Would Patton Oswalt be a good voice for a talking raven if you have ever considered? The Sandman, directed by Neil Gaiman, is here to answer your question. Whether it is answered in the affirmative or the negative, is ultimately up to the filmmakers' judgment.
If we asked Patton Oswalt (he/him) to direct your attention to a dead person who was once a bird in the Dreaming who isn't sure what's going on, or whether or not all of this is a good idea, Gaiman answered. It was the first person we asked, and the first person we cast, the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix.
If this sounds like he's overthinking it, please know (if you don't already) that this is going to take some time. In a similar way to Dream of the Endless is tasked with spending years trying to rebuild 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 big and silver and small and serialized, but it has always been a bit elusive.
As we know now, Netflix would triumph, bringing the story a solid serialized home, as well as a rich budget, and a cast that is equally endless as its heroine. And now, along with the original comic, we can look back at the Sandmans' attempted development and the possible scenarios we might have encountered had Sandman been optioned sooner.
The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie
The first time Gaiman ever spoke up about a Sandman film happened in 1990. He went to a press roundtable in 2020 and said, "Nobody ever came into my office and asked me not to make a movie." And I replied, "Well, I am." A Warner Bros. executive said, "Nobody ever came into my office and asked me not to."
Roger Avary, a prolific writer who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino, directed Silent Hill and Beowulf, was chosen to direct the film in the mid-1990s; it merged The Dolls House and Preludes and Nocturnes narratives, and it was ultimately written by Gaiman.
Sandman adaptations continued to flop around Hollywood until a few years later, thanks to scripts and creative crew changes. (Some sources attribute this quotation to Gaiman discussing the Elliott/Rossio script, but others think it was a later Warner Bros. strategy.)
The 2000s: What is the Sandman?
Gaiman spoke at the 2007 Comic-Con explaining that he wasn't sacrificing his vision for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen.
Id rather see no Sandman film made than a terrible Sandman movie. However, I feel like the time for a Sandman film is coming soon. We need someone who has the same attachment 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 mention that Zack Snyder was doing Watchmen at the moment, and he is aware of what he is doing, and he hoped it would be good. That same year, Gaiman would also be quoted as saying that Terry Gilliam would be his ideal choice for adapting Good Omens, although (at the time) Gaiman was busy attempting to raise $70 million to adapt Good Omens.
Gaiman responded when one fan at Comic-Con said he'd make the film himself, stating that he's growing vats of people like you all over the world. Eventually, we'll put a bunch of you in a room with knives, and who emerges alive will be the winner and can direct the Sandman film.
From Kripke and Mangold to Goyer and Netflix, here are five of 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 materialized (and Gaiman wasnt content with it). Logan director James Mangold presented a concept to HBO, but nothing came of it.
In a 2013 Hollywood Reporter interview, Sandman continued to be praised by executives or at least one executive. I think the adaptation could be as rich as Harry Potter's universe.
Gaiman enlisted the support of his comic book devotees in December 2013, and according to his word, he invited David S. Goyer (the Blade and Dark Knight trilogies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) to direct the film. They hired Jack Thorne (who wrote Shameless, Skins, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) to direct the screenplay.
This version was fairly extensive: a script was going around. Gaiman was in the room when they wrote the script. Warners is very pleased with the draft and are moving forward, knocking on wood. Goyer anticipated the script to be distributed to actors in 2015.
JGL would eventually be re-branded from Warner Bros. on its Facebook page in March 2016, claiming that the company was "no longer a subsidiary" of the project. "We just don't see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special," Gordon-Levitt wrote in March 2016.
I do not own SANDMAN. @DCComics does. I do not choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.
Goyer and Gaiman stayed true to the project in the future. In the years following, they also lost screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone), who told iO9 that he wished the property had a television license:
I had many conversations with Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of research on the feature and came to the conclusion that the finest version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not even as a trilogy. So I went back and said here's the work that I've done. It needs to go to television. So I talked myself out of a job!
Sandman as a TV show was later transferred to several TV stations, including HBO, but Netflix was the one who made the big play, having recently lost its partnership with Marvel. The streaming company signed what Hollywood Reporter described as a massive deal to acquire Sandman, with sources at the time saying it was the most expensive TV series DC Entertainment ever produced.
Gaiman is openly optimistic about the project, though he might be more involved with The Sandman than with the Starz adaptation of American Gods, but less so with the Amazon Prime Videos Good Omens series (which he adapted all of). He, Goyer, and Allan Heinberg will serve as executive producers.
Gaiman seems confident that this will be the first Sandman TV (or film) adaptation to see the light of day. In a press roundtable, Gaiman cites Gaiman as saying:
People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, but it is an R-rated film, and we cant have a $100 million R-rated film. So, you need to get to a world in which long form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. It's on our side. And the fact that we can take things that previously existed in comic book art, and that can now exist in reality.