The bestselling author also talks to Maxim about Morpheus, Howard The Duck, and why the Norse gods are fucked.
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We’ve reached the 25th anniversary of Sandman, and you’re celebrating with both a new ongoing series, Sandman: Overture and the Sandman Omnibus Silver Edition. With all this happening, do you think we might finally see the long-talked of Sandman movie, and do you think it’s possible for such a huge story to translate?
For years and years, it wasn’t. What tended to happen a lot in the '90s was the point where Warner Bros would get relatively close to making a Sandman movie, and then somebody would get realistic about the fact the film would not be PG-13, that it would be incredibly big and expensive, and that meant that the sequence of films you would need would never get made. I think things like the Dark Knight films changed that – just how dark, and how big you could get.
Is a Sandman movie still interesting to you?
In 1991, I went for a meeting with the then-president of Warner Brothers pictures, and she said, “So, a Sandman movie!” And I said, “Please don’t do it.” She said, “What?” She said that no one had ever asked her not to make a movie – that killed that for a few years. Then in 1996, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote a script which Roger Avery had signed up to direct, and that started going south about the point that Roger showed Jan Švankmajer’s Alice to the higher ups at Warners and explained that the stuff in The Dreaming would feel a bit like that - he was asked to pack his desk and leave! Then John Peters was working on the script – versions of that script got bad enough that I more or less had to throw myself under a bus to kill it. It was terrible. His first line was, “As if your puny weapons could harm me, the mighty lord of dreams, The Sandman!” And then he attempts to throw a punch and fly, and falls down. It just got worse from there - I’m glad that never got made. Now, I don’t think we’re in that world. The era of Howard The Duck is a long way behind us…we hope. So, A), I think a Sandman movie inevitable, and B) I hope it happens when the time is right. A Sandman movie is going to be too expensive to make a lousy movie.
How about a TV show?
That would be cool, too. I would absolutely watch the HBO Sandman. On the other hand, I would happily watch either Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch as the dream lord in the movie. Or somebody else, who’s yet to graduate from RADA…
It seems weird to even hear you visualize an actor in the role.
I was just thinking of English guys with great cheekbones. There was definitely a point when Roger Avery was planning that it was going to be Johnny Depp – circa 1996 he would’ve been an amazing Morpheus.
Benedict Cumberbatch does seem physically perfect for it, and he has the gravitas.
Yeah – you want somebody regal, with amazing cheekbones. The truth is, there are lots of actors out there. If I were casting, I would probably cast a relatively unknown Morpheus and cast around them, much in the way they did with the Thor movie.
Is there a director out there that you think could handle the material?
I don’t know…one rule of directors, especially with young directors, is that you cannot tell what they’re going to do by what they just did. There are a lot of directors out there who keep surprising us – Christopher Nolan was one of them. Based on Pan’s Labyrinth, I think Guillermo [Del Toro] can do anything. I would love to see a Guillermo Sandman. There is part of me that thinks we should find the 40 directors that want to do it the most, then lock them in a room with weapons, and the one who’s still standing at the end gets to make Sandman.
You write about belief so much in your work – what’s your take on faith and the concept of gods?
I think belief is something where it’s like American Gods - when your last believer dies, you lack importance as a god. Your importance as a god is measured by how many people believe in you and act on believing in you. Right now, Allah is doing great. Buddha’s solid; the Hindu gods are doing well on the Indian subcontinent (not so well in the rest of the world); and honestly, the Norse gods are fucked. Marvel’s doing what they can, but nobody’s worshipping them.
From the audible gasp in the audience every time Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off in the Thor movies, it’s fair to say that a few women still worship Thor.
I love the idea that that alone would bring back the Norse gods.
We can reverse Ragnarok through the power of desire!
The glorious thing about Sandman is it was always set in a universe where absolutely everything is true. Anything you choose to believe in, any story, is true. I remember in Season Of Mists, it was like a game of Jenga, where you keep putting another piece on, expecting it to collapse – okay, I’ve got fairies. Let’s put another piece on. Chaos and order! Yep, still standing. Greek gods! Angels! It’s going to collapse when I add angels…no, still standing!
It’s fascinating to see that world working, with nothing contradicting anything else.
You’re in a world in which the heights and depths all come out of the human mind and the human soul, the human spirit and the human heart. It’s our dreams that are important. I always liked the idea of a world where it’s probably better and more interesting to be a human than to be a god. That, for me, is something I would still believe.