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The Convoluted History Of Getting 'Preacher' To The Screen

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Although it seems like an adaptation of the Vertigo comic book series Preacher happened nearly overnight, a live-action adaptation of the comic book took nearly two decades to actually happen.

Long before Seth Rogen obtained rights to work with this material, others sought to bring Preacher to film and TV, including Kevin Smith's View Askew Productions. At one point, X-Men's Cyclops, James Marsden, signed on to play Jesse Custer, but like many previous attempts, that adaptation ultimately failed, mostly because of the controversial and violent nature of the original comic book.

Here's the long and sordid history behind adapting Preacher into a live-action commodity.

Electric Entertainment

Preacher artist Garth Ennis initially sold the rights to the comic book for a film adaptation to Electric Entertainment with Ennis writing the script and Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) directing. After three drafts of the script, the film was ready to begin in 1998. The original plan was to cover the first four issues of the comic.

Eventually, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier of View Askew Productions signed on to executive produce Preacher for the big screen. However, when they took the script to Bob Weinstein at Miramax, there was concern about the content of the story.

"I think it would be a tough sell at this point after Dogma for any studio to go like, 'Yeah, let's do it,' because you see what happens when you make a movie even remotely about religion," Smith told Ain't It Cool News at the time.

Smith was right: Weinstein ultimately passed on the movie.

Storm Entertainment

The UK-based Storm Entertainment eventually joined the production, but with Electric Entertainment still involved. In 2001, the companies announced that Preacher finally had the green light to start pre-production, with filming set to start later that year using Ennis' script, and with Talalay still willing to direct and Marsden starring as Jesse.

"I'm still kind of going through my deal, but we're supposed to shoot in August," Marsden said to Comic Book Resources. "Very, very big following and some of the best writing I've ever read. Really dark, very dark, not for everybody. It challenges the kind of conventional religion and things like that. A very cynical piece, but some very brilliant writing. Right now we're kind of trying to figure out how to go in August, but I don't know for sure yet because we're not finished with everything."

There was just one major problem: the film's budget of $25 million. That budget meant that filming dates continued to get pushed back because of financial issues. Eventually, the studios decided to abandon the movie.

HBO

The next interested party was HBO, which announced in 2006 that it had Mark Steven Johnson and Howard Deutch working on a TV pilot for Preacher. The plan for that series would feature each issue of the comic book as its own separate episode.

"Every issue is an hour," Johnson said at a preview of Ghost Rider to Sci Fi Wire. "And it's exactly the book ... I had my meeting yesterday, and Garth Ennis is on the phone, and we're all in the room, and Garth is like, 'You don't have to be so beholden to the comic.' And I'm like, 'No, no, no. It's got to be like the comic.' So that's what's so brilliant about it."

Johnson eventually changed his mind after Ennis came up with a few new storylines for the series, but by then, HBO had new people at the helm and they decided that the show was too controversial and too violent.

Columbia Pictures

In 2008, Columbia Pictures bought the rights to Preacher and put Sam Mendes in the director's chair. This new film adaptation, though, would not use the previous script written by Ennis. Columbia never announced any writers for the adaptation, though, nor did it ever mention any stars attached to the project.

Although Columbia once seemed committed to the movie, it eventually fell by the wayside, and no one ever heard of it again.

At this point, most considered a Preacher adaptation something that would never happen.

AMC

Fortunately, AMC, which already had a lot of success with its adaptation of The Walking Dead, decided that enough was enough. The network got the rights to the Preacher comic book and confirmed that it would create a TV series based on it. Not only that, but AMC also tapped the writing duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to write the pilot episode, as well as executive produce.

Eventually, AMC ordered a full first season for the show with 10 episodes, standing true to its word that a live-action adaptation of Preacher was officially and finally happening. The network cast Dominic Cooper in the title role and added other cast members to fill out Preacher's roster. The series went into production and will finally come to life on TV on May 22.

Like its main character, Preacher had a long and hard road making its way from film to TV and back again, but after nearly 20 years, fans of the series will finally see the final product on AMC.

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