SANDMAN screenwriter exits film, thinks it should rather be a TV series

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I’m of the opinion that I have a fairly erudite vocabulary, but no matter how many fanciful words you know, sometime simplest is just best. Case in point, this latest development on the feature film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, for which no better response exists other than “Duh!”.

Just about anybody who’s ever read Gaiman’s dark fantasy comic book masterpiece knows that is a sprawling mythological tale, involving a host characters, the structure and scope of which is utterly epic. It told the tale of Dream aka Morpheus aka the actual Sandman, who along with his siblings made up The Endless, a group of immortal beings who are the living personifications of different aspects of the universe, e.g. Death, Desire, Destiny, etc. Across 75 issues, Gaiman had Dream go on an epic journey across time and space as he explored themes of mortality, love, and fate, all wrapped up in a very meta examination of narrative itself. In other other words, not the type of story that can easily get condensed down to your average two-hour movie.

But that’s exactly what New Line have been attempting to do for a number of years now. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was once attached to direct, produce and possibly star in the production, but he abandoned it last year leaving screenwriter Eric Heisserer to soldier on. Heisserer though was just the latest in a line of screenwriters who had attempted to corral this story over the production’s long development cycle. And now he’s also left.

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Speaking to i09, Heisserer (who also penned the incredible sci-fi tale Arrival, which hits theatres this weekend) revealed that the reason for his departure was because he pretty much agreed with what just about all fans have been saying for ages now.

I had many conversations with Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of work 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. The structure of the feature film really doesn’t mesh with this. So I went back and said here’s the work that I’ve done. This isn’t where it should be. It needs to go to TV. So I talked myself out of a job!

I say again: Duh!

Seeing the type of high profile, big budget storytelling we’re getting from primetime TV shows lately – HBO’s Game of Thrones being the obvious poster child here – it makes perfect sense that if any adaptation of Sandman was attempted, that would be the platform to do it on. According to Heisserer, Gordon-Levitt had shared this opinion, and that’s why he had “quietly left” the production earlier.

At this point, I think New Line should just call it quits; the Universe clearly doesn’t want them to tell this story in this format. Another of Gaiman’s fantasy tales, American Gods, is about to get the high profile TV adaptation treatment, and if that becomes the huge hit it looks like it could be, then maybe the studio will finally rethink their approach to this whole fiasco.

Last Updated: November 9, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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