|Developed by||Allan Heinberg|
|Country of origin||United States|
The Sandman is an upcoming American drama streaming television series based on the 1989–1996 comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. The series was developed by Allan Heinberg for the streaming service Netflix—with Heinberg, Gaiman, and David S. Goyer serving as executive producers—and is being produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. Like the comic, The Sandman tells the story of Dream, the titular Sandman. It stars Tom Sturridge as Dream, with Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar in supporting roles.
Efforts to adapt The Sandman to film began in 1991 and floundered in development hell for many years. In 2013, Goyer pitched a film adaptation of the series to Warner Bros. Goyer and Gaiman were set to produce alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was planned to star and possibly direct. However, Gordon-Levitt exited over creative differences in 2016. Due to the prolonged development of the film, Warner Bros. shifted its focus to television. Netflix signed a deal to produce the series in June 2019, and filming lasted from October 2020 to August 2021.
In 1916, Dream, the king of stories and one of the seven Endless, is captured in an occult ritual. After being held captive for 105 years, in 2021 he escapes and sets out to restore order to his kingdom of the Dreaming.
Attempts to adapt The Sandman, an American comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics from 1989 to 1996, had languished in development hell since the 1990s. Inquisitr wrote that "Sandman's nature as a comic has been a very unique and life-changing experience for many and that made it very difficult and challenging to translate into the small and big screens."
Gaiman was first asked about a film adaptation by DC's corporate sibling Warner Bros. in 1991, an offer to which he was apprehensive. Development on a film adaptation began in 1996, with Roger Avary attached to direct and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio writing the script. Elliot and Rossio's script merged the first two Sandman storylines, "Preludes & Nocturnes" and "The Doll's House", into a single story. While Gaiman enjoyed the script, Avery and producer Jon Peters could not agree, so Avery was fired. A 1998 Sandman script, written by William Farmer, was referred to by Gaiman as "not only the worst Sandman script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read." Farmer's script featured radical differences from the source material, such as casting Dream as a villain and making him Lucifer Morningstar's brother.
After reading Farmer's script, Gaiman became doubtful that The Sandman would be adapted to film. In 2007, he remarked that he would "rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie", but added that he "[felt] like the time for a Sandman movie is coming soon. We need someone who has the same obsession with the source material as Peter Jackson had with Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi had with Spider-Man." He said that he could see Terry Gilliam directing the adaptation: "I would always give anything to Terry Gilliam, forever, so if Terry Gilliam ever wants to do Sandman then as far as I'm concerned Terry Gilliam should do Sandman." In 2013, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson said that a Sandman film was a project she considered a priority, considering the prospect as rich as the Harry Potter universe.
David S. Goyer, who had helped with DC's Batman film franchise, pitched a Sandman adaptation to Warner Bros. in 2013, and by February 2014 was set to produce the film alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gaiman, with Jack Thorne writing. Warner Bros. planned for Gordon-Levitt to star and possibly direct. The film was set to be produced by New Line Cinema as part of a slate of films based on properties published under DC's Vertigo imprint, separate from the DC Extended Universe.[a] Eric Heisserer was hired to rewrite the film's script in March 2016; immediately afterwards, Gordon-Levitt departed due to disagreements with Warner Bros. over the creative direction of the film. The following November, Heisserer turned in his draft but departed, stating that the project should be an HBO series instead of a film: "I … 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."
Due to the prolonged development period of the film, in 2010 DC Entertainment shifted focus onto developing a television adaptation. Film director James Mangold pitched a series concept to HBO while consulting with Gaiman on an unofficial basis, but this proved unsuccessful. It was reported in September 2010 that Warner Bros. Television was licensing the rights to produce a TV series, and that Supernatural creator Eric Kripke was their preferred candidate to adapt the saga. Gaiman later revealed that he disapproved of Kripke's take, and development on the television adaptation halted because Goyer's film was progressing smoothly.
In June 2019, Netflix signed a deal with Warner Bros. to produce the series and gave it an order of eleven episodes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. pitched the series to multiple networks—including HBO, which declined to move ahead with it due to its massive budget. Netflix "snapped it up" as part of its attempts to obtain big intellectual properties and attract subscribers. The series was developed by Allan Heinberg, who will executive produce alongside Gaiman and Goyer. Gaiman said he would be more involved than he was with the 2017–2021 television adaptation of his American Gods (2001), but less than he was with the 2019 adaptation of Good Omens (1990).
According to Gaiman, the plan is to faithfully adapt the series, beginning with the first season adapting "Preludes & Nocturnes" and "The Doll's House". However, the series features changes intended to update the story for modern times. For example, it begins in 2021 rather than 1989, with Dream now having been imprisoned for 105 years instead of 75 years. Other characters were similarly updated, as "... if we were creating this character now, what gender would the character be? ... who would they be? What would they be doing?".
Patton Oswalt, a longtime Sandman fan, was the first actor who was cast in the series; he was cast as the voice of Matthew the Raven the day before The Sandman was pitched to Netflix. In September 2020, Tom Sturridge entered negotiations to portray Dream, after screen testing alongside Tom York and Colin Morgan, while Liam Hemsworth and Dacre Montgomery were under consideration for the role of the Corinthian. Casting news was kept tightly under wraps and was not publicly released when the first season began filming. According to Boyd Holbrook, the casting process was long, recalling that he auditioned around January 2020 but did not receive any further information until September. In January 2021, Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar were announced to be starring in the series.
In May 2021, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Jenna Coleman, Niamh Walsh, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Kyo Ra, Stephen Fry, Razane Jammal, Sandra James Young, and Oswalt were added to the cast. The second casting announcement was met with backlash from a section of the Sandman fanbase, with some criticizing the casting of black actors, like Howell-Baptiste as Death, as characters traditionally depicted as white in the comics. Mehrul Bari of The Daily Star felt that while the backlash against the casting announcement was clearly "rooted in flagrant phobias", some of the casting choices seemed like "stunt casting" that continued tokenism in Netflix productions and comic book adaptations. For example, Bari noted that aside from Death, the rest of the Endless, including Dream, were still played by white actors. Gaiman dismissed the backlash and suggested that fans critical of casting the non-binary actor Park as Desire had not actually read the Sandman comics (in which Desire is androgynous).
The series was originally to begin filming towards the end of May 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, Gaiman revealed on his Twitter that filming was expected to begin in October "lockdown permitting". Filming commenced on October 15, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming for the first season was limited to the United Kingdom. Holbrook began shooting his scenes in December 2020. Production for the first season is expected to last until June 2021. In August 2021, Gaiman revealed on his Tumblr account that the first season had wrapped filming.
On June 8, 2021, Netflix released a behind-the-scenes video on YouTube. On September 25, 2021, Netflix released a First Look teaser of the series on YouTube.