Nobody familiar with Neil Gaiman's groundbreaking graphic novel "The Sandman" needs to be told that the fantasy series is ripe for a translation to the big screen - least of all WB and DC, who have been wanting to get an adaptation off the ground for years. But momentum finally surged when word broke that The Sandman had not only been pitched to WB by David S. Goyer, but had Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached.
Now another piece of the puzzle has been placed, with screenwriter Jack Thorne signing a deal to provide a screenplay for the fantasy/supernatural/DC Comics epic. As Joseph Gordon-Levitt has stated, it's still early days for the project, but Thorne's hiring gives a much better sense of what the studio heads are hoping for.
As proof of just how little about the film has been set in stone (at least publicly), it is still completely unclear if Gordon-Levitt is looking to star in and/or direct the comic adaptation. Known primarily for his work in front of the camera - recently stepping into WB's DC universe as one of the company's most iconic sidekicks - Gordon-Levitt proved he's looking to do much, much more after his acclaimed Don Jon - written by, directed by and starring the young actor. Now, he's taking that buzz into the task of adapting one of DC/Vertigo's most beloved properties.
He won't be alone, as Deadline has reported that the script duties for The Sandman have been handed to UK screenwriter Jack Thorne. Thorne may not have as recognizable a name or filmography as other writers being tapped to produce movie scripts for Marvel or DC, but his past projects do offer cause for optimism among fans of fantasy in general, and Gaiman in particular.
The BAFTA-Award winning writer has handled a surprising variety of subjects, including coming-of-age tales on the British series Skins, a hard-hitting teen drama dealing with sexuality, drug abuse, bullying, and death. That experience promises a solid chance of The Sandman catching the attention of the angst-ridden teen as well as Neil Gaiman's original series, but it's his creation of the BBC's The Fades that may be most telling in regards to WB/Vertigo's adaptation.
The series followed an English teen, Paul (played by Iain De Caestecker, now starring on ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as he discovered his nature as an 'Angelic,' a being able to see (and fight) otherworldly entities known as 'Fades.' Blurring the line heavily between the real world and the supernatural, the series ran for just six episodes, but earned the BAFTA Award for 2012's Best Drama.
Those familiar with "The Sandman" can see why Thorne's work may have caught the attention of both Goyer and Warner Bros., as Gaiman's series is at home in the dream world as the real one, dealing with god-like beings at every turn. Thorne's work dealing with the unsavory side of society's outcasts also bodes well for the darker, no-punches-pulled style Gaiman has become known for.
As we mentioned earlier, the fantasy/genre nature of The Fades was new territory for the writer on the rise, but in an interview with SFX back in 2011, Thorne explained what helped him overcome his fears of disappointing the most rabid fans around - and, in the process, revealing who he turned to for inspiration:
"I was always slightly scared of it. I think you need a big idea. I was slightly scared of doing it because I didn’t want to let myself down, and be hated. It really mattered to me what you guys said, the sites that I check every day, it really mattered to me, and if I’d been the show that had been the show that was just slightly embarrassing I’d have been really upset. With sci-fi or fantasy, to get it wrong you just end up looking like a dickhead and I was very anxious for that not to happen.
"I’m more of a fantasy novel than a comic book person, so it was more Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman, those sorts of people. I read Alan Moore, but I haven’t read every edition of Spider-Man, so it’s much more those slightly Pagan worlds that Gaiman and Cooper inhabit that are more my kind of thing."
Experience with 'Pagan worlds' isn't exactly a credit many writers being courted can boast, but Thorne is one of them - and The Sandman requires it. The question remains whether Gordon-Levitt has what it takes to bring the vision of Gaiman and Thorne to life in a fitting way, since the implied scope and style is something new to the filmmaker. But with David S. Goyer merely pitching the film, and leaving writing duties to someone a bit unexpected, The Sandman is proving more and more to be a project worth watching.
What do you think of Thorne's prior work, and selection to adapt Neil Gaiman's seminal graphic novel? Is the news encouraging, or do your doubts about the ability to adapt the series persist? Share your thoughts in the comments.
We’ll keep you posted as news on any adaptation of The Sandman arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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