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.  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  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.  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 , 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.  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.  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”) . 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.  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.  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!) . 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...  But actually not as complicated as our timeline, not by a mile.  48 Hours. Predator. Die Hard. Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.  This paragraph, and a little of the next, was essentially copy-pasted from Wikipedia, with a little edits hither and yonder.  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.  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.  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.  Yes, I invented this audio tape, but I think it wouldn’t be out of character for Edwin Edwards to do something like this.  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.  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.  In our timeline, this became Proposition 187, which passed in 1994.  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?