While comic book movies featuring even more obscure characters are big business now (as evidenced by the success of films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad), a movie version of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman has been on the back-burner since the original DC/Vertigo comics first started being published in 1989. Unfortunately for fans, the project has infamously stalled and died many times, with studios and filmmakers often being accused of failing to understand Gaiman's seminal work or trying to transform it into a more conventional action/superhero movie.
Now, the latest screenwriter to try their hand at The Sandman has quit - and doesn't believe a movie is the way to go. The writer in question is Eric Heisserer; who started out his career by scripting the poorly-received A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot and The Thing prequel, before earning raves this year for his work on David F. Sandberg's horror short-turned movie Lights Out and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve's upcoming sci-fi drama/thriller, Arrival.
Heisserer was hired to take a shot at finding a movie within the sprawling world of Gaiman's Sandman books - a task that has "defeated" several writers before him. In an interview with i09, Heisserer revealed that he's now passed on the project - in part because he believes The Sandman should be a TV series instead of a feature-length film:
"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!"
Originally set in the shared-universe of DC's mature-audiences "Veritgo" imprint (itself nominally adjacent to the mainstream DCU) as Hellblazer and Swamp Thing, Gaiman's Sandman follows the personification of Dreams - after the supernatural being escapes from a 70 year captivity and sets about avenging himself on his captors and rebuilding his now-fallen kingdom. As the series progressed, it became a larger and more sprawling fantasy story with fewer explicit connections to DC's other comics.
Joseph Gordon Levitt became attached to direct and star in The Sandman movie adaptation for New Line Cinema in 2013, but he left the project over creative differences with the studio earlier this year. With no star, director and now no screenwriter attached, it remains unclear what the studio's next move with The Sandman property will be. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke once attempted to get a Sandman TV show off the ground (like what Heisserer recommends), but that does not guarantee that anyone else will be making a similar effort in the near future.
We'll bring you more details on The Sandman movie (or a TV show) as they become available.