Six conspire in casting of 'Watchmen'

By Borys Kit
"Watchmen," the long-gestating big-screen adaptation of the seminal DC Comics limited series, has finally found its superheroes.

Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Malin Akerman have been cast in the Warner Bros. movie, which Zack Snyder is directing. Larry Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Deborah Snyder are producing.

Set in an alternate America, "Watchmen" follows costumed hero Rorschach, who is living a vigilante lifestyle because most masked heroes have retired or been outlawed. While investigating a murder, Rorschach learns that a former masked-hero colleague has been killed, prompting him to begin investigating a possible conspiracy.

Haley will play Walter Kovacs, aka Rorschach, who ignores the ban on costumed vigilantes.

Crudup will play Dr. Manhattan, a superpowered being with godlike powers and temperament.

Akerman will play Laurie Juspeczyk/the Silk Spectre, who is involved with Dr. Manhattan -- but that relationship begins to fall apart as he becomes more disconnected from humanity.

Goode will play Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, a costume adventurer who retired voluntarily, disclosed his identity and built a large fortune. He hatches a plot to avert a global catastrophe he believes will be caused by Dr. Manhattan.

Wilson will play the Nite-Owl, a crime-figher who uses technical wizardry and has an owl-shaped flying vehicle.

Morgan will play the Comedian, a cigar-chomping, gun-toting vigilante-turned-paramilitary agent.

"Watchmen," created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is one of the most critically acclaimed series in the genre. The comic is credited for redefining the superhero genre and often is referred to as the "War and Peace" of comic books. It is a crime-conspiracy story that provided the first realistic look at the behind-the-heroics lives of superhero archetypes. "Watchmen" appeared as the only graphic novel on Time magazine's list of the 100 best novels since 1923.

A feature adaptation was in preproduction at Paramount with director Paul Greengrass at the helm. Casting was under way when the studio pulled the plug in June 2005 and let go of the project.

Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Jude Law were interested in the Snyder incarnation, though they balked when it became clear that the studio was holding the line on the budget.

Shooting is set to start in the fall in Vancouver, with Snyder employing many of the filming techniques he used for his boxoffice success "300."

Legendary is co-financing the picture.

The cast is rumored to make an appearance at Warners' Comic-Con presentation Friday.

Haley, repped by Gersh and Leslie Allan-Rice Management, was nominated for a best supporting Oscar for his performance in "Little Children."

Morgan is best known for his run on "Grey's Anatomy" as Katherine Heigl's love interest. He is repped by WMA.

Crudup's credits include "Almost Famous," "Big Fish" and "The Good Shepherd." He is repped by CAA.

Goode, repped by CAA, gained notice for his appearances in "Match Point" and "The Lookout."

CAA-repped Wilson also appeared in "Little Children" and is shooting Neil LaBute's "Lakeview Terrace" opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington. He next appears in Rodrigo Garcia's "Passengers" opposite Anne Hathaway.

Akerman, repped by Endeavor, appeared in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" and appears in "27 Dresses" with Katherine Heigl.