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Neil Gaiman Fended Off Bad Sandman Adaptations by Force

The Sandman author was not above leaking subpar scripts to make sure his work got the best treatment possible.

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Neil Gaiman in front of the Sandman logo.
Photo: Jeff Spicer / Stringer (Getty Images)

As The Sandman enjoys an astounding success on Netflix, Neil Gaiman has done an exceptionally in-depth interview with Rolling Stone, where he describes the arduous and sometimes underhanded methods it took to get the adaption made to his specifications. “I spent 30-something years battling bad versions of Sandman,” he said.

Gaiman describes an incident in 1996 when Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary was slated to direct an adaption. Avary apparently wanted to pursue a mixed-animation and live-action production, where the Dreaming would be stop-motion animated, taking inspiration from Jan Švankmajer’s Alice. “So he put on a screening of Švankmajer’s Alice for the Warner Movies top brass. And by the time he left the screening, he was fired from the project and his parking space name had been painted over. They were like, ‘This is madness. Get rid of him. This is not mainstream’.” I think this might be considered an accidental sabotage.

By far the most incredible sabotage that Gaiman was witness to, he was the architect of. Legendary film executive Jon Peters produced an “infamous” script that Gaiman was given access to in the late ‘90s that featured Dream, Lucifer, and the Corinthian as triplets attempting to find Dream’s tools before the turn of the millennium. Gaiman stated that he read “as much of the script as I could take.” When the producers asked if he had a chance to review the script he was, by his own admission, not as nice as he would like to be when giving feedback. Gaiman told him, “There was nothing in there I loved. There was nothing in there I liked. It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody. It’s not just the worst Sandman script. That was the worst script I’ve ever been sent.”

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In an attempt to prevent Peters’s script from being made, Gaiman turned to one of the most infamous, and popular, genre blogs of the time—Ain’t It Cool News. “I thought, I wonder what Ain’t It Cool News will think of the script that they’re going to receive anonymously. And they wrote a fabulous article about how it was the worst script they’d ever been sent. And suddenly the prospect of that film happening went away. And instead Jon Peters turned his attention to Wild Wild West.” Bullet, dodged.

Read the full interview with Gaiman over at Rolling Stone; The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix.

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