Sam Mendes has explained that his recently-announced adaptation of the controversial comic book series Preacher is at the very earliest stages of development.

It was announced last week that the American Beauty director and Columbia Pictures were to take Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's award-winning saga to the screen.

But speaking to Empire magazine, Mendes moved to quell fan excitement by clarifying just how close the dark, frequently foul-mouthed and inflammatory comic is to hitting the big screen.

"I'd love to make Preacher," he said. "But there's no script."

"This is a typical Variety announcement," Mendes added. "'Mendes to direct Preacher' – I wish! Basically they should have written, 'Mendes in development with Preacher'. What I'm doing is, I've gotta find a script. I've just got to get it written."

Long linked with a film adaptation, Preacher tells of Jesse Custer, a minister from a small Texan town who becomes imbued with the word of God.

First published in 1995, with its final issue hitting the shelves in July 2000, the Vertigo comic saw Custer, his estranged girlfriend Tulip O'Hare and his best friend Cassidy - an Irish vampire - travelling across America to find God and bring him to justice for deserting mankind.

And Mendes said Ennis and Dillon's "incredible twisted vision" was what attracted him to the project.

"There's so much of it you couldn't possibly fit it all into one movie. It's just about what you keep and what you leave out, and how you structure the story.

"But just to have that toy set again, being able to paint on a big canvas and to say 'I am gonna do crazy crane shots and massive action sequences again because I want to,' it's exciting… "

Though he did not confirm whether he plans to base more than one film on Preacher, Mendes hinted that he would be contacting the John Wayne estate over the film; the Western legend's ghost appears frequently to guide Custer through crises of conscience.

07/11/2008 09:39:28