Neil Gaiman did not Warner Bros. making a big screen adaptation of The Sandman in 1990. The author has changed his tune in the 30 years since the studio approached him about a movie. Gaiman is preparing a live-action series based on his iconic graphic novel series for Netflix and he's very excited about it. In addition to the live-action series, the author is launching an audiobook adaptation of the first three graphic novels and intends to do the whole entire series at some point.
Big screen adaptations of popular novels hardly ever meet the mark. The big problem is always the runtime as a director tries to cram 500 pages into just under three hours. So, one can't blame Neil Gaiman for turning Warner Bros. down in 1990, though he would have made a boatload of money had he given the greenlight. He had this to say about his thought process at the time.
"I think a lot of the problems with adapting The Sandman were that it was somewhat ahead of its time in terms of what it would have demanded from the world. I remember having my first meeting about a Sandman movie in, I think, 1990, and going in for a meeting at Warner's, and they said, 'Well, what do you think about a The Sandman movie?' And I said, 'Please don't do it.' And I remember the Warner's exec, Lisa Henson, looking at me very puzzled and saying, 'Nobody's ever come into my office and asked me not to make a movie before.' And I said, 'Well, I am. Please don't. I'm working on the comic, and a movie would just be a distraction and a confusion. Just let me do my thing.' And bless everybody, they kind of let me get on with it."
Warner Bros. obviously did not go ahead with the The Sandman movie in 1990, which is probably for the best. Fans of the source material have asked about various adaptations over the years and some have nearly come into fruition, though creative differences usually turned up. Now, 30 years later, Neil Gaiman is ready for a Netflix series because all of the stories are all mapped out and ready to go. He explains.
"People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, 'But it's an R-rated movie, and we can't have $100 million R-rated movie.' So, that wouldn't happen. You needed to get to a world in which long form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And the fact that we have certainly five issues of Sandman plus, essentially, 13 full books worth of material, is a really good thing. It's not a drawback. It's on our side. And the fact that we're in a world in which we can take things that only existed in comic book art, and that can now exist in reality."
Game of Thrones was one of the first screen adaptations to satisfy fans for the first handful of seasons. However, they ran out of source material from George R.R. Martin in later seasons, leaving showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff to fill in the blanks with some very brief notes from the author. Luckily, The Sandman won't run into that problem since Neil Gaiman has so much material out there.
With that being said, the The Sandman Netflix series will be a bit different from the source material, which is by design. Neil Gaiman says, "'Okay, it is 2020, let's say that I was doing Sandman starting in 2020, what would we do? How would we change things? What gender would this character be? Who would this person be? What would be happening?'" There will be some big changes, but Gaiman is behind them. Gaiman's comments come to us from ComicBook.