Joseph Gordon-Levitt set to dream up Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ with David Goyer

“Sandman” is heading to theaters with Joseph Gordon-Levitt producing, directing and starring in the film, and with David Goyer co-producing, in a story that was first reported in November and then seemingly confirmed according to a report just published, and if that actually happens, it’s going to be a really interesting ending to a long and difficult development process for Neil Gaiman’s landmark comic series.

The first time I met Neil Gaiman was to discuss his work writing the English-language script for “Princess Mononoke,” but most of our conversation was about “Sandman” and the long, ugly string of near-misses that happened on the film. When I was at Ain’t It Cool, I wrote a piece about Bill Farmer’s adaptation that was in development at that point, and I consider it a bullet dodged that the studio didn’t end up making it. That piece got Neil’s attention, and he told me how skeptical he was that anyone was going to be able to crack it as a movie.

The trick, of course, is to pick a specific “Sandman” story to tell instead of trying to cram the entire breadth of Gaiman’s book into one film. Even three hours wouldn’t begin to make a dent in the massive sprawling mythological epic that Gaiman fashioned. I have no idea what approach Goyer is taking to the film, but one presumes this is being made in hopes that the public loves it and they can make more movies in the series. If so, then they’ll probably start in the same place Gaiman did, with Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, captured by humans as part of a ritual. From that point, the story spins into all sorts of directions, and more than anything, it always felt like it was about Gaiman’s love of storytelling itself.

Obviously, this will be a big step for Gordon-Levitt as a director. I’m quite fond of “Don Jon,” his debut feature this year, and I know Warner Bros. loves the guy. While they ended up going in a different direction, there was a period where conversations were getting serious about Warner having him return as his character from “The Dark Knight Rises.” This is the smarter way to keep him in the family. It sounds to me like Gordon-Levitt must be a real fan of the material, because he’s so in-demand right now, both in front of the camera and behind, that there’s no reason for him to sign on unless he genuinely cares.

I’ll be reaching out to all involved, and I hope we’re able to get a peek at what these guys are up to. One thing’s for sure: this is the coolest DC-related news I’ve heard all year.