Magic & Good Madness: A Neil Gaiman Reread

Casting the Endless From 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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….


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