because
A. Studios will greenlight anything printed in panels these days, no matter the content, ie Kick-Ass.
B. Manly men are all the rage now–Clive Owen, Gerard Butler, Colin Ferrell– and yet there aren’t any real American manly men. I mean there are a few, but none come immediately to mind. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are many, but both have daddy issues. Perhaps that’s the exact reason–macho AMerican men come off as dickhead bullies, as characters out of Team America: World Police.
If Preacher gets made, and done right, maybe that’d change? I am totally a feminist in many ways, but I do like to watch Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee movies. . . Perhaps Johan Hex will give a good indication as to whether or not Preacher will be made, or how well it’ll be done. I won’t see Jonah Hex, not until the release the DVD version where they’ve cut and pasted Megan Fox out of it, but I’ll still keep an eye on the buzz.