Oct 1 2013 10:00am

Casting the Endless From Sandman

Death and Dream, Sandman

The Endless, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, are not people. They are—as Destruction says—patterns, ideas, repeating motifs. It’s one thing to learn their stories, but something quite different to imagine who could embody them.

But we thought we’d take a crack at casting them anyway! And we’ve got some picks that will either enthrall or enrage you, so you should probably join us.


Lee Pace, Dream

Emily’s Pick: Lee Pace

So many people are screaming Cumberbatch or Hiddleston at the screen right now, but I’ll be frank—while they are both incredible actors, I am beyond tired of seeing their names in crop up any time the word “casting” is even spoken. I will only invoke them for characters I honestly feel they were born to play, and this isn’t one of them. Lee Pace would be glorious, however. He has the bearing, the look, and more importantly, he has just the right brooding quality about him. It’s Thranduil with a different haircut. Pace is more than capable of conveying a coldness tempered by deep cosmic understanding. There’s an ageless quality to him that can only work in any production’s favor. We know he can be cruel, but still heart-rending. (You’ve seen The Fall, right? Go see The Fall.) The point is, this is super obvious. Lee Pace. Always Lee Pace.

Leah’s Pick: Adrien Body/Cillian Murphy/Ben Whishaw

One of the best decisions Vertigo made when they planning Sandman was the use of an artistic revolving door. Nothing captured the un-pin-down-ableness of Morpheus like his constantly shifting appearance. So in thinking about casting, I took inspiration from I’m Not There and chose several actors.

First, Adrien Brody, for the tortured wounded moping lover that Dream aspires to be. Cillian Murphy, because I think he could easily express the otherworldliness of Morpheus, and I’m also pretty sure he can tap into the fact that Morpheus is often a total asshole. And Ben Whishaw for Dream at work, creating stories and shaping imagination.



Death, Anna Kendrick

Emily’s Pick: Anna Kendrick

I have to admit, this was a really hard one. There is no list of Obvious Goth-y Actresses to pull from, so our best bet is someone on the quirky side, good with humor. Someone who has a youthful vibe (but doesn’t have to look like a teenager), who is sunny in that non-intrusive sort of way that puts everyone in a good mood. Anna Kendrick is funny, odd, and a very real-seeming person. The exact sort of qualities you need for a character as frank as Death. You know she’d tell Morpheus what was what, even while playing the part of supportive sister. No idea what she’d look like with the black hair, but it’s not exactly meant to look natural, so that’s part of the fun.

Leah’s Pick: Jodelle Ferland.

She’s too young. I know, I know, she’s too young. But we need someone who can be gothy, serious, frightening, and fun, often in the same paragraph, and if Ferland could pull off an update of her work in Tideland she’d be more than up to the role. The pitfall with Death is that people see her only as perky, but she has such a deep store of wisdom and sadness that any actor looking at the role will have to be able to imply her age, and the way that she tries to float along and find happiness through her work, rather than in spite of it, and I think Ferland would be able to pull it off.



Destiny, Vin Diesel

Emily’s Pick: Vin Diesel

Controversial selection! Yes, Diesel might seem a little left-field, but he’s got a knack for strong silent types. In fact, they are basically his modus operandi. It could be fun to watch him play that type, but not as the central hero. It would also be awesome to see what kind of pizazz he might bring to an ensemble cast. Plus, he’s got perfect vocal resonance for someone so burdened. Don’t say no until you really think about it.

Leah’s Pick: Christoph Waltz

I hate to waste Waltz by hiding him under Destiny’s hood, but we need someone who can have the full weight of Time Itself in every word he says. Plus, Destiny could so easily be boring, but Waltz could inject enough personality to make him a character.



Desire, Tilda Swinton

Emily’s Pick: Tilda Swinton

We don’t even really need to talk about this one, right? Right? She’s a gorgeous woman who also recreates David Bowie photoshoots. There’s a reason for that. Swinton has the androgyny going for her, but more than that, she’s proved over and over again that there is no role she can’t rip the jugular from. She was fearsome as the White Witch of Narnia. Her turn as the angel Gabriel in Constantine was literally the only redeeming aspect of that entire film. Just give her the part and walk away. She is everything we need.

Leah’s Pick: Tilda.

Let's just stop kidding ourselves that there's anyone else.



Despair, Kathy Bates

Emily’s Pick: Kathy Bates

Let’s not beat around the bush—Despair is one heavy-duty role, even if it’s not the most lengthy in the Sandman arc. You need someone who knows what they’re doing, who has enough experience to make the most of that part. Cathy Bates is often handed roles of brash, lively women (like her Unsinkable Molly Brown in Titanic), which is one of the prime reasons why giving her a role like Despair would be so intriguing—you have to do so much without words. It would probably be a fun change-up for her, and a completely unexpected turn to the audience.

Leah’s Pick: Catherine Tate

Despair’s a tough one. Anyone who plays her will have to be in some pretty serious makeup, and will have to do some of the most difficult acting of the entire cast through that makeup. After seeing her extraordinary work in series four of Doctor Who, I’m pretty sure Tate can express empathy so strongly it could be felt through a concrete wall if necessary. Her humanity is exactly what we'd need to temper what can otherwise be a horrifically bleak character.



Destruction, Chris Hemsworth

Emily’s Pick: Chris Hemsworth

This is one of those auto-casting things that your brain does; if someone asks me to imagine Destruction in my head, I automatically think he looks like Chris Hemsworth. Because… you know… genial and big (and sometimes bearded) and naturally destructive and trying so hard to do good things. It just sounds a lot like Thor, and this works for me. I’m sorry I’m not more analytical in this case, but if it’s not broke, I have no intention of fixing it.

Leah’s Pick: Russell Tovey

Destruction might be my favorite character in all of Sandman. His cheerful determination to go against his nature is the most compelling thematic arc in the series. And the longer I meditated on the Platonic ideal of cheerful determination, the more Russell Tovey became fixed in my mind.  Granted, I don’t think Tovey has the physical presence that Destruction will need…but this is an imaginary cast post! I can do what I want! 



Delirium, Rachel Hurd-Wood

Emily’s Pick: Rachel Hurd-Wood

She played Wendy Darling in 2003’s Peter Pan, okay? It’s all wisdom wrapped up in innocence with that character too, so this could really work out. She’s already got that red hair, too! Also, that remake of Dorian Gray was out-and-out horrific, but her portrayal of Sibyl Vane was solid. Rumor has it that she might be up for a role in Star Wars: Episode VII, which I kind of hope is true. There’s a wide-eyed authenticity to her that could play so well for Delirium, and it would really test her acting chops.

Leah’s Pick: Tatiana Maslany

As with Dream, it is vital to Delirium that her image change from moment to moment, and Maslany’s work in Orphan Black has shown her chameleonic abilities. The fun thing with Del is to veer between the sad, sweet, former Delight, and the unhinged chaotic force that she’s become by Brief Lives. Maslany will be able to bring both the whimsicality and the occasional terror that made Delirium such a complicated character.

That’s what we’ve got! Now it’s your turn….

Susan Davis
1. sue
But isn't Death supposed to be Tori Amos?
Cate C.
2. Cate C.
It's unfortunate that this will never be made manifest, as Neil himself has said.

However, I totally approve of Tilda Swinton as Desire, Christopher Waltz as Destiny, Chris Hemsworth as Destruction and Rachel Hurd-Wood as Delerium.

Regarding Catherine Tate as Despair. . .all I can say is, what? Catherine Tate is far too lovely and warm to play Despair. Not that she couldn't do it, but at first blush, I just don't see it.

Don't love the options for Dream or Death. Can't see them. All I can say is that it's too bad David Bowie is too old, because when the books came out, he'd have been the world's best Dream. Can't think of a perfect Death, either, though Ellen Page would probably do a good job. Or Noomi Rapace.
Cate C.
3. Shan
Yes Swinton's fantastic, but I think you're both missing the point of Desire a little bit.

They change what they look like based on what you're into. Hell they do it far more than Morpheus ever does.

Why not instead of casting one actor/actress as Desire, have multiple heart-throbs doing cameos and trying to outsexy each other. With a little special effects magic you could make each of these actors blend into the next one.

And hey, in this scenario you could have Tilda there as one of them. If you can have your cake and eat it, why not.
Cate C.
4. Notava
This has been my favorite game for awhile, in my head - glad to finally play out loud:

Dream - I like Hiddleston, so nyeah! But I really like Gaspard Ulliel, and I like the idea of having someone who isn't as familiar to American audiences. Kit Harrington has the look, and can do the angst, but the aura of Jon Snow make me sometimes wanna punch him in his pretty pretty face. So pretty.

Death - I have always thought and will always think Kate Hudson would be perfect, though I can see that she has aged a bit out of the role. I have recently become enamored with Lizzie Brochere from American Horror Story 2, and I think she could pull it off.

Destiny - has always been a tough one for me. I think it's all about the presence that one can command on a screen - I'd go Hugo Weaving, perhaps.

Desire - Swinton. I mean... Swinton... I mean.. damnit, hands stop typing Swinton. Runner up: Cillian Murphy

Destruction - Hemsworth, just cause I like to seem him half nekkid. If Charlie Hunnam was like.. ten years older... throw him in his anarchy outfit, and he'd be golden.

Despair - I do like bates on this one, but I'm digging the suggestion of Tate - caught me by surprise, but I totally see it.

Delirium - I always thought a fallen childhood star would be great in this role, someone like one of the Olsens, but I don't think they could escape their stigma. Maybe Elizabeth Olsen, she was great as being off kilter in Marcy May... Taissa Farmiga is also incredibly talented, as is Rachel Hurd-Wood.
Michael Grosberg
5. Michael_GR
I'd have tatiana Maslaney as death -call me shallow but it's jus tthe way she looks in a leather coat / tank top combo and dark hair. For delirium I'd like to see Ellen Page.
Kent Aron Vabø
6. sotgnomen
I would like to throw in Evanna Lynch for Death.
Leah Schnelbach
7. Cloudyvision
Oh, I forgot to mention that unless Martin Freeman gets to be Hob I'm taking my toys and going home.
Cate C.
8. olethros
No. No filming Sandman, ever.
Noneo Yourbusiness
9. Longtimefan
Terry Gilliam as the director. That way it will never be completed but there will be stunning still images and lots of lost footage.

Making it always a dream.
Cate C.
10. bottlehed
Neil Gaiman himself should be Dream.
Cate C.
11. Emerald
I like the idea of Swinton as Desire, but she already played Gabriel in Constantine, which is the same universe, so idk. But again, I like it.

I had always pictured Cillian Murphey as Lucifer. He's got that whole kind of androgynous/I'm better than you thing going on. Perfect.

I've never come up with anyone that I liked for Death.

Dream.....I'm not normally on the Cumberpatch/Hiddleston bandwagon, but I think Cumberpatch could pull it off. Although I have to say, Adrian Brody isn't a bad choice. Dream is a little broody/petulant, and I think either Brody of Cumberpatch could do that well.
Bruce Arthurs
12. bruce-arthurs
Just keep things simple: Tatiana Maslany can play all of them.
14. chaosprime
@sue #1: Delirium is the one who was modeled on Tori Amos.

I kind of like Jessica Alba for Death.
Chris Long
16. radynski
I'm suddenly filled with a strong desire to see Sandman turned into a TV series. God I would love that.
Cate C.
17. bmac
Before I read the caption, I thought the bearded chap in the second Destiny picture was Paul Krugman.

I would pay large amount of money to see that.
Tucker McKinnon
18. jazzfish
I'm pretty sure the only way to make this work is to travel back in time and abduct David Bowie to play Dream and a young BRIAN BLESSED for Destruction.
Cate C.
19. Rebecca Bushong-Taylor
The Sandman is much too sprawling to ever be a film. It was created in the best medium for it, and I hope it stays there. I would, however, be interested in seeing someone do, oh maybe a series based on the Endless, with each episode/story introduced by the Sibling at the heart of the tale (if you see what I mean). It's not really about the casting. It's all about the stories, imho.
Cate C.
20. sofrina
dream: louis garrel or matt smith

death: juno temple, krysten ritter, parker posey, claudia black, emmy rossum, christina ricci, mila kunis, winona ryder, eva green, marion cotillard, nora zehetner (heroes)

desire: tilda swinton and cate blanchett, even milla jovovich are so obvious. it'd be nice to see someone you'd never think of for this, like rooney mara, rosamund pike, chloe sevigny, rose leslie (ygritte), mia wasikowska, jessica chastain, rosario dawson, rebecca romijn

despair: rebel wilson, lena dunham

destruction: mads mikkelsen.

destiny: david wenham, maybe

delirium: summer glau, michelle williams, hudson leick
Cate C.
22. Antony G.
Rooney Mara as Death
Cate C.
23. Mara M
Noomi Rapace as Death, 100%. She can do can do the goth look (Millenium Trilogy films), she has gravitas, she's adorable when she smiles--just, yes.
Cate C.
24. Megs
Destiny: Idris Elba
Death: Rinko Kikuchi
Dream: Jonny Lee Miller/Cumberbatch/Pace
Destruction: Chris Hemsworth
Desire: Tilda Swinton/Amanda Palmer
Despair: Kathy Bates
Delirium: Evanna Lynch

I've always liked the idea of doing Sandman as a prestigue TV show - each graphic novel is a season, it takes as long as it takes, lots of one-shot episodes. And Martin Freeman as Hob would be fantastic. I know I put Cumberbatch as Dream (that's a hell of a one to cast), but he'd be an even better Lucifer, I think.
Cate C.
25. Matthew M
How about Matt Smith as dream?
Cate C.
26. Rainphase
Noel Fielding for Desire
Cate C.
27. Tiffany A
Summer Glau was born to play Delerium.
Amy Acker (Much Ado About Nothing) might be able to pull off death.
Cate C.
28. Juanma Ruiz
Ok, he is all over the place now, but Dream should be Cumberbatch. Not only for his physical appearance and his acting skills, but also for THAT VOICE.

Evanna Lynch would make for a perfect Delirium.
Cate C.
29. Sweetums
am I the only one who thinks AFP should be Death?
Cate C.
30. padmini
You guys only chose white people ; ;
Cate C.
31. sofrina
not the the commenters. and i think a multi-ethnic, multi-national cast would be perfect.
Sky Thibedeau
32. SkylarkThibedeau
For a genre site that is usually oozing with Political Correctness( a way for people who profess the belief there is no right or wrong to have a right and wrong) I'm suprised that all the choices appear to be of European or partial European descent.
Cate C.
33. a1ay
They change what they look like based on what you're into. Hell they do it far more than Morpheus ever does. Why not instead of casting one actor/actress as Desire, have multiple heart-throbs doing cameos and trying to outsexy each other.

That screaming noise you can hear is the budget being RENT ASUNDER.

Before I read the caption, I thought the bearded chap in the second Destiny picture was Paul Krugman. I would pay large amount of money to see that.

He's a fan, but I think the role he's holding out for is Hari Seldon.
Cate C.
34. Jeff R.
I'll throw out Margo Martindale for Despair.

And Andre Braugher for Destruction. (The absence of time machines to make casting a younger Brian Blessed pretty much means matching the comic appearance properly is right out, and Braugher has the right emotional sweet spot for the role.)
Cate C.
35. Michaeldg
I think Dakota Fanning as Delirium
Cate C.
36. Kristi14
Fairuza Balk as Despair. Anna Friel as Death. Tilda Swinton for desire.
Cate C.
37. Kristi14
Paul Bettany for Dream.
Cate C.
38. old fan
Destruction: Ty Olson. Anyone that has seen him play Benny on Supernatural knows why. :p
Cate C.
39. cheem
Actually, John Rhys-Davies (aka Paladin from Wing Commander aka Gimli) would do a good job as Destruction.

Maybe she's a bit old for it, but I'd take Amy Acker as Delirium... watching her act as Root on Person of Interest makes me think that there aren't many people who could play a force of nature like she can.
Cate C.
40. Swan
I realize she's not an actor, but someone suggested (I can't remember where) that Rachel Maddow was a perfect Desire.
Michael Ashleigh Finn
41. mickeyfinn
Lee Pace is inspired casting. Utterly fantastic.

Tilda...of course! She's very picky about what roles she accepts, but I suspect she might like this one.

Tat Maslany....while Orphan Black eventually got interesting, her performance, from con to soccer mom to techie to insane blonde yaya was absolutely stunning. A thousand times yes.

As for Tori Amos, I'd be surprised if she wasn't involved somehow, either cameo or music. This is from one of the most talented and insightful actors turned director and producer working today....I can't see him not wanting Amos involved, if she'll do it. And there's no personality conflicts.

Hit Record, Joe.
Cate C.
42. ttotherish
Emma Watson would be perfect for Death's role.
Cate C.
43. haloofflaminglead
Ok, so Joseph Gordon Levitt is supposedly cast as Morpheus. I don't see it. Maybe with a ton of CGI... also it is supposedly based on preludes & nocturns which has John Constantine in it. Which begs the question; will they repeat the very questionable casting of Keanu Reeves or go with someone who looks and sounds like Constantine?
Cate C.
44. dupisha
Death is young, late teens, early twenties, and has a flattish chest, so no large bossomed actresses could rightly play her. A made-up Keira Knightly or a complete unknown.
Cate C.
45. Janani
Emily's choices for Desire and Despair are perfect. But the rest I would have to disagree. In my head, Morpheus can be no one other than Tom Hiddleston. And Micheal Fassbender would've made the perfect Lucifer. Ah what a wonderful 'To hell and back' movie that would've made. I'd go for Mia Wasikowska or Juno Temple as Delirium. And Death, well that'll have to be Marion Cotillard.
(Albeit there is little point really since the makers have ruined it for me by casting Joseph Gordon Levitt as Sandman.)
Cate C.
46. Janani
Oh and my choice for Destiny would be Liam Neeson. And destruction, Tom Hardy.
Cate C.
47. caity
Desire- Kate Moennig
Dream-Tom Hiddleston(after seeing him in Only Lovers Left Alive...yep)
Destiny-Ian Holm
Death-Christina Ricci or Fairuza Balk
Destruction-Chris Hemsworth
Despair-Jennifer Coolidge
Delirium-Saoirse Ronan
Cate C.
48. caity
I actually really like Rinko Kikuchi for Death also.
Cate C.
49. Johanna d. Robles
Love Tilda Swinton as Desire!!! she's perfect! also, I like the idea of Chris Hemsworth as destruction and Kathy Bates as Despair (I've seen her in AHS and I found the connection), Rachel Hurd-Wood as delirium, sounds interesting, as for dream, I would choose Neil Gaiman himself (hahahaha), maybe not, but I rather prefer Adrien Brody and destiny could be anyone tall enough, as for Death, umm not liking those choices, I'd rather prefer Noomi Rapace
Cate C.
50. Amber Rosier
Dream-Johnny Depp, Death-Fairuza Balk, Delirium-Lily Cole, Desire-Tilda Swinton, Despair-Kathy Bates, Destruction-Gary Busey

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