5:59pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Preacher' Ordered to Pilot at AMC
AMC is moving forward with controversial comic adaptation Preacher.
The cable network, which recently abandoned unscripted fare to focus on original dramas, has picked up the project to pilot.
Based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's 1990s comic series from DC Comics imprint Vertigo, Preacher revolves around Rev. Jesse Custer, a badass Texas preacher who, after losing his faith, learns that God has left heaven and forsaken his duties. Jesse becomes the only one who is able to track God down and hold him responsible for his abdication. Tulip O'Hare, Jesse's beer-guzzling vampire ex-girlfriend, accompanies him on his quest for answers. But the story doesn't end there: The Saint of Killers, an immortal killing machine and Western lone gunman type, is hot on their trail with his sights set on Jesse.
This Is the End duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and Breaking Bad's Sam Catlin are adapting the comic for AMC via Sony Pictures Television. James Weaver will oversee the project, which was written by Catlin. Rogen and Goldberg will direct. Preacher marks the second TV project for Rogen and Goldberg's Point Grey. The duo also are attached to executive produce FX's animated comedy pilot Bigfoot, which is based on the books by Graham Roumieu.
"Every once in a while you find a project where all the elements line up beautifully. With Preacher, it starts with a bold, compelling, and thought-provoking comic book series from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and a whole lot of fans who already know Jesse Custer, Cassidy, and Tulip,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC exec vp original programming, production and digital content. “Add to that the passionate and talented Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin, an incredible producing team in Neal Moritz, the Original Films team and our good friends at Sony Pictures Television, and we have everything we need to be very excited to move forward on Preacher.”
Preacher landed at AMC with a hefty commitment in a competitive situation with multiple networks bidding. Rogen and Goldberg will also executive produce the drama via their Point Grey Pictures banner. Breaking Bad's Catlin will executive produce and serve as showrunner on the Sony Pictures Television entry via his overall deal with the studio. Original Films' Moritz, Vivian Cannon, Ori Marmur, Ken Levin and Jason Netter are also on board to exec produce.
The pilot will be produced in the summer of 2015 for series consideration in 2016. Comic scribes Ennis and Dillion are on board as co-exec producers.
The comic has had a long and complicated route to the screen. In October 2008, Moritz, Netter, Levin and Marmur were attached to produce a feature film take on Preacher — with Ennis writing — after HBO passed on its planned series adaptation. The HBO incarnation, first announced in November 2006, was written by feature scribe Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider) with initial plans for a by-the-book take on all 75 issues (including one-shots). After crafting the bible for a potential series, HBO — under new executives — passed on the project. The network, Johnson said, thought Preacher was "too dark and too violent and too controversial."
Columbia Pictures then picked up the rights for a film take with Sam Mendes directing and Moritz and Netter attached to produce, marking the second attempt to bring Preacher to the big screen. The first was a long-gestating late '90s/early 2000s take from Kevin Smith and The Weinstein Co. starring James Marsden that was ultimately abandoned due to budgetary concerns.
Preacher joins Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead companion series as comic book pilots at the cable network as AMC looks for noiser fare to break through the increasing clutter as more and more outlets get into the original scripted game. (Afghanistan drama White City is AMC's only other pilot currently in the works.)
For AMC's part, Preacher arrives as it is rebuilding its original roster with the end of Mad Men in sight and Breaking Bad having already wrapped its run. The network has recently passed on its past four pilots, opting instead to pick up Humans from Xbox, as well as Badlands and Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul straight to series.
Preacher also comes as comic book fare has become an increasingly valuable commodity to both broadcast and cable networks alike. CBS is developing Supergirl, The CW has found ratings and critical success with Arrow and The Flash and ABC has Marvel's Agent Carter due for midseason when Agents of SHIELD goes on its holiday break. Ahead of the fall season, THR polled exec producers behind many of today's comic book shows to find out which title they thought would be the next big thing on the small screen and Preacher — to little surprise — ranked high among them.
"If you read Preacher, it has some obviously graphic violence and language and other things that we will not bring to the commercial television series," AMC president Charlie Collier told THR at the time. "But I love that the fans will know that we'll treat it with respect and that will elevate it and not dumb it down. And that matters. It's an amazing piece of writing and character. Where do you see a character like that on television?"