According to Slashfilm, which does not cite a specific source, Irons, whose casting was announced back in June, is playing an older version of former Watchmen team member Adrian Veidt. Also known as Ozymandias, Veidt's vast financial and scientific resources — along with his own incredible intellect — ultimately led him to evolve from superhero to complex hidden villain.
In the original comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Veidt hatches a plan to create a fake alien invasion in an effort to unite humankind against a common enemy instead of destroying itself in a nuclear war. While Veidt's plan ostensibly has a noble purpose — stopping the human race from perishing in a holocaust of its own making — his methods are questionable, to say the least, and while "successful," result in the deaths of thousands and the destruction of New York City.
In Zack Snyder's 2009 film adaptation, Veidt (played by Matthew Goode) manipulates events to make his fellow superhero, the godlike Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the "nemesis" against which Earth's superpowers unite, formulating world peace in the process.
Veidt is alive at the end of Watchmen, his machinations a secret known only to the surviving members of the team. Since the new show takes place decades after the events of the original comic book, it's reasonable to assume that he's still around — even though newspaper headlines glimpsed in recent set photos hint that he has died. Could Ozymandias have faked his own death, just like he staged his own assassination attempt in the original Watchmen, and still be working behind the scenes?
That remains to be determined. But we hope to see a lot of the Oscar-winning Irons — who recently (and brilliantly) played Alfred in two DCEU movies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League — as he is one of the finest actors of his or any generation.
In other news, the same report indicates that multiple Emmy winner Jean Smart, whose long and illustrious career most recently brought her to the TV series Fargo, will play an FBI agent on Watchmen whose job is tracking down vigilantes.
What's interesting about the character, however, is her last name: Blake, same as Edward Blake, a.k.a. the Comedian, the brutally violent vigilante who ends up becoming a government operative and whose death gets the story rolling in the original Watchmen (he was played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the movie).
Is FBI Agent Blake somehow connected to the Comedian? Slashfilm's report suggests one theory that possibly makes her the older version of Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman in the film), the superhero who learned in the original story that Edward Blake was actually her biological father.
Let's keep all this solidly in the "rumor" file for now, but the thought that Irons and Smart could be playing older versions of two central characters from the original Watchmen is a fascinating one, and could make the connections between that classic tale and Lindelof's sequel/reboot/remix that much clearer.