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With The Walking Dead ranking as TV’s No. 1 show in the key 18-49 demo, AMC hopes its next hit also comes from the comic world. Following prolonged negotiations, the network is teaming with This Is the End duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and Breaking Bad‘s Sam Catlin to adapt Vertigo’s Preacher, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
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.
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Rogen and Goldberg will pen the script, which landed at AMC with a hefty commitment in a competitive situation with multiple networks bidding. The duo 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’ Neal Moritz, Vivian Cannon, Ori Marmur, Ken Levin and Jason Netter are also on board to exec produce.
“This is a great piece of material for AMC, and we’re thrilled to begin working with the creative team behind it to make another iconic AMC series,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC exec vp original programming, production and digital content.
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.
Ennis is a multiple Eisner Award winner for his work on Preacher, earning the prize in 1996 and 2001. The title also won an Eisner Award for best continuing series, with both Jesse and The Saint of Killers ranking among the best comic book characters of all time on Empire magazine’s 2011 list.
“Steve Dillon and I are very happy to see Preacher being developed for TV, which seems a much more natural home for the story than a two-hour movie,” Ennis said. “Between them, Sony TV and AMC have brought viewers two of my favorite shows with Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and it’s exactly that kind of creative commitment and courage that Preacher needs. Obviously it’s taken a while, but Ken Levin along with Neal Moritz and his team refused to give up, long after the point when I myself grew skeptical, and their unrelenting enthusiasm for the project has gotten us where we need to be. I’m particularly impressed that Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin understand Preacher fully — meaning they get it for what it is, not some vague approximation. All in all, it looks like Preacher can now be brought to TV in a way that I’d previously not have thought possible, and I very much appreciate that Steve and I have been included in the conversation in the way that we have.”
Preacher marks the second TV project for Rogen and Goldberg’s Point Grey. The duo also are attached to exec produce FX’s animated comedy pilot Bigfoot, which is based on the books by Graham Roumieu.
“This is amazing! We’ve tried for seven years to work on Preacher and we’re so psyched AMC is finally letting us. It is our favorite comic of all time, and we’re going to do everything we can to do it right. Humperdoo!” Rogen and Goldberg said in a joint statement.
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Preacher puts AMC back in business with Catlin following the conclusion of Breaking Bad. It comes as the network is looking to bulk up its original scripted drama slate after having said farewell to the Bryan Cranston starrer and with Mad Men poised to wrap up its run with a split seventh and final season in 2015. It represents the latest high-profile drama in the works at the network, joining Vince Gilligan‘s Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul and Robert Kirkman‘s Walking Dead companion series.
The network recently renewed Saturday drama Hell on Wheels for an expanded fourth season and will debut two new dramas – Turn and Halt & Catch Fire — in 2014.
Preacher becomes the latest comic book title to be adapted for TV. In addition to AMC’s The Walking Dead (Image Comics) and The CW’s Arrow (DC), ABC has found modest success with freshman drama Agents of SHIELD (Marvel). The CW is prepping a Flash spinoff from Arrow; Kirkman’s forthcoming Image exorcism comic Outcast recently landed at Cinemax; Fox is readying a Batman prequel series based on Commissioner Gordon (DC); The CW is adapting DC’s Hourman; NBC is piloting DC’s Constantine with David Goyer attached; and The CW ordered Rob Thomas‘ iZombie (DC) take to pilot.
For its part, Vertigo’s Alan Moore title The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is also in the works at Fox. Marvel, meanwhile, recently set up four series and a mini at Netflix focused on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage and is prepping an Agent Carter series for ABC.
Rogen is repped by UTA, Principal Entertainment and Felker Toczek; Goldberg is with UTA and Felker Toczek; Catlin is with UTA and Hansen Jacobson.
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