It's an interesting coincidence that the same week casting is announced for Watchmen, 300 director Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore's Holy Grail of superhero comics, the first of the inevitably great reviews for next week's The Bourne Ultimatum are starting to hit the Web. Both Variety ("Greengrass has outdone himself") and the Hollywood Reporter ("Greengrass tops himself with each passing minute") go out of their way to praise director Paul Greengrass, and between this and his Oscar nomination for United 93, it's interesting to remember the movie he almost made — indeed was in active preproduction for — before the rug was pulled out from under him: Watchmen.
Incoming Paramount chief Brad Grey put Greengrass's Watchmen into turnaround in June 2005, reportedly concerned about the budget and about David Hayter's script. The project only got back off the ground (at Warner Brothers this time) when Snyder, fresh off the success of 300, insisted that Watchmen be his next movie.
Now, we have no idea if Snyder's version will be good or bad. (He had Alex Tse rewrite Hayter's excellent screenplay, although Hayter told Variety he's optimistic that the rewrite will utilize many of his elements.) But let's take a moment to mourn the undoubtedly amazing Paul Greengrass version of Watchmen, which he described in great and fascinating detail in this revealing three-part Cinematic Happenings Under Development interview in March 2005. It would have been kinetic and fast-moving, it would have been deeply engaged in the politics of our time, and it would have likely had outstanding performances from name actors and unknowns alike. We would really like to have seen it.