Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s had a hectic 2007 and 2008 looks to be just as busy for the actor who gained a huge female following after appearing on the hit TV series, Grey’s Anatomy. Morgan stars as an Irish guitar-playing charmer in the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler and recently completed work on The Accidental Husband with Uma Thurman. Currently, he’s keeping busy with the big screen adaptation of Watchmen.
300 writer/director Zack Snyder is helming Watchmen, a huge undertaking and one that’s being followed closely by fans of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel. Watchmen is considered to be the greatest graphic novel ever written and there’s a lot of pressure involved in making sure every aspect of the production lives up to expectations.
Snyder and his cast were halfway through Watchmen at the time of the Los Angeles press junket for P.S. I Love You and although he’s been immersed in the Watchmen world for a while, Morgan sounded as though he was still in awe of the scope of the project. “I’ve been there since August,” said Morgan. “Usually you do a movie, for me, you do a movie in 2 months. I’ve done movies in 15 days. One scene takes 15 days in the Watchmen. I always say ‘the’ Watchmen. They’re going to kill me for that. The scale and scope of it is to an extent that I’ve certainly never experienced, and I don’t know that I ever will again. You walk on these sets and it boggles your mind, and I’m in it. I saw all these designs and sketches and, ‘This is what we’re building,’ like the New York set. ‘This is what we’re doing.’ I would walk down just this 10 acre piece of land, nothing there, with girders. They’d be like, ‘Here’s where the newsstand’s going to be. Here’s where the Comedian, his last breath is taken on the pavement. This is where he falls out of his high rise building.’ It’s all up now and I walked on the set the other day, it’s working New York City streets with lights and taxis whizzing by you way too fast. It’s like you’re in New York. It is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The first few photos that have drifted onto the internet confirm Snyder and his crew are trying to maintain the same look as the graphic novel. “It’s so true to the book I can’t even begin to tell you how,” said Morgan. “Everything is so true to the book it’s insane. You can put anything that has been built for the Watchmen next to a panel in the book and it’ll trip you out. It’s amazing.”
Prior to being cast as the Comedian, Morgan wasn’t familiar with the graphic novel. “I had heard of it, I’d never read it. I read it when I went in and met with Zack. They’re like, ‘We’re going to send you a script.’ Well, they didn’t send me a script, they sent me the book. And so that was my first introduction to it. I’ve since read it, since we started this thing, I don’t know, 20 times. David Gibbons came up to the set – [the man] who illustrated it. Talk about a kid in a candy store. Seeing his face I think may have been kind of the highlight of the whole thing for me. Him seeing us in action, in costume, seeing the sets... It’s kind of like getting approval from your father. Since Alan’s kind of distanced himself from this at this point, David hasn’t and he’s been a big part of what’s going on. I mean, you know, his eyes welled up on seeing the sets.”
Morgan learned very quickly how important Watchmen is to fans. “All I had to do was put ‘Watchmen’ and Google it. You get a real quick idea of how big it is and how iconic it is. I mean, I was blown away. I had no idea. The fan base, I think, is unlike any fan base for any superhero or comic book ever done. It’s just this… Zack stays on top of it. He’s always trolling these message boards. But there’s a couple websites that I visit and they’re sort of intimidating. You feel like there’s a bit of the weight of the world on your shoulders when this movie is going to come out. We all want to make everybody happy, which is a hard thing to do, for one. Two, I don’t even know if there is a two. You just want everybody to be frigging happy and you want to blow their minds. I think that’s what’s going to happen. I really am confident that Watchmen’s going to change the way people look at movies.”
Although he wasn’t an expert going into the project, Morgan’s done his homework and knows his character. “The Comedian is the Comedian. By his actions, you know, he’s hard to sympathize with. I think my job is trying to kind of humanize him because I want to humanize him as much as I can, because you know you don’t hate the Comedian. No matter what he does, and he does some horrible f--king things, my job is to, at least this is what I’ve kind of taken upon myself, is you read the book, you get to the end of the book and you don’t hate the Comedian yet he is one of the most despicable people ever written, I think. So if I just play the character as written, there’s going to be no sympathy for him. You just won’t. And you have to understand how he became this man and somehow leave the movie theater understanding why he did it somehow, whether that be killing a pregnant woman or trying to rape somebody. Still my job is to kind of make that make sense for the audience, which is hard - harder than reading it.”
Asked what reaction he’d like to get from audiences, Morgan responded, “I don’t know if they’ll feel bad. He dies right off the top. The top of the movie is his death and then the rest of the movie is in flashbacks. I think it’s about making the audience understand, because the flashbacks, what you see are pretty brutal acts. The resolution being kind of that scene… Well, he’s got two scenes I think are sort of key and that is the one with his daughter when Sally Jupiter comes up and sort of bitches him out and tells him to get away. And the scene with Molock when I think he kind of discovers that in fact he’s not as bad as it can be. He does have some humanity in him. And so everything kind of leads… I think every scene is kind of key. Everyone has these scenes. You’ve just to pull it all together and I think that’s our job as actors, so hopefully we’ll do that.”