The news has been in the murmuring since November, I think, but it’s officially official: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing partners best known until now for dirty-mouthed feature-film comedies, are taking PREACHER, the classic 1990s comic book series from creators Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, to AMC to be developed as a weekly TV show. Breaking Bad writer and producer Sam Catlin will be the showrunner and executive producer, with Seth and Evan executive producing also — that basically means they are the ones who do the hiring. The cast and crew will be chosen by these three (and some others), with input from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.
If you’ve read PREACHER, you’ve probably imagined seeing it adapted to film. More than most comic books, which are a unique art form on their own, visual enough without added dimensions, PREACHER has a cinematic feel. That’s because Irish native Garth Ennis loves America in all our ugliness, and envisioned the series to reflect that. His main point of reference, clearly, is American Western films, from THE SEARCHERS to THE WILD BUNCH to THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. In a recurring motif that’s been endlessly compared to Elvis Presley in TRUE ROMANCE, John Wayne himself appears periodically, though not by name, an apparition who serves as a kind of guardian angel to the main character. But more than Wayne, Ennis loves Clint Eastwood. Arguably the series’ standout character is The Saint Of Killers, an unstoppable supernatural force who has some of Lee Marvin’s grizzle and ugliness but is otherwise quite obviously the sum total of every killer Clint ever played. Series artist Steve Dillon (who drew all sixty-six issues!) used both faces as inspiration. Dillon’s open, expressive style — more than most comic books — focuses on character over spectacle. His great strength is in human faces. This is another reason why PREACHER and film have always felt like a match waiting to happen.
The story centers around a young Texas preacher named Jesse Custer, who becomes host to Genesis, a celestial force which is the highly forbidden result of an angel and a demon getting it on. This gives him the Word Of God, the ability to command anyone to do anything. What Jesse, a disillusioned Christian, wants to use it for is to track down God Himself and make Him accountable for having apparently abandoned Heaven once Genesis was created. Jesse is reunited with the love of his life, Tulip O’Hare, who since they split has become a gun-toting assassin-for-hire, and an undying Irish alcoholic vampire known for a long time only as Cassidy.
The colorful cast of characters includes series mascot Arseface, named by Cassidy for the failed suicide attempt that made his face look like a butthole; the aforementioned Saint Of Killers, who was unleashed by the angels of Heaven to stop Jesse; and the Lord himself. Series villains include Herr Starr, the most duplicitous member of The Grail, a secret organization committed to preserving the bloodline of Jesus Christ; its leader Allfather D’Aronique; and Jesse’s horrific next of kin, including the satanic Marie L’Angelle, a.k.a. Gran’ma, and her henchmen, the merciless Jody and his demented sidekick T.C. There’s a lot more, which means a TV series is in fact the ideal format for an adaptation, allowing of course for the fact that the source material is full of energetic sex, disturbingly comical violence, and a very obvious shit-ton of blasphemy. I wouldn’t call this stuff X-rated but I also don’t think an ‘R’ begins to cover it.
That said, it’s going to be fun to watch this project take shape. In most other hands I’d be concerned (Sam Mendes was rumored to direct a film version, cold shudders) but I have a strong feeling Seth and Evan have read and re-read PREACHER almost as many times as I have, and that’s only because I’m older. Those dudes have got to be on Cloud Nine right now!
To join in the fun, let’s offer up some suggestions for the main series cast, knowing full well that reality will probably demand that the show will probably be made up of more unknowns:
THE REVEREND JESSE CUSTER
In the 1990s I always pictured Val Kilmer or John Cusack in the lead role of this series. You need a dark broody guy with the star power who nonetheless has vast reservoirs of brilliant weirdness. This story gets so strange you need a guy who can both center an audience by remaining relatable, while also kinda fitting right in. Kilmer and Cusack have aged out of contention, and I can see Nic Cage doing a cameo somewhere (maybe as Cassidy’s pal Si?), but as far as actors of the new generation who can bring all of the above and still look the part, I keep coming back to James Franco. I imagine this is a guy who Seth and Evan can get on the phone, and since James Franco is a master of time and space who seems to be everywhere doing everything all the time, I’m sure he could easily fit in “series regular on a television program” to his schedule.
She basically played this role already back in 2011, in DRIVE ANGRY. Pretty, solid actor, crazy charisma, looks good throwing a punch, holding a gun or driving a fast car; I’d like to write a lot more but it doesn’t really take much convincing, does it?
I know he’s Scottish, not Irish, but we’re American, which means we can’t tell the difference. Cassidy needs to be a little older than Jesse, since as a hundred-year-old vampire he’s actually a lot older, and he needs to be super-charismatic and lovable because neither Jesse nor the audience should see the darkness that is to come.
THE SAINT OF KILLERS
I’m sure the dream “get” for this role is Clint himself, but it’ll never happen. You need an actor with visible heaps of decades on him, scars upon scars, and you need someone who wears his age but also still has some physicality to him. I might have suggested Jeff Bridges, but you know, R.I.P.D. I also kinda like the idea of Nick Nolte doing it, or Powers Boothe for that matter, even Kurt Russell, but then I remembered I’m one of the three people who saw DEAD IN TOMBSTONE, the movie where Danny Trejo wears a cowboy hat. And now, damn. I can’t unthink this marvellous thought. And I bet he’d do it! He’s in everything these days!
Here’s the thing: This is the main antagonist of the piece. The instinct, when fan-casting, is always to look at actors with gravitas, preferably ones who look cool when bald. Patrick Stewart. Kevin Spacey. Ed Harris. Bryan Cranston. JK Simmons. Sure, that’d be great. But if you’ve read PREACHER, then you know about some of the indignities this character is due to endure. Disfigurement. Dismemberment. Castration and complete genital annihilation. I think that gets us up to issue #48 or so. There’s more abject humiliation to come!
I don’t know about you, but even if it’s make-believe I don’t want to see that happen to an actor I actually like.
I’m so sorry, but it’s so perfect. And she does TV now! It’s a short skip from Downton Abbey to this, I’m sure.
Look, Iggy’s on that Once Upon A Time show. I’m sure he’d rather be doing this one. Let’s ask.
Jeez, this is easy. People get paid for this?
JONAH HILL + MUCHO C.G.I.
No offense intended whatsoever: This is basically the role Jonah Hill played in THIS IS THE END: A cooing, outwardly beatific portly gentleman who is a total fucking demon underneath. It’s not a huge role (well, outside of the literal sense) but with a ton of special effects, Jonah could come in and kill it.
Arseface is a relentlessly upbeat little fella, despite having a face like a sinkhole. This is fine casting.
We have the technology. And AMC has all the footage! Just use all those classic movies they don’t show anymore.
In a sweet tribute, one issue of the series had a flashback to Jesse’s days as an embattled priest, where he drank in a bar where the great comedian Bill Hicks was doing stand-up. Most of his lines come from well-known Hicks routines, so assuming the clearances work out, that could be slotted in fairly easily I’m sure.
We want to obliterate The Walking Dead and their rec0rd-setting ratings. How do you do that? Controversy! Who brings controversy on the regular? Kanye! Conveniently, Kanye recently made an entire album comparing himself to the Almighty, so it’s perfect casting. I mean, to him. And to me. Maybe not to you. Maybe you’re offended. Maybe you hate this casting. Maybe it pisses you off. Maybe that’s fitting. God is kind of a dick in PREACHER. If that’s shocking or upsetting, please try to remember that God is kind of a dick in the Bible too. The depiction in the comic is actually fairly loyal to the character. If a six-foot-tall guy can play Wolverine, there’s no reason a dickhead can’t play God. He may be a dick. Doesn’t mean we can’t still love Him. And this way, he makes beats you can dance to.
I wish this cast and crew a lot of luck. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get an angry comment or two and I’m only day-dreaming about this. Garth & Steve, Seth & Evan: I’m on your side, guys, always, but watch out for those religious kooks! They write really mean letters.
So what do the rest of you think?
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