Earlier this month we received the long-awaited confirmation that Warner Bros. has several DC movies either in development or planned. Solo vehicles for such Justice League members as Aquaman and Wonder Woman look to be on the docket, but before any of those happen it seems we'll get a Sandman movie. The project acquired a screenwriter in Jack Thorne (Skins, A Long Way Down) back in February 2014. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is overseeing the Neil Gaiman comic adaptation, recently said that the script is not done yet, but indicated that progress is very much being made.
Gaiman's The Sandman, for those who're not familiar, is an award-winning, genre-blending, DC/Vertigo comic book property about Morpheus, also known as Dream - one of the seven Endless, who are anthropomorphic personifications of such concepts as Death, Desire, and Destiny, who (in essence) keep watch over the world. There've been multiple failed attempts to turn the Sandman property into either a TV series or a movie in the past, but there's fair reason to believe the story will change with this latest effort.
Indeed, the pedigree of the creative talent involved this time is quite impressive; that includes Gaiman, who has been consulting with Levitt on his Sandman adaptation, and writer/director David S Goyer (who crafted the Sandman movie story pitch that attracted Levitt to the project). Levitt has been out promoting Sin City: A Dame to Kill For of late, and during his related interview with Moviefone he offered a Sandman update - praising his collaborators, while also acknowledging that this adaptation is very much a tricky one, at the same time.
Right now we're working on a script. It's me and Goyer and the screenwriter and Neil Gaiman, as well as the good folks at DC and Warner Bros. It's a really cool team of people. It's a lot of the same people who worked on the Nolan "Batman" movies. It's really exciting. There's not a script yet, we're still kind of working it out because it's such a complicated adaptation because "Sandman" wasn't written as novels. "Sin City" was written as a novel. "Sandman" is 75 episodic issues. There's a reason people have been trying and failing to adapt "Sandman" for the past 20 years.
The Sandman source material is not just plentiful, as Levitt points out; it's also a collage of genre influences (featuring multiple flavors of fantasy, horror, comedy, and drama). That's to mention nothing of its numerous references to famous literature and other forms of popular culture, as well as the heady themes it wrestles with over the course of its 75 issues. Admittedly, Levitt's Sandman movie isn't quite as bankable on paper as, say, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, but it does carry a higher level of prestige. Which is to say, if it's done right, The Sandman could be the superhero genre's equivalent of an arthouse film.
Early word is that Levitt plans to direct Sandman, in addition to playing Morpheus in the film. The actor made his feature directorial debut last year with the critically-acclaimed indie relationship dramedy Don Jon; Levitt's also continued to work on his own variety series, HitRecord on TV, this past year. Sandman, of course, would not just be a step-up in terms of the project's scale and budget, but also the amount of effects work required to realize its fantastical settings and scenarios.
As such, when Moviefone asked Levitt if he'd picked up any filmmaking tips from Sin City helmers Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez about tackling a comic book movie like Sandman, he replied:
Very much so. And the green screen methodology of "Sin City" -- I wanted to see how Rodriguez handled that. Because on my show we do a lot of stuff on green screen and if you watch the show with "Sin City" in mind, you'll see a commonality here in the approach to the filmmaking. How we do it is we film the actors against a green screen and then put that footage up on the site and so animators and illustrators can contribute their graphics and it all gets stitched together to create the world around the actors. There's a short in the first episode that's mostly black-and-white with splashes of color and we only did that a few months after I finished on "Sin City."
Of course, Levitt has worked on other genre tentpoles before, under the direction of Christopher Nolan; while that's not the same as directing, he's surely picked up a thing or two over the years that would assist him with putting together a well-made Sandman film adaptation. Levitt also seems fairly confident that the project will move beyond early development this time, having told Moviefone that "We're still in the middle of it, so I don't want to make any claims, but I think we've got the right ideas."
So, when might Sandman reach theaters? The original rumored DC movie schedule pegged the project for a Christmas 2016 release, but the official DC film slate includes a November 17th, 2017 date that seems right for Sandman - based on where Levitt has indicated it's at in development, anyway. Moreover, November is a month that's been accommodating in the past to both "event films" (see: installments in the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and James Bond franchises, and so on) and movies that are more awards-season friendly; Sandman, as mentioned before, could fall partly into both categories.
That said, it's probably wise to not expect WB to officially confirm a release date for Sandman in the immediate future, given that it could be three years away. Additional official DC movie announcements are supposed to be made before the month is done, but it seems more likely those will concern films like the potential Summer 2016 release Shazam and/or the potential Summer 2017 arrival Justice League - as opposed to, Levitt's movie. But, as always, best to wait and see.
We'll continue to keep you up to speed on development of The Sandman.