‘The Sandman’ Episode 6 Brought Neil Gaiman to Tears
We love this man so much
Neil Gaiman, international treasure and author of The Sandman, Coraline, and a million other books, is currently touring the U.S. to answer fans’ questions and read various works that he’s written throughout his career. On Monday, May 23, he stopped in Los Angeles to speak at the Theater at Ace Hotel, where I was in attendance. Here are a few highlights!
“Would you rather be with David Tennant or Michael Sheen on a deserted island?”
The fan questions, which were pre-prepared on cards for Gaiman to read, were by far the most fun aspect of the talk. One fan asked who he would rather have as a companion on a deserted island: David Tennant or Michael Sheen? This question was, of course, a reference to Tennant and Sheen’s work as the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale on Amazon’s adaptation of Good Omens, which is currently gearing up for Season 2.
Gaiman said it was hard to choose, because when it comes to Tennant and Sheen, “you never know which one you’re going to get.” Sheen, he explained, approaches acting in a very thoughtful, methodical way. If Aziraphale picks up a glass of water, Sheen needs to know all the minutiae behind his motivation for picking up the glass. Is he picking it up to divert the other character’s attention, or is he reminiscing about all the glasses he’s ever picked up in his life? Tennant, meanwhile, will just strut in, deliver his performance, and be done with it.
The tables apparently turn, though, when the actors need to go to automated dialogue replacement (ADR), during which they re-record their lines, sometimes months after actually shooting a scene. At that point, Tennant apparently goes through agony as he tries to capture exactly what he did during the shoot, while Sheen tosses off his lines like it’s nothing. “And each one thinks the other is the real actor,” Gaiman said.
A sweet Terry Pratchett story
Gaiman also told a story about working with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, which they co-authored. Towards the end of his life, Pratchett lived with Alzheimer’s, and one day, he called Gaiman to help jog his memory about a radio interview they’d given together in New York City. Gaiman said he felt a swelling of tenderness at the thought of serving as Pratchett’s memory, and solemnly agreed to do whatever he could to help. Then he listened, on the phone, as Pratchett described the entire interview in detail. The interviewer clearly hadn’t read the book, and thought Agnes Nutter was a real historical figure who’d correctly predicted historical events. Gaiman and Pratchett took the poor guy for a ride while the technicians frantically banged on the glass, trying to get the interviewer’s attention.
At the end of the story, Gaiman said he asked Pratchett what exactly he needed help remembering. “Well, when we were walking down the street after the interview,” Terry said, “was it 30th or 31st street?”
Some thoughts on writer’s block
Gaiman also had some good advice for writers. One question asked how he deals with—or avoids—writer’s block. The first part of his advice was something that many writers have probably heard before: Stick the project in a drawer for awhile, then go back to it. He had an interesting spin on that idea, though. He said that when you go back to the project, don’t read it as a writer. Instead, read it as a reader. Pretend you’ve never seen it before and read it just the way an average reader would, for entertainment. That makes it much easier for you to pinpoint what’s not working.
He also said that some days, the words will flow very easily, and other days, it’ll feel like pulling teeth. Later on, though, when you go back and read what you wrote, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the content you wrote on the good days and bad days, because it’s all you.
Netflix’s Sandman Adaptation
One of the most exciting TV series coming up is Netflix’s adaptation of Gaiman’s classic series The Sandman, which tells the story of Dream of the Endless, one of the personifications of the natural forces that shape the universe. Details about the series have been very slowly trickling out, with no premiere date yet and the teaser trailer only recently having been released, but Gaiman gave us a little sneak peak of what to expect.
Episode 6 of the series apparently features a scene between Dream’s sister Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Hob Gadling. In the comics, Hob is a mortal who believes that people only die out of habit, and Dream decides to test his theory. Dream tells Hob that if he can truly stay alive by simply deciding not to die, then he’ll meet him again in one hundred years. Thus begins a friendship that lasts centuries.
Eventually, Death does come to Hob, and asks if he’s ready to die. This might be the scene that Gaiman referred to in his talk. He said that even though he already knew the lines in the scene because he’d written them, the scene was so well-rendered that he was moved to tears. Fans of The Sandman will be in for a real treat when the series finally premieres.
What It Means to be Warm
Finally, towards the end of the evening, Gaiman gave the audience a sobering statistic: There are currently about 100 million refugees and displaced people in the world, thanks to conflicts in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and elsewhere. He told us about his project with UNHCR, for which he asked people on Twitter what the word “warm” meant to them. He received over 1200 responses, read every single one, and turned them into a crowdsourced poem called “What You Need to be Warm.” He read the poem, and you can check out a film version on the UNHCR website.
If you want to check out the next stop on Gaiman’s tour, there are still tickets available for his talk at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, PA on Thursday, May 26.
(featured image: Netflix)
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