Is Patton Oswalt a good voice for a talking raven? The Sandman on Netflix is here to answer your question. It's up to the viewer to decide whether or not it's appropriate. But Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman has stated in a blog post that he selected Oswalt quite carefully.
If we asked Patton Oswalt, who was the first person we interviewed the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix, could we find a voice actor who could make you care about a deceased person who was no longer 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 wrote.
If you think Gaiman is overthinking it, please know (if you haven't already) that this is a long time coming. In a similar fashion as 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 the 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, granting the story a professionally serialized home, as well as a budget-hefty cast that is as diverse as the hero. And now, along with the chapters of the original comic, we can look back at the Sandman's attempted development, and the other possibilities we might have seen if Sandman had been optioned sooner.
The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie
The first time Gaiman ever saw a Sandman film was in 1990. Gaiman recalls a press roundtable with Warner Bros. executives asking him what he wanted to see from the film. And I said, Well, I am. A movie would just be a distraction and a confusion. And bless everybody.
Warner Bros. made changes to the story as well as over the years: In the mid-1990s, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (a duo behind Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Cure of the Black Pearl, and Shrek), were hired to direct. The story was intended to be partially animated, but Avary was eventually fired, but Gaiman continued to collaborate on Beowulf.
Sandman adaptations remained ludicrous until a few years, scripts, and creative crew changes were made. 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 others believe this was a later Warner Bros. plan).
The 2000s: What is the Sandman?
Gaiman spoke at 2007s Comic-Con on how he wasnt compromising his vision just for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen.
I'd rather see no Sandman film made than a bad Sandman movie. However, I feel like 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 Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi had with Spider-Man.
Gaiman continued to praise Zack Snyder for doing Watchmen at the moment, adding that he understands what he is doing, and that he hopes it is good. In the same year, Gaiman would be quoted as saying that Terry Gilliam would be his ideal choice for adapting Good Omens, but that (at the time) Gaiman was busy trying to get $70 million to adapt Good Omens.
Gaiman responded to a comment from a fan at Comic-Con that he would make the film himself, saying, "I'm growing vats of people like you around the world." Eventually, we'll 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, here are some of the 2010s.
Warner Bros. and its deep pockets never gave up on a superhero showrunner in 2010 that never came to fruition (and Gaiman was dissatisfied with it). Logan director James Mangold presented a concept to HBO, but it failed.
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 president Diane Nelson said, Sandman is right on top. It may be as rich as the Harry Potter universe.
In December 2013, there was movement, and true to his word, Gaiman enlisted the support of his fans. 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), they hired Jack Thorne (who directed Shameless, Skins, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).
This version went relatively far: once again, 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, knock on wood. Goyer anticipated the script to be distributed to actors in 2015.
The ownership of Vertigo was transferred from Warner Bros. to New Line (a subsidiary, not a separate entity) around this time. In March 2016, I realized that New Line and I just don't understand what makes Sandman special, and what a film adaptation might/should be.
I don't own Sandman; @DCComics owns it. I don't choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.
Goyer and Gaiman stayed true to their vision. In the years following, they lost screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone), who told iO9 that he had withdrawn from the film project because he believed the property should be available on television:
I had many discussions with Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of research on the feature and came to the conclusion that the best 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 heres what Ive done. This isnt where it should be. It needs to be distributed on television.
Sandman as a TV program was shopped around to several television stations, including HBO, but Netflix was the one who made the big play, having just lost its connection with Marvel. According to sources, DC Entertainment made the most expensive TV series ever.
Gaiman is publicly optimistic about the project, thirty years after the Starz adaptation of American Gods. He said he would be more involved with The Sandman than with the Amazon Prime Videos Good Omens series (which he adapted all of).
Gaiman seems hopeful that this will be the first Sandman television (or film) adaptation to see the light of day. In a press roundtable, Gaiman cites Gaiman's assertion:
People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, but it's not a $100 million R-rated film, and that's not a possibility. And the fact that we have five issues of Sandman plus, basically, 13 full books worth of material, is a really good thing. 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.