Actor/filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt has clearly been bitten by the comic book movie bug. He played the Christopher Nolan version of Robin in The Dark Knight Rises and will star in next year’s Frank Miller comic adaptation Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Most recently, the former Third Rock from the Sun child star has been linked to a film version of Vertigo’s The Sandman comic book/graphic novel series from Warner Bros. and DC (note: Vertigo is an imprint of DC).

Previously, rumor had it that David S. Goyer – the newly-appointed (unofficial) architect of the budding DC Cinematic Universe – pitched a version of a Sandman movie that impressed WB studio heads, in addition to having caught Levitt’s eye (as a potential starring vehicle for him).

Now Deadline is reporting that Levitt is finalizing a deal to produce the Sandman comic adaptation, with the intention of not only starring as the King of Dreams – but, possibly, directing the film to boot. Levitt, for those who’ve forgotten (and/or didn’t hear), made the jump to filmmaker this year, when his wrote, directed and starred in the independent production Don Jon, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, before getting picked up and released in theaters this past fall.

The Sandman was authored by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline) and introduced readers to Morpheus, a.k.a. Dream: the personification of all dreams and stories, who spends 70 years trapped in magical confinement after a group of occultists capture him, having mistaken him for his sister, Death.

After he breaks free of his enchanted prison, Dream finds himself a stranger making his way through the unholy land that is the modern-day world – with his onetime gorgeously dark and ethereal kingdom having fallen into disrepair and chaos in his absence – forcing Morpheus to either change his ways and atone for his mistakes in the past… or die, as only he and his kin (The Endless) can.

There have been a handful of attempts to adapt Gaiman’s Sandman literature – arguably, his comic magnum opus – to the small screen, but those previous efforts have always resulted in failure. More recently, DC President Diane Nelson dropped hints about a Sandman movie being on the way, even before rumors of Levitt’s involvement began to appear.

While Don Jon is a very different sort of genre movie than a Sandman adaptation, the film – love it, hate it or something in between (read our review) – has established Levitt as not only a director with a voice that is already pretty clear (though, obviously still developing), but also as a storyteller with ambition and purpose.

Frankly, that’s exactly the sort of talent you could want to tackle Gaiman’s comic source material: a filmmaker willing to make a comic book movie as daring, high-minded and poetic as the literature that inspired it (i.e. a provocative smorgasbord that blends elements of Kirbian fantasy, surreal horror, dark comedy, subversive mythology and poignant human drama).

The search is currently on to find a writer to script the Sandman adaptation, presumably based on Goyer’s pitch. There’s no word yet on the production timeline for the project, but with reports circulating that WB/DC will significantly increase their output during the upcoming years – with more niche and cult comic properties (like Sandman) being adapted to film at a greater frequency – we could see Levitt’s Gaiman movie take big steps forward in the (Days? Months?) ahead.

Are you intrigued by the idea of The Sandman as a movie, starring and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

Source: Deadline