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David S. Goyer on fighting for Sandman to be a 'strange and funky and weird' series at Netflix
For David S. Goyer, Sandman was always going to work best as an ambitious, expansive streaming series... even if it took Warner Bros. a little while to see it.
Goyer, who co-developed the much-anticipated Netflix series and co-wrote the pilot alongside Sandman creator Neil Gaiman and fellow executive producer Allan Heinberg, has been in the comic book adaptation game for quite a long time. From the Blade trilogy to the Dark Knight trilogy to Man of Steel and Krypton, Goyer's got a long history of building worlds onscreen based on worlds created in the pages of DC and Marvel Comics.
That means it's not really surprising that Warner Bros. came to Goyer to get his approach on a Sandman adaptation, particularly after years of attempts to get the project off the ground hadn't come to fruition. What is perhaps a little surprising, though, is that it finally worked out this time. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter covering his entire career, Goyer explained that he "talked himself out of" previous versions of the Sandman story, namely because no matter how long he worked on a feature film adaptation, it just didn't seem to click. In fact, it seemed to click less and less with each passing revision, in part because Goyer seemed to know from the start that Gaiman's Vertigo Comics dark fantasy epic would work best in a longer format.
"I was trying to get Warner Bros. to do a streaming serialized show and they wanted to do it as a feature instead," Goyer said. "So Neil and I worked on a feature, and through the various iterations, it just kept subtly getting more and more deformed, and shifting more and more away from the true north. Finally, we just said, 'Guys, please let’s stop, please kill it, let’s do it as a streaming show.' Eventually, they did."
Two years ago, Goyer and Gaiman got their wish when Netflix announced that it would be home to a series adaptation of the comic. Though no trailers have been released yet, anticipation is high for Sandman's first live-action incarnation, which will star Tom Sturridge as the title character, Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Dream's sister Death, and many more.
Anticipation is high for Goyer as well, in no small part because he feels that he and Gaiman were finally able to capture the complexity of Sandman in all its nonlinear, strange glory via the Netflix series.
"Part of it was that we had to wait for streaming as a medium to catch up to Sandman. What’s amazing about Sandman is that it doesn’t fit in any one box. It’s not easily categorized. [The graphic novel’s protagonist Morpheus/Dream] won’t be in stretches of issues. It bops all around. It’s horror. It’s scary. It’s fanciful. It was ahead of its time in terms of gender issues," Goyer said. "All the previous attempts — and I know this personally because of my relationship with Neil — were trying to sort of hammer it into kind of a nice, easily digestible category.
"Also, one thing no one else ever attempted to do with Sandman was something that I insisted with Warner Bros.: that Neil become a producer and write the pilot with me. It seems obvious, but Neil was never a producer on any of the other Sandman [efforts]. It was critical because it’s so personal. We wanted to keep it strange and, God bless Netflix, it’s strange and funky and weird. If you like the comics, I think it’s a fairly accurate depiction."
The Sandman is coming soon to Netflix.