Joseph Gordon-Levitt Developing 'Sandman' As Spectacular Action Without Cliches

Anyone who has ever read Sandman, the comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by a variety of artists from '89 to '96 knows that a movie adaptation is tricky business. Gaiman wove together myth and legend, horror and family drama, and a a superb cast of characters to tell stories that were powerful on an individual level, and pleasantly overwhelming when read in toto.

How does anyone make a movie out of that story of the Endless, six (ok, seven) personifications of aspects of living experience, without selling them short, or gutting the core of the story like a root-canal-crazy dentist? Good questions! Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is producing and potentially appearing in the film, is one of the people trying to figure out the answers. He was recently pressed for a Sandman movie update, and at least one comment is good: Morpheus, the title character and personification of Dream, isn't going to punch anyone.

Gordon-Levitt was pressed by MTV to talk about his approach to Sandman while appearing at the Guy's Choice Awards. (Yeah, that's a thing.) He said,

Big spectacular action movies are generally about crime fighters fighting crime and blowing shit up. This has nothing to do with that. And it was actually one of the things that Neil Gaiman said to me, he said, 'Don't have any punching.' Because he never does. If you read the comics, Morpheus doesn't punch anybody. That's not what he does. It's going to be like a grand spectacular action film, but that relies on none of those same old ordinary clichés. So that's why it's taking a lot of time to write, but it's going to be really good.

Bold emphasis there is mine, because that's precisely what I would hope someone making a Sandman movie might say. The story does, after all, travel into dreams and Hell, through planes of existence and forgotten corners of history. It should be grand and spectacular, just not like Guardians of the Galaxy is grand and spectacular.

The development is going slow because, no surprise, it's a difficult nut to crack.

It's a really complicated adaptation because those comics, they're brilliant, but they're not written as a whole. It's not like Watchmen, which is a graphic novel that has a beginning, middle, and end. Sandman was written over the course of whatever, I forget exactly, six or seven years. One at a time. One little 20-page issue at a time. And to try to take that and make it into something that's a feature film — a movie that has a beginning, middle, and end — is complicated.

There's no release date for Sandman yet, which is probably a good thing. That means Warner Bros. might not be rushing it to meet a date.