This weekend brought some unfortunate news: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has been championing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, announced that he’s leaving the project. In a Facebook post, he explained how it boiled down to that old Hollywood code word, “creative differences”: In this case, the rights to the Vertigo comic book series shifted from Warner Bros to New Line Cinema, and the new people in charge didn’t share Gordon-Levitt’s vision for what Morpheus would look like on the big screen.
You can read JGL’s full statement:
So, as you might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, a while back, David Goyer and I made a producing deal with Warner Brothers to develop a movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN. Neil himself came on as an executive producer, we hired the excellent screenwriter, Jack Thorne, and we started in on the ambitious task of adapting one of the most beloved and boundary-pushing titles in the world of comics. I was pleased with the progress we were making, even though we still had quite a ways to go.
Recently, as you also might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, the sorta “ownership” (for lack of a better term) of the Sandman material changed hands when Warner Brothers shifted the entire catalogue of Vertigo comics (an imprint of DC) to their subsidiary, New Line. And a few months ago, I came to realize that the folks at New Line and I just don’t see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special, and what a film adaptation could/should be. So unfortunately, I decided to remove myself from the project. I wish nothing but the best for the team moving forward.
I’d like to thank all the great people I’ve had the opportunity to work with on this one. I’ve had a blast with and learned a ton from David and Jack. Niija Kuykendall, Greg Silverman, and everyone at Warner Brothers have been fantastic, as have Geoff Johns and everyone at DC. And it’s been a particular privilege as well as a rocking good time getting to know Mr. Gaiman, whose generous insights and masterful work have certainly convinced me that the Lord of Dreams and the Prince of Stories are one and the same Endless pattern.
As The Mary Sue points out, Gordon-Levitt made his announcement just one day after it was announced that New Line had hired screenwriter Eric Heisserer (who penned the remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing). However, Heisserer clarified on Twitter that JGL and New Line parted ways months before he signed on as screenwriter. (It would appear that screenwriter Jack Thorne, who collaborated with J.K. Rowling on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and who was mentioned in JGL’s note, is also no longer attached to the project.)
Gaiman also tweeted out his support, leading to a sweet back-and-forth:
And, for the record, my respect for @hitRECordJoe, is undiminished. Getting to know him was the best bit of the last round. He’s special.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 5, 2016
.@neilhimself Deepest thanks, kind sir. I sincerely hope we find another way to collaborate sooner than later..
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) March 5, 2016
The Hollywood Reporter has mentioned that New Line hopes the Sandman movies will be a trilogy; no release date has yet been announced.