Is Patton Oswalt a good voice for a talking raven? That's what you've ever guessed. It's up to you. But Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman claims that he was very selective with his choice.
Could we find a voice actor who was able to make you wonder about a deceased person who is now a bird in the Dreaming who isn't sure what's going on in his Sandman comics? Gaiman wrote. Patton 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 will take a long time. In a similar way to Dream of the Endless's being tasked with 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 big and silver and small and serialized, but it has always been a bit elusive.
As we now know, Netflix would triumph, granting the story a properly serialized home along with a massive budget and a cast that is equally as diverse as the hero. And now, along with the original comic, we can look back at the various stages of Sandmans' attempted development, and the possibilities that we might have seen had Sandman been optioned sooner.
The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie
The first meeting he ever saw about a Sandman film occurred in 1990. He went to a press roundtable in 2020, and I remember that Warner Bros. executive asking him what he wanted to see from a Sandman film. And I said, I'm sorry. Im working on the comic, and it's okay. Everyone graciously allows me to get on with it.
Warner Bros. made requests to adapt the story throughout the decade. In the mid-1990s, Roger Avary, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino, directed Silent Hill and Beowulf, was chosen to direct. The story merged The Dolls House and Preludes and Nocturnes, and was going to be partially animated. Avary was eventually sacked, but went on to collaborate on Beowulf with Gaiman.
Sandman adaptations continued to languish around Hollywood a few years later, with 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 (although some sources from the time believe this was a later Warner Bros. idea).
The 2000s: What is the Sandman?
Gaiman spoke at the 2007 Comic-Con discussing how he wasnt compromising his vision for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen.
I prefer a terrible Sandman film to a great Sandman film. However, I feel that the time for a Sandman film is coming soon. We need someone who has the same passion for 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 that he is good at it. 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 said that if given the chance, he'd make the film himself. Im 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, here's what we know so far.
Warner Bros. and its deep pockets never gave up on a Supernatural showrunner Eric Kripke in 2010 that never came to fruition (and Gaiman was not happy with it). Logan director James Mangold pitched a concept to HBO, but it never came to fruition.
In a 2013 Hollywood Reporter interview, Sandman continued to be chastised by executives or at least one executive. When asked what DC titles she wanted to see on screen, then-DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson said, Sandman is right on the top. I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe.
She spoke it into (almost) motion: In December 2013, there was passion, and true to his word, Gaiman enlisted the support of loyal fans of his comic. They hired David S. Goyer (the Blade and Dark Knight trilogies, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) to direct the film. Jack Thorne (who created Shameless, Skins, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) to direct the screenplay.
Once again, there was a script going around. Gaiman was in the room when Warners worked on the script, and the team was moving forward, knock on wood. Goyer said in December 2014 that Warners is very pleased with the finished product and that they are moving forward.
JGL and I just don't see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special, and what a film adaptation should/should be, according to Gordon-Levitt on his Facebook page in March 2016.
I don't own Sandman. @DCComics does. I don't choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.
Goyer and Gaiman stayed with the project until they lost screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone), who told iO9 that he wished the property would be shown on television:
I discussed this topic with Neil [Gaiman] and I did a lot of work on the feature, coming 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 what I've done. It needs to be distributed on television.
Sandman as a TV show was eventually turned on to Netflix, although HBO was the one who made the big play, having recently lost a deal with Marvel. According to sources at the time, it was DC Entertainment's most costly TV series ever.
Gaiman is openly optimistic about the project, thirty years after the Starz adaptation of American Gods. He's said he'll be more involved with The Sandman than with the Starz adaptation of American Gods, but less so than Amazon Prime Videos' Good Omens series (which he adapted all of). He, Goyer, and Allan Heinberg will serve as executive producers.
Gaiman appears to think that this will be the first Sandman TV (or film) adaptation to see the light of day. In a press roundtable, Gaiman states, "I'm confident that it will go beyond just a season."
People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, But this is a R-rated film, and we cant have a $100 million R-rated film. So, that would not happen. You had to get to a world in which long form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And the fact that we have seven issues of Sandman plus, basically, 13 full books worth of material, is a great thing. Its not a drawback. We have to live in a world in which things