A dream conversation with Neil Gaiman

A dream conversation with Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman on the set of “The Sandman”

For many dreamers, Neil Gaiman is The Sandman. First, in that he is synonymous with the DC Comics character he co-created with Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg in 1989’s “The Sandman” #1, Morpheus of the Endless, ruler of The Dreaming, Prince of Stories, Shaper of Forms and writer of every “Sandman” story, all 75 issues of the original run until it ended in 1996, 1999 novella “The Sandman: Dream Hunters” and 2015 prequel “The Sandman: Overture.”

Second, look at him. For the longest time, there was speculation Morpheus was fashioned after Gaiman himself, with his shock of black hair, his storyteller’s voice (perfect for series letterer Todd Klein’s reversed word balloons) and penchant for wearing black. That, however, is, amazingly coincidental, as the original Morpheus was actually based on a young David Bowie. Gaiman just happened to look like his most famous creation all these years.

Speaking about most famous creation, Gaiman had done quite a bit away from The Dreaming. He cowrote “Good Omens” with the late Terry Prachett and wrote his own bestselling novels (“Stardust,” “American Gods”), a prince of stories. But like Morpheus changes shape depending on who’s looking at him, Gaiman has also become a master of adaptation, yes, a shaper of forms. He wrote and produced the “Good Omens” mini-series, saw “American Gods” also become a mini-series for Starz, saw “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” become a stage hit on the West End and even picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Coraline.”••But perhaps his most impressive achievement is finally bringing The Dreaming to the waking world. After so many attempts and rumors, Gaiman and Netflix announced in 2019 that “The Sandman” would be coming to the streaming giant, premiering on Aug. 5, 2022, with Gaiman as executive producer. Like Dream shaping dreams and nightmares from the sand in his realm, Gaiman had his hand on everything in the production, from the casting to the writing. Watch episode six, “The Sound of Her Wings,” widely considered the best in the series and try not to get emotional. One can see his touch in how, after the series’ 10 episodes covered most of the first two story arcs (“Preludes and Nocturnes” and “The Doll’s House”), Gaiman, without official warning, surreptitiously dropped a two-part 11th episode weeks later, one which drew from the next story arc, “Dream Country,” and including the much-anticipated episode “A Dream of a Thousand Cats,” that boasted an all-star voice cast.

Now, “The Sandman” is Netflix’s top streaming series in 89 series, but the streaming service has yet to commit to a second season and so the show, like The Corinthian, needs to collect as many eyeballs as it can so we can get a second season, and a third, and so on. After all, one can always dream.
Super spoke to Gaiman over Zoom. Here are excerpts:

You’ve waited 30 years to bring the Sandman to the screen. What was it that made you feel that now was the time?

You know what’s interesting is I spent most of that 30 years stopping bad versions of “Sandman” from reaching the screen. I think we got very, very lucky in that. I had made “Good Omens” for Amazon and I wrote it and I show-ran it. And all of a sudden, the fact that I’d been responsible for a $70 million production that had been incredibly popular meant that everybody took me seriously in a very different way. It meant that they I was no longer the writer of the original comics to be kept as far as possible. From this, I was now somebody who could be a benefit, somebody who can actually make it better. So that was the biggest thing, that we had to sell the idea that this would be a version of Sandman that none of the others had, because none of them have been. Allan Heinberg and David Goyer and I pitched that with Warner Brothers TV to a lot of streamers and Netflix were the ones who said we want to do it. We really want to do this. We love “Sandman.” And they came and they got it. And it’s been such a delight. And I don’t think there’s another point over the last 30 years that we could have done it no point in the last 30 years where somebody would have said it’s going to take a lot of money to make “Sandman.” We want to give you the money to make it and we want to give you the money to make a secret 11th episode that nobody knows is there that you can drop as a present for fans as a special gift after two weeks. You know, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen. But it did happen this time. We’re so thrilled.

What was the most difficult part during the series for you?

Casting Tom Sturridge, finding Sandman, which was incredibly easy, because Tom was the fourth person or the third person I think that we saw in audition, and was like, here you go, it’s Tom Sturridge. And then, that was really difficult because we then had to convince Netflix that we really had found the person that we wanted three people in. And in order to convince them I think we saw another 1,500 auditions and they you know, and eventually after 1,500 auditions Netflix were like, “No, you’re right, this guy there isn’t anybody who is as good as he is. There isn’t anybody who seems to understand that like he does.”

Tom Sturridge as Dream–IMAGES FROM NETFLIX

What was the best part of doing the series?

I was going to say the best part was actually being there in the cellar, looking at the naked Tom Sturridge being kept prisoner. But actually, the best part for me of making the whole thing was watching episode six and starting to cry at the old man being taken away and going, “This is crazy. I’m crying at lines I wrote 30 years ago, and crying at a story I wrote.” And yet, I’m watching this old Jewish man meeting Death, and it’s beautiful and it’s making me cry. And that sudden feeling like I had gone from being the creator to being in the audience was incredibly moving.

Hypothetically, if it were up to you, what would Season 2 include?

Hypothetically, if it were up to me Season 2 would begin with Morpheus at a family dinner and then we’d send him back to Hell. And we just get bigger and stranger from that.

The Sandman” is number one in 89 countries. Do you have a message for fans of the show?

I think the big message I have is, first of all, thank you. Thank you so much for watching. Thank you so much for putting us to number one, and, second of all, now it is your job as somebody who has seen “Sandman” to make everybody you know what “Sandman” is, explain to them why you love “Sandman” and explain to them why they should love “Sandman.” Sit them down, play them “Sandman.” And if necessary, make them watch the whole of “Sandman” and just to prove you wrong. But I think, that’s really the thing, is just tell people honestly because we need all of the eyes on “Sandman” that we can get around the world. We’ve been number one for two weeks. And that’s wonderful, but making something like “Sandman” is incredibly expensive. And we need to convince Netflix that they really want to make more.

“The Sandman” is streaming on Netflix.

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