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David S. Goyer, Neil Gaiman and… Joseph Gordon-Levitt are Working on a Sandman Movie

Hat tip to Comics Alliance, who win the prize for most appropriate top image.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt announced last night that he is honored to be working with Warner Bros., David Goyer, and Neil Gaiman to bring The Sandman to life as film. There’s a lot to unpack here, so lets get started.

One of the first indications of this project’s existence we may have had was from Diane Nelson herself, shortly before San Diego Comic Con this year, when she mentioned that The Sandman was a top priority to get a movie adaptation. This was in the same interview where she called Wonder Woman “tricky,” which, at the time, I had a lot to say about and still do, so I’ll just link instead of repeating myself. JGL hashtagged his announcing tweet #Prelude, a reference, as Gordon-Levitt appears to have acknowledged, to Preludes and Nocturnes, the title of the first story arc of The Sandman. Despite, or perhaps because of, Badass Digest rumors from “trusted sources” that Gordon-Levitt is in talks to star as the mercurial Dream Lord, JGL issued a second tweet to say that right now he was signed on as a producer, and “the rest remains to be seen.” Neil Gaiman, creator of The Sandman, has not so far commented on the project, but he has retweeted Gordon-Levitt’s tweets, forming an acknowledgement.

It’s a very exciting announcement, all in all. Neil Gaiman is very open about how he’s reached a point of stable revenue in his career that he can afford to have high standards for adaptations of his work, and refuse to allow adaptations to be made if they don’t measure up. Specifically, he’s mentioned turning down studios who wanted to option his Anansi Boys, but only if they could make the majority Black cast majority White. I have my misgivings about the suitability of The Sandman for adaptation into the feature film format. I think the series’ ability, due to the serial nature of comics publishing, to switch from extended story arc to seeming non-sequitur issue to extended flash back and to flit from historical era to historical era at will will be difficult to capture in a fan-pleasing way without a team that was really committed to the source material. But with Gaiman on board, and possibly (presumably?) working on a script, it seams that team has been found.

Edit: Gaiman has since commented on the movie in a way that erodes some of the foundational assumptions I made in the preceding paragraph.

I don’t get to allow or not allow Sandman adaptations. When I was 26, and I signed the Sandman contract, it was as work for hire. DC Comics (now DC Entertainment, part of Warner Bros) own all of Sandman, including movie and TV rights, and always has done.

Like you, I’ve seen the tweet from Joseph that says he’s a producer on a SANDMAN movie. He’s a fine actor and a smart director, and a really nice man. Like you, I’m interested in seeing what happens next.

Still, Gordon-Levitt’s tweet says he’ll be working with Gaiman, and the more he is eventually involved, the happier I’ll be about it.

All in all, I only have one reservation about this project. And that’s the ongoing rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star as Dream of the Endless. Lets address two points here.

1. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I love what he’s doing with his overall personal presence in the media, etc., I love that when asked about working with Scarlett Johansson he crafts an answer on the spot that is all about her talent and never mentions her physical appearance. I love watching him in movies, from 10 Things I Hate About You to Inception to The Dark Knight Returns. He’s a “well I guess I should go see that now” actor for me, and, I stress, this is only partly because I can get lost looking at his stupid impossibly handsome and goofy face for minutes at a time.

2. I could take or leave Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t hate the guy, Smaug was great, I feel like he was coerced into playing Khan under false (or at least lie-of-omission) pretenses, but I’m getting a little tired of Sherlock.

I don’t want to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Dream. I want to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Dream.

I’m not saying that Dream is the same character as Sherlock. I’m just saying that he’s inhuman, superior, inscrutable, eloquent, quick to anger, utterly convinced of his own rightness, and has a notable mind-game-playing sibling, an otherworldly voice, and his only friend real friend is a quintessentially British man.

There are lots, and lots of roles in The Sandman that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could sink his teeth into: Cain, Orpheus, the Corinthian (although lets face it that role belongs to Gary Oldman) Cluracan, Daniel, Alex Burgess, Doctor Destiny, or John Constantine. Maybe it’s just me, and of course I’ll watch it either way, but I hope he takes one of those.

(via The Beat.)

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  • María

    I just started reading Sandman comics a few months ago and I fell in love with it, with its characters and its storytelling. Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller.

    I don’t see how they could translate all of it (‘it’ meaning the ‘feeling’ that the comic books give, not the story) into a film, but if Gaiman is involved in the project, I’ll be optimistic about it, for all the reasons you say in the article.

    And, as much as I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I cannot see him as Dream. As silly as it may seem, my first thought when I read that was “he isn’t tall enough!”. But I can see Cumberbatch perfectly. He has the look, the voice, the long coat… even the cheekbones!

  • Izzy

    Well this just made my day. Now i’m trying to place Joseph Gordon-Levitt in different roles. I just hope he’s not he Corinthian, that could very possibly ruin every other movie he’s in for me (or make them more hilariously terrifying?). The real question is, who’s in the dream cast (no pun intended) for the rest of the Endless?

  • Fisty

    If Gaiman’s on board with JGL, I’m on board.

  • Anonymous

    I really want to see Death in this. It doesn’t have to be a long series of scenes, just a scene with them at the fountain and her calling him a brat.

  • Top of The Chrysler

    I’m also concerned with making Prelude a film when the rest of the series shifts in tone so much. Prelude was quintessentially a horror comic (the scenes with Doctor Destiny and the flashbacks to Granny Goodness’ orphanage still make me shudder) but the rest of the series is more ethereal and less ghastly, though still extremely dark. I love all of it, but I wonder if they’ll make Prelude less horrifying in order to have a more clear, continuous tone with the rest of the series. I worry if they make Prelude as blood-soaked as it is, then it might kill the movie franchise in its cradle.

  • Rob Payne

    Yes, my first thought was Benedict Cumberbatch for Dream/Morpheus, too. He’s kind of perfect for it, physically and talent-wise. I actually think JGL would make for a pretty good Corinthian, but Daniel would be pretty neat, too. The hardest part to cast and write will be Death. She needs to be the quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl but also totally not that. Maybe instead of Sarah Conner, this could be Brie Larson’s break-out role?

    As long Goyer isn’t writing the script, I’m on board.

  • Melissa Bramble

    Susana, I totally agree with you both in BC being cast as Morpheus and on Sherlock in general. I guess I’m just crossing my fingers, now.

  • Katy

    I like JGL as a producer with Gaiman and I hope that being a producer stops JGL from taking the role of Dream. I don’t like him as Dream, I want Lee Pace as Dream, but I could see him easily play a different role like Robin Goodfellow (I just finished Dream Country, so those characters are stuck in my head). As for the two favourites for Dream, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, I’d love to see them as other characters, in particular Lucifer or Auberon.

  • Anonymous

    If not Morpheus, then… Daniel? (Or maybe Matthew the raven. :P)

  • Mark Matson

    In some ways I think it is incorrect to believe that Gaiman’s direct involvement means the movie will be more committed to the source material. I think it means the movie will be more committed to the characters, but Gaiman, more than anyone, will feel perfectly empowered to make the plot work for the movie. I do think he’ll be careful not to contradict the comics, though, but he might go off in some different direction or story.

  • Art Wellden

    Meh…i think i can only state that i agree moderatly with other actors who have been mentioned in comments made. In this case i have not relished much in putting human faces to the Sandman cast…..Hmm ok bit of a fib I have toyed with imagining Cillian Murphy as Desire and i think at some point Willam Defoe as Corinthian…but the most thought id ever put into Dream was considering a strange Del-toro esk creation morphed Gaiman himself. :p

  • Anonymous

    The more I think about, more JGL would work as Desire

  • Anonymous

    You’re right. Preludes is fairly straightforward. Once all the standalone stories kick in, it may become difficult to incorporate them into the flow of the main story arc. I imagine it would be ok to make those as some type of tv specials or web only type things to go along with movie releases. that could be could be good promotional material. I wouldn’t mind seeing a 30 minute tv special for midsummer nights dream. working that into a films narrative would be jarring.

  • Laura Truxillo

    If I had to pick an actor that I know, then yeah, Cumberbatch seems like he’d do well with Dream. He is an eerie fellow with a resonant, sometimes ethereal voice. And I do heart JGL no small amount. (Though my pick for Constantine will always, ALWAYS be Paul Bettany.)

    “Specifically, he’s mentioned turning down studios who wanted to option his Anansi Boys, but only if they could make the majority Black cast majority White”

    That…that was a thing? That a thinking human being requested? Sometime within the past five or ten years?

    I’m wondering exactly what studio thought there wouldn’t be a hellstorm of hatred and lost profits if they took a book in which almost all of the cast are black–and where it’s no small secret–and swapped them out for white folks. Except, I’ll bet, the old ladies, because hey, what’s a seriously racist concept for a movie without throwing in some Closer To The Earth Magical Negros.

    And a movie about the sons of ANANSI at that. Just so much wow.

  • Laura Truxillo

    For some reason I’m thinking Emma Stone? I dunno, I liked her in Spider-Man. And yeah, JGL would be a really good Corinthian. He’s automatically charming and likable, so it would be a good, gut-twisting turn when he shows the monster he really is.

  • Mallory

    Yes! I was trying to think of another swarthy, tall British gentleman to play Dream – you hit the nail on the head with Lee Pace.

  • Katy

    Pace isn’t British, but he does a great accent (I think he speaks with one in The Hobbit). I just think he’s good at playing a slightly douchy, mopey, yet sympathetic characters.

  • Katy

    I like Alison Brie, Jewel Staite or (and I know this may be a bit out there) Grace Park as Death.

    Why don’t you want Goyer writing the script? Just out of curiosity.

  • Anonymous

    When I first read the headline, I thought he was signed to play Dream and the first thing I thought was “Benedict Cumberbatch would be better”.

    See? Great minds think alike!

    Lesser minds also I guess but I declare our minds great!

    P.S.: Please cast a British actor as John Constantine. Don’t do like last time, please!

  • Katy

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing if Gaiman changes the story to make it flow for a movie. If that has to be done (I still wish they’d give Sandman the GoT treatment) Gaiman is probably the best person to make the necessary changes. It might be interesting to have a movie that features a new plot, written (or developed) by Gaiman.

  • Katy

    If they can’t get a British actor, at least an actor who can do a decent British accent.

  • Rob Payne

    He’s been part of great things, usually as one of several writers, but when he’s the sole scripter or gets sole “screenplay by” credit the outcome seems to be… less than stellar. Something as meticulous and, well, poetic as Sandman doesn’t strike me as being in his particular wheelhouse, either. Here’s his IMDB:

    Short answer: The 1990s Nick Fury movie starring David Hasselhof.

  • Rob Payne

    Emma Stone was my first thought! She could probably handle the part exceptionally well. But she’s in everything, let’s give at least one of the Bries (Larson/Alison, see below) a chance.

  • Rob Payne

    That’s a good point. We may not even get a direct adaptation of any comic but a new story of the Dreaming dreamt up by Gaiman himself. That could be incredible, actually.

  • Rob Payne

    Brilliant. Even if it is the part Tilda Swinton was born to play.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah .. in the perfect world where Cumberbatch is Morpheus, Swinton is Desire, Portman is Death, Page is Delirium, Gaiman himself writes the script and … Del toro and Terry Gilliam colaborates on the direction with Gondry as executive producer

  • Katy

    Yeah, I see what you mean, but if he’s working with Gaiman and they are co-writing then there’s hope for something better. Could be worse… It could be Damon Lindelof!

  • Rob Payne

    The only one I’m not sure on is “Page is Delirium.” Jimmy Page? I’d see him as more Destruction, myself.

  • Anonymous

    Yes but there are so many great British actors out there, they don’t have any excuse, really. We didn’t know Cumberbatch at all until very recently.

  • Anonymous

    If we’re gonna weigh in on who should be Constantine, My pick has always been Ralph Fiennes. He might be older than what they look for though.

  • Skemono

    “Specifically, he’s mentioned turning down studios who wanted to option his Anansi Boys, but only if they could make the majority Black cast majority White”

    That…that was a thing? That a thinking human being requested? Sometime within the past five or ten years?

    Dunno about the “thinking” part, but yes:

    Gaiman had offers to make a film out of his 2005 best seller Anansi Boys, about the sons of an African god discovering their magical background while living in the corrupt modern world, but moviemakers wanted to change the lead black characters to white or drop the magical elements altogether.

    “I don’t need the money,” Gaiman says. “Not needing the money puts me in a magical place because I can say no. I like the idea of having good movies made or having no movies made.”

  • odango atama

    Switch Page to Death and someone else as Delirium/Delight, then that could work.

  • Katy

    Oh yeah, totally agree, but if Hollywood insists on an established American name, hire someone that can do a British accent.

  • Katy

    I was thinking that too! I still dream cast Tilda Swinton or Ben Whislaw as Desire, but JGL could totally do the role.

  • Katy

    I really don’t care for Ellen Page as either Death or Delirium. I like Alison Brie or Jewel Staite as Death and Saoirse Ronan as Delerium. I picture Ellen Page as Rose Walker.

  • Nina

    I may be alone in this, but I’d love Colin Morgan as Dream, he’s got that beautiful in one angle and weird looking in the other thing.

    But what I’d REALLY like is if Sandman was an anthology series a la the Twilight Zone.

  • locuas

    while it is true that DC are the ones that own Sandman. Here is the thing. Sandman is one of the few (FEW) comics that DC does not DARE to use witohut the creators input. the ony exception is destiny, and that’s because he is not Gaiman’s creation, and even then he is a very simple character to write for. so i have some doubts WB would do Sandman without Gaiman.

  • Rizz Rustbolt

    Micheal Wincott as Dream?

  • aradia zavion

    I’d like to see Tilda Swinton as Lucifer – her Gabriel was the only good thing in “Constantine”.

  • Katy

    Totally agree. I actually own Constantine just because Swinton was so good as Gabriel. Swinton could also play Remiel or Duma.

  • Elwyne

    I guess I’m over Cumberbatch, I would really not like to see him as Dream. Yeah, he’s three quarters there already, but I have yet to see him in something in which he wasn’t Cumberbatch first, character second. Except the Hobbit, but then only because his voice was so heavily processed.
    I would like Dream to be Dream, please, and not some actor.

  • Anonymous

    “Specifically, he’s mentioned turning down studios who wanted to option his Anansi Boys, but only if they could make the majority Black cast majority White.”

    Good call on the part of Mr. Gaiman.

    As for casting Dream eeeeh. So difficult. It would need gravitas and it would need subtlety. I do think Cumberbatch would be good.

  • Anonymous

    I think I’d settle for the slightly broader but less subtle “not Keanu Reeves”, please.

  • Channelgirl

    Jewel Stait as Death! :)

  • Channelgirl

    Longtime Hellblazer fan here… I know that the original character was modeled on 80′s Sting, complete with punk band history. I’ve ALWAYS envisioned him as played by Jude Law – can be a charming pretty blonde, and he’s aged well to play snarky and dark John.

  • Seanna Tucker

    Well, Dream is technically not his creation, either. The Sandman was actually a comic originally created in the 70s.

  • Seanna Tucker

    I’d have to agree with a couple of posts below. Benedict Cumberbatch is great and all, but I’m getting a little tired of the hype. I guess I still haven’t seen a role I’ve fell in love with him in.

    As for Death or Delirium, Summer Glau would just be so good.

    So. Good.

    Especially as Delirium. Though Death may be something interesting and different for her.

  • Anonymous

    Sandman is a dreary, passive, dated, pile of gothic drek. More money for Scientology’s coffers curtesy of Neil Gaiman.