Watchmen is a pop culture lightning rod the size of the Millennium Clock right now, so it might be surprising to hear that it actually had a long and difficult road to the big screen. At one point Terry Gilliam was attached to direct, from a truly hilarious script by Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm that is so bad it should be catapulted across the moons of Jupiter by a hooting Jeremy Irons. (It’s been floating around the internet for years and is pretty easy to find if you care to experience a car crash in extreme slow motion.)
Screenwriter and voice actor David Hayter wrote a later draft that was incorporated into the Zack Snyder adaptation that finally made it to theaters in 2009. But several years earlier in 2003, Hayter actually shot test footage of his screenplay following his success as a co-writer on the first two X-Men movies. The quick scene features a score by composer Joe Kraemer, who released the footage on YouTube Monday night.
The footage is a near-verbatim adaptation of one of the first scenes of the comic, in which Rorschach breaks into Dan Dreiberg AKA Nite Owl’s house to tell him that the Comedian has just been murdered. Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone, Ray Donovan) plays Rorschach and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) plays Dreiberg, which is captivating if for no other reason than watching two of the most grizzled actors currently working do a quiet, dramatic scene together. Also, Stevenson is comically gigantic, which adds a whole other dimension to the footage.
It’s interesting to see the beginnings of what would eventually become the 2009 Snyder film, and how the two accomplished actors decided to portray the characters. (Stevenson speaks in a normal voice and in complete sentences as Rorschach, which is in sharp contrast to the direction Jackie Earle Haley took the character in the film.) You can watch the footage for yourself below. For more on Watchmen, check out our guide to every question we have after this week’s episode “This Extraordinary Being.”