Would Patton Oswalt be a good voice for a talking raven if you have ever considered it? It's up to the reader to see if it answers in the positive or negative. Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman has said in a blog that Oswalt was the first person they selected for the comic book adaptation.
The question was, could we find a voice actor who could make you care about a deceased person who is now a bird in the Dreaming who isn't certain what's going on, or whether or not any of this is a good idea? Gaiman wrote. Patton Oswalt 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 development is going to take a long time. In a similar fashion to how 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, offering the story a properly serialized home, along with a huge budget, and a cast that is equally endless as its hero. And now, alongside the chapters of the original comic, we can look back at the Sandman's attempted development, and the other possibilities we might have seen had Sandman been optioned sooner.
The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie
The first time Gaiman saw a Sandman film in 1990, when he went to a Warner Bros. press conference and asked him what he wanted to see from the film. And I said, I'm okay with it. A film would only be a distraction and a confusion. And bless everyone.
While the film sat off for a while, Warner Bros. made suggestions to adapt it throughout the decade: In the mid-1990s, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino, directed Silent Hill and Beowulf, were hired to direct; the story merged The Dolls House and Preludes and Nocturnes, and was to be partly animated. Avary was eventually fired, but went on to collaborate with Gai
Sandman adaptations continued to linger around Hollywood after a few years, 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 attribute this quote to Gaiman discussing the Elliott/Rossio script, others believe this was a later Warner Bros. idea.)
The 2000s: What is the Sandman?
Gaiman talked about not compromising his vision for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen during a Q&A.
I prefer no Sandman film to a terrible Sandman film. However, I feel like the time for a Sandman film is coming soon. We need someone who has the same fascination with 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 working on Watchmen at the moment, and that 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.
Gaiman replied when one fan at Comic-Con suggested that he would make the film himself, saying, "I'm growing vats of people like you all over the world." Eventually, you'll find a bunch of you in a room with knives, and the winner will be the filmmaker.
From Kripke and Mangold to Goyer and Netflix, here are the 2010s.
Warner Bros. and its deep pockets never gave up when Neil Gaiman gave up. In 2010 he was attached to a Warner Bros. Television version that never came to fruition (and Gaiman wasnt happy with it). Logan director James Mangold presented a concept to HBO.
In a 2013 Hollywood Reporter interview, Sandman continued to be praised by executives or at least one executive. I think it might be as rich as the Harry Potter universe.
And so she enlisted the help of long-time fans of his comic. David S. Goyer (the Blade and Dark Knight trilogies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock From the Sun, Looper) wrote the screenplay.
This version went relatively far: once again, there was a script going around. Gaiman was in the room when they worked on the script. Warners is extremely happy with the draft and are moving forward, knock on wood. Goyer anticipated the script to be released to actors in 2015.
The ownership of Vertigo was shifted 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 did not see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special and what a film adaptation might/should be.
Reminder for those who are curious: I don't own SandMAN. @DCComics does. I don't choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.
Goyer and Gaiman stayed involved in the project until the end. In the years following, they lost screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone), who told iO9 that he wanted the property to be available on television:
I had many discussions with Neil [Gaiman] about this, and I did a lot of work on the feature and came to the conclusion that the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not even as a trilogy. So I went back and said heres how Ive done it. It needs to go to television.
Sandman as a TV program was transferred to several TV stations, including HBO, but Netflix was the one who made the big splash, having just lost a deal with Marvel. According to sources at the time, it was the most costly TV series DC Entertainment ever purchased.
Gaiman is openly optimistic about the project, although he would be more involved with the Starz adaptation of American Gods than with the Amazon Prime Videos Good Omens series (which he adapted all of). He, Goyer, and Allan Heinberg will serve as executive producers.
Gaiman appears optimistic about the Sandman TV (or film) adaptation going beyond a season in a press roundtable:
People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, but it's an R-rated film, and we can't 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. And the fact that we have five issues of Sandman plus, essentially, 13 full books worth of material, is a really good thing. We are living in a world in which things can now exist that used to exist in comic book art