Joseph Gordon-Levitt Warns His SANDMAN May Not Be For ‘Literalists’

He also explains why it's gotta be a movie.

I have never understood the drive to make Neil Gaiman's Sandman into a movie. The series is basically an anthology through which the character of Morpheus is woven, sometimes as a lead, sometimes as a background player. That's part of what makes the comic what it is - it's a tapestry of tales as varied and wide as human experience itself. Condensing that stuff - or rather, trimming all of the detail and side journeys that make it special - is the only way to make Sandman into a movie. Even if that movie is intended to be a franchise. 

But for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who may be directing and starring in the film (which just hopped over from Warner Bros to sister company New Line), the movies are the only place for Morpheus. 

During a Reddit AMA he said: 

"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."

But how do you rework that material? Aggressively, seems to be the answer. 

"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."

I don't want to be a filthy literalist, but at the same time the reason I like Sandman is exactly why I'm not convinced it should be a movie. It's the interplay of the anthologized storylines, the dipping in and out of history, the dreamlike stream of consciousness way the entire arc comes together over the course of 75 issues, the way the series can go from comedy to horror to street-level human emotion to cosmic life or death stakes that make Sandman what it is. Sandman is, in a very true sense, unadaptable. Any movie version is going to be, by necessity of form, a processed version, entirely inorganic. Is that a bad thing? We won't know until the movie comes out, and at any rate I always have the books on my shelf.