Will a television version of the controversial comic ‘Preacher’ be the next Breaking Bad? AMC seem to think so, after days of rumour we finally have confirmation that a pilot episode has been ordered.
The gap left by the end of Breaking Bad means that AMC are looking for something to fill their scheduling and what could be better than what was simply one of the finest examples of grotesquerie to ever come from Vertigo? After a few vague tweets Seth Rogen seemed to confirm that he’s involved with the pilot as well, although his role is unknown at this point. Hopefully it’s just as a producer as he doesn’t seem to fit the casting list for a single character.
If you’re not familiar with Preacher I’ll give you a brief synopsis. A bad ass vicar becomes twinned with the bastard offspring of an angel and a demon, becomes as powerful as God and sets out on a mission to make God pay for turning his back on the world. His allies in this biblical quest include a vampire, an ex-girlfriend turned assassin, lots of Marlboros, plenty of alcohol, voodoo priests and a kid called Arseface.
Sound a bit bizarre?
One of the most beautiful qualities of Preacher is that all of it is written so smoothly that you suspend your disbelief without really noticing. The dialogue is perfect. The art by Steve Dillon is as cinematic as you could imagine, with single frames and close-ups of one single character telling as much story as a page of script. Every single frame is packed with a simplicity that manages to exude subtle nuance, and often makes dialogue unnecessary. Writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon work together incredibly well, and Preacher is one of their highest achievements.
Preacher was part of what was for me, the heyday of the comic book industry. At one time we had Preacher, The Sandman, Hellblazer and Transmetropolitan. It’s no coincidence that Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (with cover artist Glenn Fabry) worked on two of those titles.
Preacher as a comic is packed full of foul language, violence and villains that are either vaudevillian or so stone cold that they still maintain their horror years later.
Yet despite the blasphemy, violence, sex and cruelty there are some serious messages in Preacher. Messages that make it perfect for television in a way that would never work on the big screen. Firstly, a film wouldn’t be able to fit in every story arc. And every story arc is important. Some are slower than others, but they all lead to the stunning climax.
Preacher is about love, honour and doing the right thing whatever the cost and whatever stands in your way. It’s about doing right by people, not judging them by appearances and not taking “any shit from fools.”
The main characters are archetypal. The Preacher of the title is Jesse Custer (note those initials), a man with an extremely strict moral code. He’ll stand by a friend against any enemy, face down against Nazis and paedophiles without breaking a sweat and ultimately stare down God and call him to account.
The race is on to find out who’ll play this icon. It’s a tricky character to cast, as Custer is so much larger than life and every name that gets suggested just doesn’t seem to fit. When pressed for a definite answer, I always end up going for Nathan Fillion. He’s got the southern drawl, he looks cool in a dog collar (as seen in Buffy) and he can switch from dry humour to violence with ease (see Firefly). There are other actors out there who I can see in the role. Whatever happens, whoever gets cast, let’s just hope it’s not another "Batfleck" situation.
Then there’s Tulip. She comes across on the page as that rarest of female comic achievements; a well written, strong and independent woman who doesn’t need rescuing, who is more than capable of being on her own and is ready to kick the ass of anybody she needs to. There are a few actors who could play this and play it well, but I’m going for Olivia Wilde. Stunningly beautiful but with balls bigger than mine, she looks the part and comes across like she could all too easily shoot the shit out of a bar full of Frenchmen.
Then we have Cassidy, the Irish vampire with a dark past and an apparent happy-go-lucky outlook on life. Colin Ferrell has been mentioned and that’s just a bad idea. One of Cassidy’s defining moments was when he was telling the story of his youth, and how he was the weaker brother of two. At the time of telling the tale, we’re used to him as this wise-cracking, beer swilling tornado of violence and laughter, so who better than someone who has already come part way to capturing that gleeful malevolence? Robert Michael Sheehan excelled as Nathan in the rather wonderful Channel4 series ‘Misfits’, and he would be the perfect casting as Cass. He’s pretty much the only piece of casting I’m very definite about and will be gutted if he doesn’t get it.
Did I mention that Preacher also has the ghost of John Wayne as a character? That’s awesome already. No contest who the dream casting for this would be. Jeff Bridges. After playing the role of The Duke in True Grit, he’s as near as we can get to John Wayne without resorting to CGI.
Depending on how closely they stick to the original story, the main villain of the piece is Herr Starr, member of the religious organisation The Grail. Bryan Cranston is the obvious choice to play this bastard; a man who descends into vengeance to such an extent that he doesn’t care if he takes all of earth, heaven and hell with him.
And on the subject of villains, The Saint of Killers was a role written specifically for Clint Eastwood. It is Clint, it’s Clint in the final scene of Unforgiven where he threatens to kill an entire town if just one person shoots at him. Except the Saint just goes ahead and does it regardless. Eastwood is a little old these days and quite busy being brilliant behind the camera, so if he refuses then there’s Sam Elliot (just have to shave that moustache off Sam). He’s got the look (apart from the moustache) and we know he looks good in a stetson.
Preacher is a story that is easy to describe as a love letter to America. Garth Ennis took every facet of American life and history and rewrote the Western as a modern morality tale. It’s a Western in the broadest sense. One man against the world with his (not so) trusty sidekick and the love of his life. Along the way they deal with serial killers, alcohol addiction, the retarded offspring of Jesus and his bulimic father figure, sexual sadists aplenty, the KKK and the ever frightening Saint of Killers.
If you weren’t a fan, if you hated the series, let me know. Drop a comment. I know that many didn’t like it and remain indifferent to the writing of Ennis.
The important thing to state here is that a television stint for this series won’t fill the gap left by Breaking Bad. It’ll kill Breaking Bad by ripping out your eyes and fucking your eye sockets whilst swigging a bottle of Jack and puffing on a Marlboro. But with class.