Novelist and comic book writer Neil Gaiman is currently seeing a number of his creations get the adaptation treatment. Fox is debuting a supernatural procedural starring Gaiman’s version of Lucifer, Bryan Fuller is turning American Gods into a TV show, and actor-turned-producer Joseph Gordon-Levitt is making a Sandman movie for Warner Bros.
The Sandman is one of Gaiman’s most highly-praised works – a comic book about the mythical figure called Dream (among many other names), who is the personification of dreams and resides in an otherworldly realm. Gordon-Levitt has been involved with the adaptation since late 2013 and has been doggedly carrying a torch for it over the past year, due to his love of the source material. As long as people are ready to ask him questions about it, he’s ready to talk.
Gordon-Levitt took part in another “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit this weekend, and the subject of The Sandman came up more than once. During his last AMA, Gordon-Levitt mentioned that he was working on developing the script with David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) and screenwriter Jack Thorne (A Long Way Down), and he’s also admitted that condensing such a lengthy comic book series into a two-hour movie is pretty challenging. Nonetheless, he maintains that film is the right format for it.
“I think a big screen adaptation is a better idea and here’s why. If you did the episodic version, I think it could very well end up as a not-as-good-version of what is already brilliant in the comics. But by reworking the material into a big movie, Gaiman’s brilliant characters and ideas get to take shape in a way they never have before. Also, I think Sandman deserves to look absolutely mind-blowingly awesome, just on a visual level, and as cinematic as some tv shows are becoming these days, they still can’t compete with big movies visually, just because they can’t afford to.”
When it comes to adaptation of any work – and comic books in particular – there’s often a great deal of concern from fans over whether or not the adaptation will be faithful to the original story and its characters. Purists may be wary of Gordon-Levitt stating that it’s better to reproduce Sandman with a different narrative structure to the comics, but he seems to feel that getting the spirit of the story right is more important than keeping all the same plot beats.
“There’s tons of little brilliant moments throughout the series, and we certainly can’t incorporate all of them. We are using a whole bunch of specifics straight from the comics, but of course, we’re also having to do a certain amount of invention, and in between that, there’s tons of re-appropriating, re-contextualizing, combining, consolidating, and all manner of things that literalists might not like. But what we try to be completely faithful about is the overall sentiment: that Dreams and Stories and Magic are actually all the same thing, and that they’re real, and that they’re powerful.”
Gordon-Levitt didn’t respond to the question of whether or not he’s found The Sandman to be a hard sell, which could be the case since comic book adaptations that don’t quite fit the standard superhero mold often struggle to make it into production (just ask The Crow). Warner Bros. has a full slate of comic book movies in development/production already, and The Sandman may have to fight for its place in the release schedule.
Experience could also be an issue; Gordon-Levitt might be a big name in Hollywood, but this is the first time he’s spearheaded the production of a feature film. It would definitely be interesting to see Gordon-Levitt’s take on the material, but we’ll wait until The Sandman has an official release date before getting too excited.
We’ll keep you updated on The Sandman as development continues.
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