Would Patton Oswalt be a good companion for a talking raven if you ever considered? It's ultimately up to the filmmakers to decide whether or not it's answered in the affirmative or the negative. However, Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman has stated in a blog that he was very conscious with his choice.
If we asked Patton Oswalt (he/him), could we find a voice actor who cared about a deceased person who was once a bird in the Dreaming who isn't sure what's going on, or whether any of this is a good idea? Gaiman wrote. The answer was, yes.
If this sounds like Gaiman is overthinking it, please know (if you haven't already) that this development will take a long time. In a similar fashion to how Dream of the Endless is tasked with spending years rebuilding his realm, Gaiman has found himself some 30 years into a journey to translate The Sandman comics to the screen. Over those decades, that screen has been huge and silver and small and serialized, but it has always been a bit elusive.
As we know now, Netflix would triumph, granting the story a properly serialized home, along with a huge budget, and a cast that is as diverse as its hero. And now, along with the chapters of the original comic, we can revisit the events that occurred earlier had Sandman been chosen.
The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie
The first time Gaiman ever met with a Sandman movie happened in 1990. At a press roundtable in 2020, Gaiman remembers an executive at Warner Bros. looking at me very puzzled and saying, Nobody ever came to my office and asked me not to make a film before. Just let me do my thing. And bless everyone.
Roger Avary, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino and directed Silent Hill and Beowulf, was chosen to direct the film in the mid-1990s; the story merged The Dolls House and Preludes and Nocturnes stories, and Avary was eventually fired, but went on to work with Gaiman on Beowulf.
Sandman adaptations continued to languish around Hollywood, many years later, thanks to scripts and creative crew changes. At least one script was described by Gaiman as not only the worst Sandman script Ive ever seen, but quite easily the worst script Ive ever read. (While some sources from the time believe this was a later Warner Bros. proposal.)
The 2000s: What is the Sandman?
Gaiman addressed Comic-Con 2007 and stated that he wasnt compromising his vision just for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen.
I prefer not to see a bad Sandman film than to see one made. However, I feel that the time for a Sandman film is coming soon. We need someone who has the same fascination with the source material as Peter Jackson had with The Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi had with Spider-Man.
Gaiman went on to describe Zack Snyder's current role as Watchmen, and he knows what he's doing, and I hope it's good. That same year, Gaiman would also be quoted as saying that Terry Gilliam would be his ideal choice for adapting Good Omens, but (at the time) Gaiman was busy attempting to raise $70 million for the film.
Gaiman replied: I'm growing vats of people like you all over the world. Eventually well put a bunch of you in a room with knives, and whoever emerges alive will be the winner and can direct the Sandman film.
From Kripke and Mangold to Goyer and Netflix in the 2010s
Warner Bros. and its deep pockets never gave up on Neil Gaiman's quest. In 2010, he was attached to a Warner Bros. Television adaptation that never came to fruition (and Gaiman was not satisfied with it). Logan filmmaker James Mangold presented a concept to HBO.
In a 2013 Hollywood Reporter interview, Sandman continued to get ridiculed by executives or at least one executive. When asked what DC titles she wanted to see on screen, then-DC Entertainment CEO Diane Nelson said, Sandman is right on top. I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe.
And so she spoke it into (almost) creation: In December 2013, there was motion, and true to his word, Gaiman enlisted the support of his comic book fans. He announced that he would work with David S. Goyer (the Blade and Dark Knight trilogies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Movie) to bring the comic to life as a movie. Jack Thorne (who created Shameless, Skins, and Harry Potter and the
This version went fairly departement: a script was going around. Gaiman was in the room when they worked on the script. Warners is very happy with the draft and are moving forward, knocking on wood. Goyer anticipated the script going to actors in 2015.
The ownership of Vertigo was transferred from Warner Bros. to New Line, a subsidiary, not a separate entity, ultimately causing JGL to withdraw from the project. In March 2016, Gordon-Levitt wrote on his Facebook page that he and I just didn't see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special and what a film adaptation should/should be.
I don't own SandMAN, but @DCComics does. I don't choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.
Goyer and Gaiman stayed true to their project for the remainder of their lives. In the years following, they also lost screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone), who told iO9 that he abandoned the film project because he believed the property should be on television:
I had many conversations with Neil [Gaiman] about this, and I spent a lot of time working on the feature and came to the conclusion that the finest version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy. So I went back and said this isnt where it should be. It needs to be broadcasted. So I talked myself out of a job!
Sandman as a TV program was eventually turned over to Netflix, although HBO was the one who made the big play, having just lost a deal with Marvel. The streaming company signed what Hollywood Reporter described as a massive agreement to buy Sandman, with sources at the time saying it was the most expensive TV series DC Entertainment ever did.
Gaiman is openly optimistic about the project, but only if he is the Executive Producer for Amazon Prime Videos Good Omens series (which he adapted all of).
Gaiman believes it will be the first Sandman TV (or film) adaptation to see the light of day. In a press roundtable, Gaiman says: "I'm hoping it will last for a season."
People would write scripts for The Sandman and they go, But it's a R-rated film, and we cant have a $100 million R-rated film. That's not possible. And the fact that we have five issues of Sandman plus, basically, 13 full books of material, is a great thing. It's on our side. And the fact that we can take things that previously existed in comic book art that can now exist in reality.