Don't do it: Everything Neil Gaiman has said about adapting Sandman over the years

Don't do it: Everything Neil Gaiman has said about adapting Sandman over the years ...

Would Patton Oswalt be a great companion for a talking raven if you ever considered him? The Sandman, a Netflix series, is here to answer your question. Whether it is answered in the affirmative or the negative, is ultimately in the user's eyes. But Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman says in a blog that he was very conscious of his choice.

If we asked Patton Oswalt (he/him), could we find a voice actor who would make you care about a deceased person who was once a bird in the Dreaming who isnt sure what is going on or whether or not anything of this is a good idea? Gaiman wrote. The answer was, yes.

If this sounds like he's overthinking it, please know (if you haven't already) that this development will be a long time coming. Gaiman has spent about 30 years attempting to recreate his realm through The Sandman comics on the screen. That screen has always been large and silver and small and serialized.

Netflix would triumph, putting the story in a properly serialized home, as well as a hefty budget, and a cast that is equally endless as the hero. And now, along with the chapters of the original comic, we can look back at the Sandmans' attempted development and the possibilities we might have seen had Sandman been chosen sooner.

The 1990s: Working toward a Sandman movie

The first time Gaiman saw a Sandman film in 1990 was when he went to a Warner Bros. press conference and asked 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 I bless everyone.

Roger Avary, a duo who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino and directed Silent Hill and Beowulf, was chosen to direct the story in the mid-1990s; it was intended to be partially animated, but Avary later collaborated on Beowulf with Gaiman.

Sandman adaptations continued to linger around Hollywood until a few years, with scripts, and creative crew changes later. At least one script was described by Gaiman as not only the worst Sandman script Ive ever seen, but also 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 addressed 2007s Comic-Con by saying he wouldnt be compromising his vision just for the chance to see Sandman on the big screen.

I prefer to see no Sandman film made rather than a mediocre Sandman film. However, I feel like the time for a Sandman film is coming soon. We need someone who has the same interest 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 talk about Zack Snyder's current work on Watchmen, saying, "He knows what he's doing, and I hope it's good." However, Gaiman would be quoted as saying that Terry Gilliam would be his ideal choice for adapting Good Omens. At the time, Gaiman was busy trying to get $70 million to do so.

Gaiman replied when one fan at Comic-Con said he would do the film himself, saying, "It's what I mean." Eventually, we'll put a group of you in a room with knives, and who emerges alive will be the winner and will direct the Sandman film.

From Kripke and Mangold to Goyer and Netflix, here are 10 years from now.

Warner Bros. and its deep pockets never gave up on a superhero film in 2010 that never came to fruition (and Gaiman wasnt happy with it). Logan director James Mangold pitched a film idea to HBO, but it never came to fruition.

In a 2013 Hollywood Reporter interview, Sandman continued to get shouted out by executives or at least one executive. When asked what DC titles she wants to see on screen, then-DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson said, Sandman is right on top. It might 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. 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) were hired to direct the screenplay.

This version went quite far: Once again, there was a script going around. Gaiman was in the room when they worked on the script. In December 2014, Goyer told Deadline that Warners are very pleased with the draft and are moving forward, knock on wood. Goyer anticipated the script to be distributed to actors in 2015.

Vertigo's ownership was transferred from Warner Bros. to New Line (a subsidiary, not a separate entity) at some point in time. In March 2016, Gordon-Levitt wrote on his Facebook page that he and I just did not see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special and what a film adaptation might/should be.

Reminder for the curious: I don't own SANDMAN, but @DCComics does. I don't choose who writes the scripts, the producer, or the cast.

Goyer and Gaiman remained active on the project until they were fired. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow, and Bone) said he resigned from the film project because he believed the property should be shown on television:

The feature film I wrote a lot of letters to Neil [Gaiman] about this, and I concluded 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 here's what I've done. This isnt where it should be. It needs to be shown on television. So I talked myself out of a job!

Sandman as a TV program was sold to several television stations, including HBO, but Netflix was the one who made the big move, having just lost a contract with Marvel. The streaming company signed what Hollywood Reporter described as a massive deal to buy Sandman, with sources at the time saying it was the most costly TV series DC Entertainment ever produced.

Gaiman is openly optimistic about the project, though he is less 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 seems optimistic that this will be the first Sandman TV (or film) adaptation to see the light of day. In a press roundtable, Gaiman said: "We have to give up on anything."

People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go. But this is not a $100 million R-rated film, so it would not be possible. And the fact that we have five issues of Sandman plus, basically, 13 full volumes of material, is a good thing. It's not a drawback. We're living in a world in which things can now exist in comic book art.