‘Arrival’ Writer Drops Out of ‘Sandman’; Says Adaptation Should Be on TV

     November 4, 2016


This is starting to become just a bit aggravating. After already losing screenwriter Jack Thorne and actor-director Joseph Gordon-Levitt over what seemed to be creative differences, the big-screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s exalted graphic novel series Sandman has now lost its second screenwriter, Eric Heisserer. The Arrival screenwriter made the announcement during an interview with io9 about the upcoming, highly touted sci-fi thriller about decoding alien linguistics. Here’s what he had to say about his departure and the future of the project:

“I had many conversations with [Sandman creator] Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of work on the feature and 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. So I went back and said here’s the work that I’ve done. This isn’t where it should be. It needs to go to TV. So I talked myself out of a job!”


Image via Vertigo

This is one of those rare situations where an adaptation would, indeed, be ten times better off on the small screen. And yes, I get it, money money money, but anyone who has read these graphic novels knows the sheer historical density of what Gaiman created in those pages. There’s an argument to be heard that an intuitive screenwriter could find a way to make a singular, unique movie out of Sandman by picking a specific section of the story to adapt, but let’s be serious. It’s not like any studio who put money behind this project would ever be satisfied with one good or even great movie. The size of the story could be wrangled, such as American Gods has (presumably) been by Bryan Fuller, on television and turned into an entertaining, moving, and philosophically attuned work. As a movie, I’m not entirely convinced that’s true.

And as it turns out, Gaiman seems to agree with this belief. Following Heisserer’s announcement, Gaiman tweeted a link to the io9 story, calling Heisserer “very smart.” It’s unlikely that his compliment was meant as sarcasm or had nothing to do with what he was tweeting out. It seems that most of the people who have been involved with this adaptation – including Gordon-Levitt, according to Heisserer – has come to the same conclusion about this project. And yet, it seems likely that the producers and financers behind the adaptation will continue to look for someone to get this thing on the big screen, no matter how much friendly advice they receive.

Here’s Gaiman’s tweet:


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