Darren Aronofsky will direct ''Watchmen.'' Plus, Neil Gaiman's ''Death'' will head from page to screen

Two of the most celebrated graphic novels in all comicdom, Alan Moore’s ”Watchmen” and Neil Gaiman’s ”Death: The High Cost of Living,” may finally make it to the big screen. ”Watchmen,” the celebrated 1986 deconstruction of classic superhero mythology, has gone through several directors and studios, but now it’s in the hands of Darren Aronofsky (”Requiem for a Dream,” ”Pi”) and Paramount. As for ”Death,” Gaiman has found the ideal person to write and direct the film adaptation: himself.

”Watchmen,” written and illustrated in 1986 by Moore and Dave Gibbons, tells the story of two generations of superheroes and other costumed vigilantes, stalked by a killer and involved in what may be a vast conspiracy that could mean the end of the world. Its length, plot complexity, and density of symbolism and literary allusion have made the project so daunting to film that even fantasy whiz Terry Gilliam turned it down unless he could make it into a miniseries. Three years ago, ”X-Men” and ”X2” scribe David Hayter signed on to write and direct, but after 9/11, Universal didn’t want to film a story with an apocalyptic climax set in Manhattan. Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie has landed at Paramount, with Aronofsky set to direct Hayter’s script. Aronofsky, who was once set to revive the Batman franchise for Warner Bros. (that project became ”Batman Begins,” currently in production under director Christopher Nolan), is also adapting the Japanese manga comic ”Lone Wolf and Cub,” which was the inspiration for ”Road to Perdition.” Plus, he’s scheduled to shoot his previously scrapped fantasy project, ”The Fountain,” this fall, with Hugh Jackman replacing Brad Pitt in the lead. So it’s not clear when he’ll get around to ”Watchmen.”

Don Murphy, who produced two other screen adaptations of Moore comics (”From Hell” and ”League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), is producing Gaiman’s film for New Line, which picked up the rights from Warner Bros. The film, to be called ”Death’s Day,” is based on the book by Gaiman (best known for his graphic novel ”The Sandman”) about a suicidal youth who spends the day with a teenage girl who claims to be Death herself. The film will mark Gaiman’s directing debut.

In other Alan Moore news, Larry and Andy Wachowski told the Wall Street Journal that they’re taking a long sabbatical after having finished the ”Matrix” trilogy last year, but they’re considering an adaptation of Moore’s revenge saga ”V for Vendetta” as their next project.

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