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Watchmen: What You Can Learn From Books

You can learn a lot by reading. But we're not talking about history books or science books -- that stuff's for squares. No, we mean you can learn a lot about movies by reading their book tie-ins before you go to see them. Not only are they packed with spoilers, they sometimes have intriguing behind-the-scenes information you wouldn't know otherwise. Such is the case with the two lavishly illustrated Watchmen movie tie-in books: Watchmen: The Art of the Film and Watchmen: The Film Companion. Read on, and check out the ten (non-spoilery) things we learned about the movie from these info-packed tomes.

1. In searching for a location to use as the home of the child molester that Rorschach tracks down, the production team actually found a creepy former crack house that was perfect. Not only did it have a picture of a pirate ship on one wall (an eerie parallel to the in-movie comic book "The Black Freighter"), it also had two big dogs living in it -- just like the house in the book. Ultimately, it was decided that the location was unhygenic and therefore unusable, but set-builders took exact measurements of the house and recreated it as the set seen in the movie... complete with dog feces.

2. Wanting to make Nixon's war room look like the war room from Dr. Strangelove, Director of Photography Larry Fong showed pictures of Strangelove's viewscreens to his gaffer, and mentioned that he was trying to figure out if the screens were painted on or projected from behind. The gaffer confidently told him it was rear projection -- he knew, because he had been there. In 1963, he was actually on the Dr. Strangelove set, doing the rear projection for those screens. Also, Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy!

3. While most movies shoot with multiple camera coverage, so you have a different angle on a scene you can use, 90% of the time Watchmen was shot using only one camera, because Snyder was particular about the angles he wanted to record. Additionally, while most movies are shot out of order, to save time, Snyder tried to shoot in the order of the script and storyboards wherever possible, in order to cut down on continuity problems. His other two movies, 300 and Dawn of the Dead were also shot in order, beginning to end. As a result, you can watch them in any order you want, and they still make perfect sense. Try it!

4. Only one version of Archie, Nite Owl's Owlship, was built. Normally, there would be a version for stunts, and a version for shooting interiors, but custom yacht builder Jack Gauvreau only made one that could do everything. It was light enough to travel on a crane, and sturdy enough to survive a drop and protect its passengers. And although it was cramped, filming was done inside it, and not on a matching set, thanks to removable panels. It also made the trip to last year's San Diego Comic-Con, where legions of geeks were allowed to look inside. (It was immediately burned.)

5. Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Rorschach, had the most fight training of any of the actors in the film, although he was the one who needed it the least. Since his character is the only one that wears a full facemask, he could have been replaced with a stunt double for fight scenes easier than anybody. Anyone who tried, though, was swiftly dealt with.

6. Although the glowing Dr. Manhattan was created on the computer, the light that he gives off would have been much more difficult to create in post-production, which is why Billy Crudup's motion-capture suit is covered with LED lights. There were two brightness settings, for indoor and outdoor use, and not only did they actually fulfill some of the shoot's lighting needs -- providing a reflective eye light for Malin Akerman, for instance -- in some shots no additional lights were needed at all. As a result, Billy Crudup was picketed by the gaffer's union for several days.

7. At Snyder's request, the production team went crazy adding in all of the details of the Watchmen world. Not only are all of the brand names there -- Veidt hairspray, Sweet Chariot sugar cubes -- but there's even a four-legged chicken being served in the restaurant during Dan and Laurie's dinner date, a product of advanced genetic engineering seen on page 25 of issue 1 of Watchmen. Drumsticks for everybody!

8. While he used Dr. Strangelove as a visual reference for his war room, Zack Snyder had a very different movie in mind as a model for his New York City. In his first meeting with Production Designer Alex McDowell, the two of them decided that 1976's Taxi Driver was the perfect template for Dave Gibbons' dirty, porno theatre-clogged vision of 1986 New York.

9. While there are plenty of deleted scenes awaiting inclusion on the director's cut DVD, one of the scenes clipped from the history-laden opening sequence was the original Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) posing for a "Buy War Bonds" poster, holding an American flag and standing with one foot on the back of Adolf Hitler. Stupid lucky Hitler.

10. In the comic book, we see Ozymandias has action figures of himself, but we also see him rejecting a proposal for toys based on his crime-fighting companions Nite Owl and Rorschach. In the movie, however, it looks like those figures actually get made -- Ozy keeps a set of prototypes in a display case in his office, and an ad in the comic book Tales of the Black Freighter shows that you can buy toys of all of the movie's heroes, plus the Owlship, baddie Moloch the Mystic and, of course, Ozy's pet lynx Bubastis. Because every good toy line needs a giant purple jungle cat.

See what you can get from reading? Order the books here and here, and see the movie March 6th in theatres and IMAX.

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