The dream of seeing Neil Gaiman’s Sandman on the big screen remains just that—a dream, and one that’s having a load of trouble getting realized. Eric Heisserer, the latest screenwriter hired to adapt the celebrated comic book series, has departed the project.

News broke back in March that Eric Heisserer, writer of the Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing remakes as well as the critically-lauded upcoming scifi film Arrival, had joined New Line Cinema’s in-development Sandman feature. Now Heisserer tells io9 that he’s quit the production, because he feels any Sandman adaptation belongs on TV:

I had many conversations with Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of work on the feature and came to the conclusion that the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy. The structure of the feature film really doesn’t mesh with this. So I went back and said here’s the work that I’ve done. This isn’t where it should be. It needs to go to TV. So I talked myself out of a job!

Heisserer also clarified how the timing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s departure from Sandman—the Inception actor had been on board to direct and star — related to his brief tenure as the feature’s screenwriter. Gordon-Levitt’s Facebook post about parting ways with Sandman came just a day after the news that Heisserer had come aboard. But the Arrival writer told us that Gordon-Levitt “quietly left” about “seven months before I came on… So it looked like I was responsible for that leave when in fact I had nothing to do with that.”

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However, Heisserer notes that he and Gordon-Levitt eventually came to similar conclusions about a Sandman feature; in his candid Facebook post, Gordon-Levitt had said,“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.”

New Line had no comment when io9 reached out to a representative for the studio.

New Line’s project is the most recent in a long line of attempts to translate to the screen Gaiman’s magnum opus about Morpheus, a.k.a. Dream, and his siblings, a group of powerful beings called The Endless. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke was attached to a Warner Bros. Television adaptation in 2010, and there were attempts to adapt the comic to film in the 1990s. Heisserer had taken the reins on the Sandman movie script after British screenwriter Jack Thorne had been attached to adapt the Gaiman title in 2014.

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Meanwhile, at least the TV adaptation of Gaiman’s American Gods is moving full speed ahead, for its premiere on Starz next year. Perhaps Sandman can follow in its footsteps?


L.A.-based journalist Emily Rome has written for Entertainment Weekly, HitFix, The Hollywood Reporter, MentalFloss.com, and the Los Angeles Times.