The Power and the Glitter!

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by vultan, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. vultan Defying Gravity

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    It all began with a comic book.

    As is common knowledge to fans of the medium, said comic book was commissioned by DC Comics, and was intended to feature pre-existing characters, acquired from Charlton Comics; but writer Alan Moore and illustrator David Gibbons took that kernel of an idea, and expanded it into a story that would redefine the superhero genre… Throughout 1986 and 1987, Watchmen was published as a limited series. A tale of alternative history, it explored what the latter part of the 20th century might have actually looked like had masked vigilantes existed in America. A groundbreaking deconstruction of the superhero story, it portrayed the “heroes” as deeply flawed, morally ambiguous, and in some cases just plain unlikable. Together with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, published around the same time, it ushered in a new era of “dark and gritty” comics (which was not what author Alan Moore had intended, and was indeed something that he would come to bemoan). Given its popularity and acclaim, there were naturally those who wanted to ride on the success of Watchmen.

    Needless to say, the inevitable film adaptation had a storied production history. [1] In August 1986 (one month prior to the publication of the first issue), producer Lawrence Gordon acquired the film rights to Watchmen for 20th Century Fox, with producer Joel Silver [2] assigned to work on the film. Fox asked author Alan Moore to write a screenplay based on his story, but after Moore declined, the studio enlisted screenwriter Sam Hamm, who was also responsible for the script for Tim Burton’s Batman. On September 9, 1988, Hamm turned in his first draft, but said that condensing a 338-page, nine-panel-a-page comic book into a 128-page script was "arduous". He took the liberty of re-writing Watchmen's complicated ending into a "more manageable" conclusion involving an assassination and a time paradox.

    However, the studio wasn’t seriously invested in producing a film based on the graphic novel, at least not to begin with. In fact, 20th Century Fox nearly put the film into turnaround in 1991. [4] The reasons for this are unclear, but it appears that executives didn’t believe such a dark and cynical movie - which would in essence be a repudiation of the American Dream - could be successful in an environment which saw many Americans feeling more optimistic about their place in the world (this being the year of the Soviet Union's ultimate collapse, and of the overwhelming military victory against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces during the Gulf War). It didn’t help that the screenplay called for a film that would almost certainly net a “hard” R-rating, unprecedented for a superhero movie. With budget projections being at least $100 million [5], Fox probably felt that that the money could be more safely invested into other projects. In short, it wasn’t a priority for the studio. [6]

    However, the results of an election down south late in the year would not only affect the course of American history, but the course of Watchmen’s troubled production…

    First voting round, October 19, 1991, Louisiana Gubernatorial election:
    Edwin Edwards (D)-34%
    David Duke (R)-32%
    Buddy Roemer (R)(incumbent)-27%

    Louisiana elections at the time worked under a system that was known as the jungle primary, wherein multiple candidates (usually including multiple candidates from each party, as well as third party and independent candidates) compete in the first round of voting. As no candidate had received an absolute majority of the vote, and run-off election was scheduled for November 17, 1991…

    Campaign For the Run-Off

    First came the shock. In an upset, sitting Governor Buddy Roemer failed to qualify for a run-off election. Many blamed this, among other blunders, on a poorly-handled party switch from Democrat to Republican. The governorship was now to be fought over by Edwin Edwards, former Governor of Louisiana who was widely believed to be extremely corrupt... and David Duke, a member of the state legislature and white supremacist activist with neo-Nazi tendencies who few before the election had thought would be a strong contender.

    In the beginning, Edwards received a groundswell of support- few people actually wanted to see a former Grand Wizard of the KKK as governor. Buddy Roemer and even President George Bush endorsed Edwards, a Democrat, over Duke, the ostensible Republican. A slogan that emerged accurately captured the sentiment of many Louisiana citizens- "Vote for crook- it’s important".

    However, just a week before the election, a bombshell derailed the Edwards campaign. An audio recording surfaced of the former governor after he learned of the preliminary election results. In it, he laughed and said something to effect that the election was over now. He then went on to make a disparaging remark about Roemer, and several more disparaging remarks about who he felt would be Duke's major voting demographic- "dumb crackers", among other more obscene names. One of his aides, who was never identified, posed a sarcastic question to his boss, implying more people would feel comfortable with a "crook" as Governor than a racist. Edwards just laughed. [7]

    The effect was three-fold: it alienated Governor Roemer, who withdrew his endorsement of Edwards (but was still careful to not endorse Duke), offended thousands of so-called "crackers", who would be voting in the election, and, perhaps most importantly, the laugh Edwards made to the joke posed about his record as being corrupt implied that the former Governor accepted that fact.

    Duke capitalized on this by portraying Edwards as an enemy of the normal, working class white majority (Edwards had, in fact, come from a modest background himself). Many moderates who would have gutted out voting for Edwards, even after nearly being indicted by US Attorney John Volz several years earlier, now decided to sit out the election in disgust.

    Edwards decided not to address the incident until two days before the election, confident the whole time he would still be elected. He backpedaled on November 15, trying to put some of his comments in context. For instance, he stated that he had laughed merely at the idea he was a crook, because he considered it "preposterous". By that point, however, it was probably too late. Duke was riding on a wave of populist support, with many of his supporters not even racist, just disgusted at the corruption in Baton Rouge and using Duke to protest vote.

    Final round results, November 17, 1991, Louisiana gubernatorial election:
    David Duke-52%
    Edwin Edwards-48%

    David Duke will be inaugurated as Governor of the State of Louisiana on January 13, 1992.

    Aftermath

    DOWN WITH DUKE

    DOWN WITH THE KLAN

    AMERICA, OR SOUTH AFRICA?

    These were some of the signs used in demonstrations on November 19, 1991, two days after the election. A huge, predominantly African-American crowd of people marched down the Center Business Square in New Orleans, ending at Lafayette Square, right at the foot of the statue of the French war hero. The organization was organized by the local NAACP and other civil rights groups.

    They were also joined by representatives of the sizable Jewish community in New Orleans. The rabbi from the Congregation Beth Israel gave a very well received speech comparing the rise of Duke to the rise of Hitler some 60 years before.

    All went fairly well until 3:16 P.M., when three white men in their twenties, hair cropped into a buzz cut and dressed in pseudo-paramilitary outfits, stepped out of their parked car and began firing on the crowd with automatic weapons. Over sixty people died, not counting one policeman and two of the three attackers in the ensuing firefight. The man was found to be a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and a proud supporter of Duke, who was out to help his favored politician "get his agenda done".

    That's when the rioting began. Thousands of blacks all over the city began to start mass protests in the streets, in sharp contrast to the more organized demonstration earlier in the day. When police tried to calm the situation down, they were often attacked. A nervous policeman shot and killed a 14 year old boy. Many police were shot at and attacked in retaliation. Businesses were looted and destroyed, particularly in the worse off neighborhoods of the city. Millions of dollars in property damage were lost and nearly one hundred people died over the course of the next few days.

    But it wasn't just in New Orleans. Egged on by television footage of the destruction, similar disturbances were soon being seen in certain parts of other big cities, especially New York City and Los Angeles. New York was still recovering from the Crown Heights riots that had taken place in August, and race relations in Los Angeles had been tense for months after footage surfaced of Rodney King, a black man, being viciously beaten by white police officers. The events in Louisiana had caused all of this to boil over.

    In many ways, the issue of racism, a topic not spoken about often in the 1980's, had reared its ugly head again for the 1990's. Americans at home across the country were shocked to see the great cities of the United States explode in ways not seen since at least the 1960's. Children were being exposed to graphic videos of the violence on television, from a line of police firing into a crowd of protesters in New Orleans to a young Indian-American filmmaker named M. Night Shyamalan being beaten to death by rioters in New York.

    It was only after several days that the situation stabilized. President George Bush and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, among others, appeared on national television, pleading that the rioters return home (notably, Bill Cosby tried to convince people to stop rioting in the streets and watch the new episode of The Cosby Show on November 21st, “Olivia Comes Out of the Closet”) [8]. By November 28th most the rioting nationwide had finally subsided. The final body count total was over 400 dead and tens of thousands injured, and nearly $5 billion dollars in property damage.

    The aftermath of the election was huge in the coming weeks, months, and years. In the morning hours of November 18th, after it was confirmed that Duke had indeed won the race, the stock market (which had been increasing its value strongly throughout the year), took a mild nosedive, which was not helped by the severe civil disturbances in the following days. It eventually made up for its losses, however, and the Dow Jones ended at 2844.09 for the year, under expectations. [9]

    The political ramifications were huge. Dialogue about the continued inequality between African-Americans and white Americans in many aspects of socio-economic life was brought to the forefront of political discussion. Affirmative action began to be viewed positively by more and more Americans as a way to “bridge the gap”. Other efforts were taken by government officials on this front. After on onslaught of pressure by civil rights groups, Georgia Governor Zell Miller commuted Troy Davis, a black man sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer whose conviction was based on heavily circumstantial evidence, to life in prison without the possibility of parole (future Georgia Governor Allen Buckley, a libertarian-leaning Republican, would successfully pressure the courts to start a new trial for Davis because of new evidence discovered, where he was exonerated). In 1992, the LAPD officers accused of assaulting Rodney King in Los were convicted (but only given comparatively mild sentences). Also in California, several tentative plans to legislate against the ability of illegal immigrants to have access to public education and health care lost traction and died. [10]

    The election of Duke also caused unprecedented levels of political involvement among African-Americans, and a spike in elected officials from the black community. Notably, Carol Mosely Braun and Cynthia McKinney, two liberal, feminist African-Americans, were elected to the United States Senate from Illinois and the House of Representatives from Georgia, respectively, in 1992, and former football and movie star Fred Williamson was elected Governor of Indiana in 1996 on a populist Democratic platform.

    It was inevitable that the Republicans were hurt in the polls by Duke’s election, as he was elected as a Republican (though as recently as 1988, he had run in the Democratic primaries to be President of the United States). The efforts of the national party to disassociate themselves with Duke only invited the Governor to insist more and more forcefully that he was a true representative of the GOP electorate. This caused a substantial drop in the polls for President Bush, who mere months before was enjoying record levels of popularity for his handling of the Gulf War. This, combined with the economy, created a new air of vulnerability for the President late in the year, causing several high-profile Democrats to jump into the race for their party’s nomination in 1992, including West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller and New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the eventual nominee. It also opened room for a strong independent run on the part of billionaire Ross Perot.

    Most of all, the election of Duke, and the ensuing riots, killed much of the optimism America had been feeling in the early 1990’s, replacing it with doubt and cynicism. Problems that had been glossed over earlier in the year, such as poverty, crime, and drug use, all on the rise, were suddenly the focus of the fixation of many Americans. It didn’t help that was a recession going on. All of a sudden, Americans felt just a little more gloomy.

    And this was unexpectedly the change in attitudes that Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver needed to get a gloomy screenplay produced…

    Pre-Production on Watchmen Begins

    In December 1991, Silver made one final pitch to executives at 20th Century Fox with regards to the Watchmen project. Using the argument that Americans would now be receptive to what he referred to as “a deconstruction of the American Dream” due to the recent political, social, and economic turmoil, he was able to convince them not only to abort the turnaround, but to finally commence with pre-production. They were given a tentative budget of $100 million with which they could finally get started on the project.

    Before a director was chosen, Silver made it his goal to get one particular actor on board: Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Silver had produced his star vehicles Commando and Predator, the men were already well acquainted. Convinced that the Austrian would make a perfect Dr. Manhattan, he arranged a lunch date with the actor in February, 1992 to pitch the role to him. After the story had been thoroughly explained to Schwarzenegger, he was intrigued by the possibilities, going home and reading the comic book in preparation for making negotiations. In the end, Arnold agreed to the project, on one condition: he wanted to play Ozymandias, not Dr. Manhattan. For one thing, he identified with Adrian Veidt’s character more, as both were immigrants; and he was uncomfortable with the idea of being represented by a glowing blue computer-generated character for over 90% of his screentime. Silver accepted this counter-proposal, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first to join the cast of Watchmen. (This decision would become controversial for a variety of reasons: some purist fans of the comic books argued that Veidt was supposed to be more slender and agile than Schwarzenegger; Gordon, on the other hand, was annoyed for the far more concrete reason that Ozymandias didn’t have as much screentime as the most of the other characters, but Arnold would still be paid a hefty $12 million for the role.)

    Meanwhile, after re-reading the comic, Gordon decided that he was unsatisfied with Sam Hamm’s screenplay. “It’s fine, but it’s not really Watchmen,” he reportedly said. He quickly and quietly shopped for a new writer (in both cases because he was afraid that the studio would be angered if they knew the project they were going ahead with was not at all close to the one they had approved). He stumbled across Joss Whedon, a relative newcomer to the world of screenwriting, whose biggest accomplishment was writing the film Buffy The Vampire Slayer - due out in July - but who, by many accounts, was very talented. After hiring him in early January, ostensibly as a script doctor, Gordon told him that he wanted an entirely new screenplay, closer to the original comic, by mid-March. After reading the comic, Whedon burned through several drafts, all of which dissatisfied him, he finally produced what he felt to be a worthy script in late February after, as he put it, “typing while reading the comic in my lap, before going back in to add stuff and cut more stuff out. Confusion reduction, I call it”. Most notably, many of the plots involving the minor characters were substantially reduced, or even in some cases cut altogether.

    In the meantime, Gordon was also on a search for directors. Negotiations were in place with Sam Raimi (Darkman, The Evil Dead series), John McTiernan (Predator), Roland Emmerich (Universal Soldier), and others, but neither Gordon nor Silver was satisfied. Their project would involve unprecedented levels of special effects, and they wanted an established and experienced director to tackle the project. However, Ridley Scott had already turned them down, along with Paul Verhoeven. They were almost ready to reluctantly offer the director's chair to Raimi when, in early March (the day after Whedon turned in his final copy of the screenplay), Arnold Schwarzenegger called Silver and told them that he had a potential director.

    James Cameron had already worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger twice before, on the two Terminator movies, and had planned yet another collaboration (tentative plans were for a remake the 1991 French comedy film La Totale!) [11]. However, Schwarzenegger had been sharing information with Cameron on the project, and the more he had heard of it, the more interested he became. When he asked if they had a director on board, Schwarzenegger told him that there was no one yet; he joked that it was it was a shame they didn’t have him, because they would absolutely need a director who “knew computer effects”. This got Cameron to thinking.

    After going to a comic shop and flipping through Watchmen, Cameron was intrigued by how well the comic seemed to reflect on times in America. “It really was very zeitgeist-y”, the director said. “What with all the urban violence, the corruption, the ongoing spectacle that was the (1992) Democrat primaries, …(it) was interesting”. After a couple days of mulling it over, Cameron asked Schwarzenegger to contact the producers. Of course he had demands: he wanted to have final control over the screenplay and power to change it, and he would choose the rest of the cast and crew going forward. However, these steep demands concealed his own aspirations: Cameron really wanted to direct Watchmen because, as he put it: “this could be the biggest bomb ever or the best superhero movie of all. And I think it was an appealing prospect to make the best superhero movie ever.” Negotiations went smoothly; Gordon and Silver were ready to give Cameron just about anything, because he was the high-profile director they had been searching for, and 20th Century Fox was more than happy with the arrangement, because all of the director’s prior films had been with their studio.

    Thus, on March 20th, 1992, James Cameron signed on to direct a feature film adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel series. The cast would be filled out by the end of the summer, as negotiations had already begun with several other actors for the other parts. Filming was scheduled to begin early in the next year (to accommodate Schwarzenegger's schedule), with the end product slated for a release in Summer, 1994...

    [1] But actually not as complicated as our timeline, not by a mile.

    [2] 48 Hours. Predator. Die Hard. Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

    [3] This paragraph, and a little of the next, was essentially copy-pasted from Wikipedia, with a little edits hither and yonder.

    [4] In essence, allow another studio to produce it, while they would get a cut of the profits. In fact, they did this in our timeline, and Warner Bros. eventually snatched it up, which was subject to a controversy when they were about to release Watchmen in 2009… and Fox suddenly remembered that they were entitled to a cut of the profits. Complicated stuff.

    [5] Taken from budget projections from when Terry Gilliam (!) was slated to direct the project under Warner Bros. in the mid-1990’s. Gilliam could only get a fourth of that guaranteed because his last couple films had gone over budget and underperformed at the box office.

    [6] OK, I extrapolated these reasons (which is why I put the qualifier “(t)he reasons for this are unclear”), however, I couldn’t find any specific reasons for this. In my defense, though, those concerns were probably first in consideration.

    [7] Yes, I invented this audio tape, but I think it wouldn’t be out of character for Edwin Edwards to do something like this.

    [8] Actually, this happened in our timeline - kind of. During the height of the LA riots in 1992, Cosby said everyone should just calm down and come together to watch the last episode of The Cosby Show.

    [9] Got my numbers here: http://www.nyse.tv/dow-jones-industrial-average-history-djia.htm#recent-djia-close. In our timeline, it ended at 3301.11.

    [10] In our timeline, this became Proposition 187, which passed in 1994.

    [11] In our timeline, this became True Lies.

    ---

    So this is my new timeline. As some may tell, part of it is a reboot of my timeline on hiatus, "You Get What You Give". Yes, it's set in the 1990's, and rather dystopically (we can all agree a Governor David Duke would bring nothing but bad things). However, this really isn't supposed to be a timeline completely focuses on the international politics of the 1990's. If you want that, I suggest you check out MaskedPickle's excellent timeline "A Giant Sucking Sound", which focuses on the ramifications of a Ross Perot Presidency.

    No, this timeline focuses on popular culture. I did a tentative pitch for a Watchmen-movie-in-the-90's idea a while back, but it was incredibly bad. However, I think I've gotten more experienced in my writing since then. Even then, I was ambivalent about trying out another popular culture timeline.

    Then came Brainbin and his absolutely fantastic story "That Wacky Redhead" which he posted on this board. I won't tell you any details, because I don't want to spoil it, but I'll say: if you like Star Trek, you'll absolutely love it. Check it out as well.

    (Special credit also goes to Brainbin for helping to edit my first update for this timeline. He is awesome.)

    And before you start to object about the focus of the timeline, I well have semi-frequent updates on political developments. Every two years for American election cycles, I'll give an update on what's going on and how it got there. I do enjoy discussing politics, and have some "What Ifs?" to share there, but my knowledge isn't as deep as others. Again, you want a more politically oriented timeline from this era, look at MaskedPickle's "A Giant Sucking Sound", Jasen777's "Chaos: The Election of 1996" (now in its second edition), and kevvy2010's "Gingrich".

    Since MaskedPickle has a quite a bit of alternative popular culture concepts in his story, I'll make a comparison: if his timeline is roughly 70% politics and 30% pop culture, this has the opposite percentages.

    So yes, I plan on updating semi-regularly. This is just ideas for movies and television shows, among other stuff, that could have cropped up under these circumstances, and how those in turn make the world even more different. Semi-regularly, because I'm also working on a project with RamscoopRaider for the ASB section, and because I do in fact have homework and a social life. So yeah.

    Next update will be on the rest of casting and more production details for Watchmen.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  2. DSS Foreign Minister

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Where the hell am I?
    Should be pretty interesting, I look forward to seeing more. I just pray for this America, that things work out in the end. I pity the poor people who have to be governed by David Duke, the bastard.:(
     
  3. Torqumada Breast Man and urban legend

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2004
    Location:
    In a world not of my choosing
    The Soviet Union has dissolved in December of 1991, so now you are talking from the perspective of some time in 1992. At that point in time the economy was in largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Lots of people at all levels were losing their jobs. Nirvana and NWA were ruling the music charts that had recently been ruled by various Jacksons or MC Hammer. Americans were not feeling optimistic at this point in time, as they had just a few years earlier. It's why George Bush lost the White House later that year. Grim and Gritty were becoming the big thing and The Watchmen could have fit in with some of the other OTL projects that came out at the time, like X-files.

    Torqumada
     
  4. vultan Defying Gravity

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2008
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    Right. What I'm saying is, that late in 1991, it was clear that the Soviet Union was finished as a superpower (though it's complete dissolution, with the breakaway of the Ukraine, Belarus, the Central Asian states, etc, was perhaps surprising to people).

    I used the election of Duke and the civil disturbances that followed to accentuate the negative, taking the specific bad times of the early 90's, and making it more so.

    From a more practical standpoint, I adjusted it into late 1991 to start a series of events that would lead to the Watchmen project not being put into turnaround (although there are off course wider ranging ramifications- Duke hurts the Republican Party by association, even though the party never sanctioned his campaign, which leads to a bigger field in the Democratic primaries in 1992, with Mario Cuomo eventually gaining the nomination).
     
  5. Torqumada Breast Man and urban legend

    Joined:
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    Location:
    In a world not of my choosing
    What I am talking about is that the 91/92 period wasn't really as optimistic as you are making it sound. It might be optimistic, compared to what was to come, but not as compared to the mid to late 80's. I agree with you that the 1994 OTL might actually be a good time for a Watchmen type movie. There was just enough of the grim and gritty dark stuff in the general mind set to work. You don't really need to make the world even darker for it to work. In fact, the opposite has been found to be true. When things are at their worst, people flock to movies to escape their troubles, not be reminded of them. It could actually cause the movie to flop.

    Around that time period, I was flipping through the channels. MTV and VH-1 still played music videos at that time and on our system occupies channels next to each other. On MTV, they were playing "Smells like Teen Spirit." OnVH-1, they were showing a rerun of American bandstand from just a few years earlier with "Walking on Sunshine." The differences could not have been more glaring in the space of a few years.

    Torqumada
     
  6. Tovarich Lumpen Proletariat's Proliest Lump

    Joined:
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    Cambridge, UK
    Arnold Schwarzenegger as The World's Smartest Man?! :eek:

    If the Turtledove's don't have a 'Balls Of Steel' Category, then it should be created immediately and presented to Vultan, well done mate!

    I am so keeping reading this!
     
  7. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Location:
    The British Empire
    Well, I think you know I'll be subscribing to this :D

    I think we're all very interested in who else will be cast in this Watchmen movie, and how it will look and feel. I think it's safe to say that any possible adaptation will be superior to the one imagined in this YouTube video...

    (Sorry. I knew that someone would link to it eventually, so I figured it might as well be me :p)
     
  8. Orville_third Banned

    Joined:
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    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    This sounds like it will be great! (I need to start doing research on my cultural/ political TL, "Im Orerc", especially since one prominent figure just finished something IOTL.)
     
  9. vultan Defying Gravity

    Joined:
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    Well, this update was somewhat shorter than I had wanted it to be (real life stuff), and I had to make some changes to the cast in Watchmen. Oh well.

    ---


    Filling Out the Cast

    With James Cameron now confirmed as the director and Arnold Schwarzenegger on board to play Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, the race was on to find actors to portray the rest of the superheroes. The studio soon caught whiff of the fact, however, that Schwarzenegger’s screentime would not be quite as substantial as originally hoped, so they requested that Cameron and the producers find at least one other high-profile actor to star in the film.

    Negotiations and auditions were largely over by the end of August, and the cast filled out as follows:

    Kurt Russell as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II- Action star Kurt Russell was secured to star as mild-mannered Dan Dreiberg, who in the universe of Watchmen was the second man to assume the mantle of Nite Owl, a “superhero with owl-themed gadgets”. Joel Silver was inspired to approach Russell after reading a scribbled-in note on Sam Hamm’s iteration of the screenplay that said “DREIBERG=KURT RUSSELL?” (it had been rumored that the actor had been considered for the titular role in 1989’s Batman, which Hamm had also penned) [1]. Russell was initially skeptical of joining the production, because he was afraid it would just be a “Schwarzenegger movie”, therefore negating his own role (though he held nothing against the Austrian actor personally). However, after learning that Schwarzenegger had willingly consigned himself to a (relatively) small role, and it indeed would be a true ensemble production, he decided to accept (with a $6 million salary). For the role, Russell extensively worked out to gain a “superhero physique” for the flashback scenes, then gained eight pounds in fat and added glasses to portray a “superhero in decline” for the film’s “present” [2].

    By accepting the role of Dan Dreiberg in Watchmen, however, Kurt Russell had to turn down a role in a science fiction movie director Roland Emmerich (who had been briefly considered as a candidate to direct Watchmen) and writer Dean Devlin were pitching, tentatively titled “Stargate” [3]. The decision had to be made due to scheduling concerns. Frustrated, the writer/director duo would have to look for another actor for their lead…

    Bruce Campbell as Edward Blake/The Comedian- Initially, Joel Silver wanted another action movie superstar, such as Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone to play the “smooth-talking but utterly ruthless and amoral character that Blake was”. However, because Arnold Schwarzenegger was already on board, other big-name actors were in negotiations, and James Cameron was directing, Gordon and Silver privately agreed to look elsewhere to prevent a clash of personalities (there were also budgetary concerns with adding more big-name actors and providing them their salaries). Michael Keaton was briefly considered before he turned down their offer. Bruce Campbell only came on board due to a complicated series of events. When Gordon was discussing with potential director Sam Raimi on what actors he saw in each of the roles, Raimi stated he didn’t know how he would fit it in, but he would “love to give my buddy Bruce (Campbell) a spot” (Raimi and Campbell had collaborated on The Evil Dead series). Though Raimi was ultimately not chosen as the director, Gordon did promise him he would at least let the actor audition, though the producer had no initial intention of putting a “B-actor” in the movie. Things changed, however, when Campbell did give his audition on July 18th, with Gordon, Silver, and Cameron present. Silver and Gordon were impressed by the actor’s performance, agreeing that Campbell came off as sufficiently “cool” and “badass” for the role. Cameron did not object, and eventually accepted to the casting, admitting that “he (Campbell) is the best option we have”. For the majority of his scenes, the actor had to endure several hours in the makeup room to simulate advanced age, but it was generally agreed later on that Campbell gave one of the most memorable performances in Watchmen.

    Sharon Stone as Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II- Sharon Stone, of Total Recall and Basic Instinct fame, was cast in the role of Silk Spectre, the only active female superhero in the film. For her performance, she worked out several hours a day to get herself toned “almost to the point of not even being sexy and just really, really huge”, she would later point out, before Cameron told her such a routine was not necessary. Also, her hair color was changed to brunette for filming. Notably, she was the only actor with a major role in Watchmen who did not read the graphic novel in preparation for production.

    Brent Spiner as Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan: Initially, James Cameron wanted either Jeff Goldblum or Gary Oldman for the role of the glowing blue, god-like superhero, but neither actor accepted the role. Eventually, Brent Spiner, known for his starring role as the android Data on television’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to his experience in portraying a character devoid of emotion. However, only a couple scenes with Spiner’s character were actually filmed physically with the actor. Instead, his likeness was used loosely for a computer-generated character, a character which he provided the voice for (see Special Effects for more details).

    Mark Hamill as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach: Mark Hamill, the Star Wars actor who many regarded as past his prime, was a surprise addition to the cast. An avid comic book fan, he managed to secure an audition, before which James Cameron reportedly asked, “So, is he going to act like the Joker?” (a reference to the fact that Hamill voiced The Joker in the animated Batman television series, which Cameron must have noticed when glancing at the actor’s resume). However, Hamill’s audition was so strong- and menacing- that he left an impression on the filmmaker. After a week of negotiations, Hamill was cast as the menacing, possibly insane but very principled vigilante Rorschach. In fact, Joel Silver tentatively suggested that they the studio not announce in advance who was portraying Rorschach, so that when’s he’s unmasked, the audience at the premiere would find out to their shock that they’d been watching “Luke Skywalker” the whole time (Cameron ultimately nixed this suggestion). However, Hamill was widely touted by critics (even those who overall didn’t enjoy the film) as having given perhaps the best performance of his career.

    In supporting roles, Charlton Heston was cast as Hollis Mason/Nite Owl (the first rendition) [4], Andreas Katsulas as Moloch the Mystic/Edgar Jacobi, and Kathleen Quinlan as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre.

    Fear, Loathing, and A Giant Sucking Sound on the Campaign Trail ‘92

    On the Democratic side, it was a close race in the primaries, and by the time they were over, no candidate had received a majority of the delegates. New York Governor Mario Cuomo, former California Governor Jerry Brown, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, and former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas each had more than one hundred delegates to their name. Cuomo had a narrow plurality, but Brown wasn’t too far behind, and could take the nomination if he got the support of some other candidates. In secret negotiations, Cuomo managed to sway Tsongas over to his camp (before that point, the former Senator had been leaning towards Brown). The deal was made public, and Cuomo became the de facto Democratic nominee. From the conversation, however, Tsongas took this gesture as meaning he would be the running mate.

    However, at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, Cuomo made a surprise pick for the party’s Vice Presidential candidate: Bill Clinton, the Governor of Arkansas who had made a putative bid for the Democratic nomination before dropping out due to a poor performance in the New Hampshire primary. Cuomo, a strong liberal, did this as an attempt to get moderates and Southerners interested in the ticket. Tsongas, however, was furious. He stormed out of the convention then and flew back to his home in Massachusetts. Phone calls from Cuomo himself, insisting that he was terribly sorry if Tsongas has misinterpreted what he said in the negotiations, and offering cabinet positions, went unanswered. In fact, a phone call from Tsongas to a certain Texan billionaire was made…

    On July 21st, 1992, independent candidate for President Ross Perot [5] announced, on a joint stage in Boston, that he would be selecting Paul Tsongas as his running mate (the current person with that position on the ticket, Vice Admiral James Stockdale, had been meant as a placeholder, and he knew that). It made sense, both men were fiscally conservative but more socially liberal (Tsongas had once joked, “If anyone thinks the words ‘efficiency’ and ‘government’ belong in the same sentence, we have counseling available”). Perot also liked having him under his wing because having a former Democratic politician dispelled the notion that his campaign was merely one for disaffected Republicans.

    Speaking of the Republicans, President Bush was in a tough spot. The economy was in a recession, and the GOP had been strongly hurt by David Duke being elected Governor in Louisiana (any hope of that issue going away, however, was shattered when Pat Buchanan gave an unexpectedly strong performance in the Republican primaries, even winning the New Hampshire contest by a slim margin over an incumbent President [6]. Though Buchanan maintained he was not racist, many asserted that he was “Duke without the white hood”).

    However, Bush easily won the nomination once his reelection team was shaken out of its complacency. Still, even after Buchanan was knocked out, Vice President Dan Quayle still kept accidentally hurting his President’s reelection chances. Quayle was positively a gaffe machine, and after he called Cuomo’s running mate Bill Clinton an “Arkansas Governor in the style of Orval Faubus” in late July, it led to a huge backlash. Bush quietly pulled Quayle aside for a meeting and told him he would be replaced on the ticket come the August Convention in Houston. Quayle gracefully accepted this, and campaigned for the Republican ticket in the general election.

    Now Bush needed to find someone to replace Quayle. After Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and hero of the Gulf War Colin Powell declined the offer, as did his Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney [7], the President finally found an acceptable option. William Weld, elected in 1990, was a popular governor in Massachusetts. He, like most relevant politicians in that state, was very socially liberal, which Bush thought would offset any moderates turned off from the Republicans by Duke and Buchanan, yet he could reassure his base by pointing out that Weld was a strong fiscal conservative. The President also hoped that perhaps with Massachusetts’ Governor on the ticket, he could win that heavily Democratic state due to vote-splitting. This led to mixed reactions from conservative Republicans. At the convention, Weld gave a speech proclaiming "I believe the government should stay out of your wallet, and out of your bedroom"[8], which received a negative reaction from the more conservative members of the GOP (but made him a darling of libertarian activists). By contrast, it was Pat Buchanan’s keynote address which got the gathering labeled by some in the press “The Hate-Fest in Houston”.

    The campaign was a three-way slugfest. The Cuomo campaign tried to portray Bush’s supporters as right-wing radicals, while Bush decried Cuomo as an extreme leftist and insinuated he had socialist tendencies. Perot essentially repeated the same thing about both sides, trying to portray himself as a friend of ordinary Americans tired of politics as usual, while the major party campaigns tried to portray Perot as a nonfactor. There was another third party campaign of note, that of Bo Gritz representing the Populist Party. A far-right activist who also happened to be a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, Gritz railed against all the candidates of being “tools of the New World Order”, who were trying to establish a “Satanic-Marxist dictatorship” in the United States. He also openly that America was a “Christian nation”, railed against foreign aid and the Federal Reserve, and even received the endorsement of David Duke (though Gritz reputed it, saying that fighting alongside Americans of all colors in Vietnam made him abhor racism). Surprisingly, Gritz received some substantial support from certain conservatives, especially out in the western United States, who perhaps felt alienated by Weld’s speech and Bush’s efforts to appeal to moderates.

    It was generally agreed that Ross Perot had done the best in the debates, being able to play Cuomo and Bush against each other while trying to appeal to “Middle America”. Perot also effectively pitched his protectionist views, saying the proposed “North American Free Trade Agreement” would be a “disaster”, and if ratified that Americans would soon hear “a giant sucking sound” of jobs going to Mexico. By contrast, most thought the Vice Presidential debate was a toss-up, with Clinton doing a good job by distinguishing himself from the two “Massachusetts moderates” [9] on stage, however, he fumbled trying to portray Tsongas as “petulant” and “a sore loser”.

    Election Night

    It was very close leading up to November 3rd, 1992, with a roughly even three-way split in the polls. In fact, it wasn’t until 6:00 AM the next morning that anyone could call it. In New England, Ross Perot succeeded in winning New Hampshire and Vermont, along with one of Maine’s electoral votes (the rest went to the Democrats). The President narrowly won Connecticut, the Bush family’s home state, however, Cuomo still won Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

    However, Mario Cuomo scored big by winning several Northern industrial states such as Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, which the Republicans had won in the past several elections. In fact, outside of New England, the northeast was a Democrat sweep. On the flip-side, Cuomo was disappointed to learn that having a charismatic, young Southern politician on the ticket did not substantially reverse the gains the GOP had made in that region in recent years. Outside of Arkansas, where Clinton was Governor, and Louisiana, which was experiencing a backlash against Republicans because of Duke, George Bush won the entirety of the Old Confederacy.

    Out west, Perot had his best showing, winning Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming. Outside of this, George Bush won all of the rest of the Western states, except for New Mexico and Colorado, which was a Cuomo win. This region was also where Gritz had his best performances, winning 10% of the vote in his home state of Utah. However, the deciding factor was the states on the Pacific coast: all of them went for the Democrats, including California, a Republican-leaning state on the national level.

    With that, Cuomo won the election.

    The popular vote percentage was as follows:

    Mario Cuomo/William Jefferson Clinton (Democrat) - 33.7%
    H. Ross Perot/Paul Tsongas (Independent) - 31.2%
    George H.W. Bush/William Weld (Republican) - 31.1%
    Bo Gritz/Cy Minett (Populist) - 2.9%
    Other- 1.1%

    Elections for the 102nd United States Congress also took place. Freshman Senators included Bruce Herschensohn (R-CA) [10], Dick Lamm (D-CO), Bob Barr (R-GA), Carol Mosely Braun (D-IL), and Russ Feingold (D-WI). Notable freshman Representatives included Alabama Democrat George Wallace, Jr. (son of the notorious Alabama Governor George Wallace), who would become a leading conservative Democrat in the House, California Republican Maureen Reagan, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, and Maryland Republican Alan Keyes, a former Reagan Administration diplomat who was talked out of taking on incumbent Barbara Mikulski in the Senate race in Maryland and instead challenging Steny Hoyer for his seat.


    [1] I swear I read this once on the wonderful “notstarring.com”, which discusses roles actors had turned down or auditioned for but had not gotten, but since the sites down right now, I cannot back it up. You guys will just have to go with me on this one.

    [2] This is still less than the amount of weight actor Dan Patrick packed on to play Dreiberg in our timeline’s Watchmen- he porked up 25 pounds!

    [3] Butterflies!

    [4] Don’t double-take. Heston was in Cameron’s True Lies, which in our timeline came out in the exact same year as this.

    [5] Perot didn’t drop out like he did in July of 1992 in our timeline before jumping back in, because his polls numbers look even better than our timeline. Being relatively moderate going against a very liberal presumptive Democratic nominee and a Republican Party hurt by its association with the far-right, even against their will, would tend to do that.

    [6] The primary was relatively close in our timeline. Here, many moderates sat it out, letting Buchanan take it by a hair.

    [7] In my old timeline, I went with Cheney. However, after I read another timeline of by DSS (when his username was President DudeAlmighty) where this happened, I decided to be original.

    [8] This actually happened in our timeline. However, it obviously wasn’t his acceptance speech, as he wasn’t accepting the slot.

    [9] Thank you, Newt Gingrich!

    [10] In our timeline, it was a very close race between him and Barbara Boxer, and many believe he only lost due to a stripper scandal. Well, in this timeline, the scandal doesn’t break.

    ---

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
    KeresAcheron likes this.
  10. EnglishCanuck Blogger/Writer

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    Wow, this is quite interesting. Subscribed :)
     
  11. Torqumada Breast Man and urban legend

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    FYI: Sharon Stone is 6 months older than Jamie Lee Curtis. Carla Gugino is 7 years older than Malin Åkerman. Maybe someone a little bit older to make it more believable to the audience?

    Torqumada
     
  12. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

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    Interesting casting choices. Nice that you went with a group of solid actors (Sharon Stone excepted, of course) over big names. A few general observations about their potential career trajectories ITTL:

    Russell: Probably a wash for him if the movie is a big hit (given that it's replacing OTL Stargate on his resume). If it has "disappointing" grosses or is an outright flop, it's definitely a downgrade for him. Looking at his filmography, Stargate was his last real hit as a lead actor IOTL, so I'm not sure that, even if Watchmen is a big hit ITTL, his future career will be much more successful.

    Campbell: This is obviously a huge deal, putting this legendary B-movie actor in the ensemble of an A-list picture. It should open a lot of doors for him in the future, assuming that it's successful. The nearest he came IOTL, a key supporting role in 1995's Congo, may still happen ITTL; though perhaps they'll make more of his character (he'll almost certainly ask for more money).

    Stone: I don't think it'll take a rocket scientist to guess that she'll be regarded as giving the worst performance in the movie. But, assuming it's a hit, that at least gives her another hit; she didn't have that many IOTL after her... revealing breakthrough in Basic Instinct. Her one and only shot at respectability, 1995's Casino, may or may not still happen; one of Scorsese's few weaknesses as a director is his tendency to cast pretty faces not known for their acting abilities (cf. Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York).

    Spiner: Obviously, he'll want to break out of his typecasting with Dr. Manhattan, in the same way that Patrick Stewart would with Professor X IOTL. That will be difficult; Manhattan isn't as "meaty" a role, but it does give him a stepping stone for further possibilities in the future. (Though it doesn't help that Generations will open later in the year than Watchmen).

    Hamill: Without a doubt, this is a huge coup for Hamill. It's his shot to be recognized as a serious (live) actor, and from the sound of it, he acquits himself admirably. He may have an even bigger upside than Campbell (given the chance to break his typecasting). The downside is that, if this proves a career renaissance for him as a live actor, then perhaps he won't be doing as much voice acting. Also, Hamill's most famous live-action role from this era IOTL, Col. Christopher "Maverick" Blair from the Wing Commander games, might be affected.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more about the filming and post-production, and now the film's reception, too. Keep up the good work :)
     
  13. vultan Defying Gravity

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    I knew this, and probably should have pointed it out. I originally wanted to make it Mira Sorvino in the role of Silk Spectre, but decided against it. Probably should have adjusted Jamie Lee Curtis, but I was thinking makeup effects could do their charm.

    However, I think your ultimately right. The new Sally Jupiter is.... Kathy Bates!

    (Not really. It's Kathleen Quinlan.)
     
  14. MrHuman A Jew on a motorbike!

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    Could you post an electoral map? I can't think of how this wouldn't go to the House.
     
  15. vultan Defying Gravity

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    Sure. You did remind me I had to go back to the post and specify Colorado for the Dems, but otherwise, it should be a comfortable Cuomo win. The Electoral Vote is as follows:

    D: 323
    R: 183
    I: 32

    And here's a map (with the inverted election colors like Leip does it, because we're used to that on the board):rolleyes:
     

    Attached Files:

  16. vultan Defying Gravity

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    Thank you, Brainbin! I'll take a look as these:

    The man always deserved an Oscar. Will he get if from this role? Spoiler: no. But I'm just waiting for people to speculate what the possible changes to Stargate may be (I KNOW we've got some Stargate fans on the board).

    Campbell's one of the actors who directors don't consider big names, but when they're put in movies, their cult comes out in droves to go see them. Does Campbell have a sizeable cult following at this time? No. But still, his name gets recognized by people on the internet, so it's going to help solidify a following for him.

    Agreed all around. Re Scorcesi: it's a bit unfair to say he wanted to cast Diaz; he originally wanted Sarah Polley (for anyone who doesn't know who she is, the lead from the new Dawn of the Dead), but the studio forced him to use a "name" actress. Which is too bad, because Polley is a good actress.

    Spiner's kind of like Campbell: not a big name by any stretch, just a TV actor... but that TV show happens to be Star Trek.

    Oh man, it was TOUGH casting this role. I originally wanted Ralph Fiennes, but I realized that filming may overlap with Schindler's List, and he would absolutely take the role over this one. I literally considered dozens of names before I looked at what I considered "ridiculous" choices. Then I saw one of the "ridiculous" choices kinda made sense...

    Well, my next update won't come quite as speedily as the hours, but it'll come. Thanks!
     
  17. Torqumada Breast Man and urban legend

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    Quinlan and Stone are closer in age (4 months) than Stone and Curtis. :D

    Torqumada
     
  18. Torqumada Breast Man and urban legend

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    There really isn't an internet at this time, though. There are various bulletin boards and what not, but what we understand as the internet really wouldn't take off for a few more years in 1995 when it was commercialized. The idea to get Mark Hamill under wraps as Rorschach could actually work in this time period, because there was no real internt to spoil things, like there is today. I like that idea.

    Also, Campbell's following is really small at this time. It really picked up after Brisco County Jr and the Hercules and Xena appearances, which didn't happen ITOL for another couple of years. With this film, those appearances may not happen at all and his cult status might start to really grow with this film and he may grow beyond that status.

    Torqumada
     
  19. vultan Defying Gravity

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    No, no, no. I meant later on, the next decade. Sorry for the confusion.

    Also, he at least has something of the cult following solidified by his role as Ash in Evil Dead.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  20. vultan Defying Gravity

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    Are you sure? A quick wiki check says 4 years.