With the power to essentially launch DC's Vertigo Comics line, Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman would go on to define a new age of graphic novels for an entire generation. It may come as little surprise, then, that the property has proven nearly impossible to adapt to either TV or film. But it's a feat that Warner Bros. seems more intent than ever on accomplishing.
Despite those past difficulties, the news that Sandman was moving forward at WB was bolstered by the fact that producer David S. Goyer was teaming with Joseph Gordon-Levitt to make it happen. At the time the exact involvement of the writer/director was unclear, but it seems a confirmation has finally been given by Gaiman himself: Gordon-Levitt will be seated in the director's chair, with the creator's idea casting picks implying the leading man has yet to be found.
Goyer has earned both fans and critics thanks to his script work on The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel (among others), but even pessimistic comic fans were relieved to hear that Gaiman was being brought in to discuss the project - and more recently, confirmed to be officially involved in the production (with word that the studio was "very happy" with the script from writer Jack Thorne).
In an interview with RadioTimes, Gaiman now voices his own relief to be playing a role in seeing "The Sandman" brought into a new medium. Especially given how many attempted adaptations the writer claims to have put a stop to personally:
"I really am [glad to have more input]... My position on it has always been, for over 25 years now, I would rather see no Sandman movie than a bad Sandman movie... I'm just happy that no bad Sandman movie has ever been made. But I'm really hoping that a good one will be. They're a good team. And with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in charge, his instincts are good and he loves the material. He wants it to be true to the material.
It's refreshing to hear that Gordon-Levitt's "instincts" concerning the source material have its creator's seal of approval, considering the director previously admitted just how "complicated" any adaptation would have to be. When it was assumed that Gordon-Levitt would be playing the titular character - Morpheus, the mystical weaver of dreams - his wish to turn in a worthy performance was to be expected (saying Gaiman was "the one he wanted to please most").
If that sentiment pertains to his overall vision for the film as seen from the director's chair, then it may be an even more powerful reassurance for the fans.
That being said, having faith in an enthusiastic fan's vision is one thing; approval of the actual script is something else entirely. Yet Gaiman confirms that he has played a "vital" role (in the words of Goyer) in shaping the story, with another updated version of the script ready for him to dissect shortly:
"Every now and then I'll come in, and last time I was in was earlier this year, spending a day in a hotel room with Joe, and going over everything and answering questions with him and so on and so forth. So they've written a script. I got a phone call about two, three weeks ago from Joe and David saying, 'Jack did a script, we read it, we want some things done to it. We want you to see it, but not this version. The next version will be in three weeks and then you'll be the first person to see it.' So I am now a week before seeing the script. It's going to come in just before Christmas. I'm nervous, I'm on tenterhooks. But do I have good feelings? Yeah I do."
The confirmation that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will, indeed, direct the film for Warner Bros. is far from shocking - even if few expected him to parlay the success of his directorial debut Don Jon into an attempt to tackle one of the most beloved (and difficult-to-adapt) comic books in history.
But when asked what actors Gaiman has seen as a good fit for his iconic hero, the writer seems to have confirmed that Gordon-Levitt won't be pulling double-duty - while teasing a few famous names sure to get comic book fans salivating:
"It's a funny thing with Morpheus. Again, it's that thing where you look around and think, 'Yes this person would be a fantastic person', and then time passes... There was a time Johnny Depp would've been a great Morpheus, but now he's too old and it's fine. I think the first time I saw Benedict [Cumberbatch] was as Sherlock Holmes, I thought, 'wow, that's incredibly Morpheus'. And fans probably thought the same because they immediately started doing fan-art, meshing the two of them up."
"Then again, Tom Hiddleston is still out there! And the truth is, as far as I'm concerned, anybody who sounds English with great cheekbones can probably pull it off."
We doubt that the eventual casting of Morpheus/Sandman/Dream will be accepted warmly by all fans when it happens, but the creator admitting that the star is merely one part of the film's success will hopefully preempt some heated debates. Names like Hiddleston and Cumberbatch may be a case of Gaiman aiming high, but with the character's reputation established around the world (and particularly in the UK), landing a top-tier actor isn't out of the question.
What do you Sandman fans think of Gaiman's comments? Does his approval mean you're on board without a second thought, or do concerns persist? Which actors do you think have the skills (and cheekbones) to do the title character justice in Vertigo's movie universe? Sound off in the comments.
We’ll keep you posted as news on any adaptation of The Sandman arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.