Joseph Gordon-Levitt Ditches Sandman

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This week has brought us quite a bit of news about Warner Bros. upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved Sandman series, including that a new horror writer, Eric Heisserer, was being courted to pen the script, however, this newest bit of news crushes our hopes for what should’ve been a solid film.

In a Facebook post made earlier today, the films main star and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has removed himself from the production citing differences with Warner Bros. subsidiary, New Line Cinema. In a bit of corporate juggling, Warner Bros. recently moved all of their Vertigo properties to it’s film subsidiary and the producers at New Line apparently have a very different idea of what the upcoming film should be and those differences are apparently irreconcilable.

This is sad news as this was to be exactly the kind of new comic adaptation that studios should be looking to put out, especially after the nearly perfect adaptation of Deadpool, which has been breaking records since it’s release early last month. Since the release of Deadpool a lot of talk has been centered around how Hollywood should look to treat this kinds of comic properties, but this comes as a big blow to those who were hoping for originality and a thoughtful interpretation of a property with a massive cult-like following.

After the launch of Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn, voiced his concern about some of the lessons that Hollywood might pull away from Deadpool. In a Facebook post, Gunn explained:

After every movie smashes records people here in Hollywood love to throw out the definitive reasons why the movie was a hit. I saw it happen with Guardians. It “wasn’t afraid to be fun” or it “was colorful and funny” etc etc etc. And next thing I know I hear of a hundred film projects being set up “like Guardians,” and I start seeing dozens of trailers exactly like the Guardians trailer with a big pop song and a bunch of quips. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Deadpool wasn’t that. Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks. For the theatrical experience to survive, spectacle films need to expand their definition of what they can be. They need to be unique and true voices of the filmmakers behind them. They can’t just be copying what came before them.

Gunn’s sentiment rocketed around the internet with fans and websites mirroring his idea calling for new and original properties to be adapted by those who could realize what made the properties special to begin with. The news surrouding Sandman would lead us to believe that as per usual, Hollywood has failed to listen in regard to what fans want which could lead them right towards another Fant-4-Stick sized disaster.

Based on his Facebook post, it would appear that JGL harbors many of the same feelings. In a lengthly address, JGL explained to fans:

So, as you might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, a while back, David Goyer and I made a producing deal with Warner Brothers to develop a movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN. Neil himself came on as an executive producer, we hired the excellent screenwriter, Jack Thorne, and we started in on the ambitious task of adapting one of the most beloved and boundary-pushing titles in the world of comics. I was pleased with the progress we were making, even though we still had quite a ways to go. Recently, as you also might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, the sorta “ownership” (for lack of a better term) of the Sandman material changed hands when Warner Brothers shifted the entire catalogue of Vertigo comics (an imprint of DC) to their subsidiary, New Line. And a few months ago, I came to realize that the folks at New Line and I just don’t see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special, and what a film adaptation could/should be. So unfortunately, I decided to remove myself from the project. I wish nothing but the best for the team moving forward. I’d like to thank all the great people I’ve had the opportunity to work with on this one. I’ve had a blast with and learned a ton from David and Jack. Niija Kuykendall, Greg Silverman, and everyone at Warner Brothers have been fantastic, as have Geoff Johns and everyone at DC. And it’s been a particular privilege as well as a rocking good time getting to know Mr. Gaiman, whose generous insights and masterful work have certainly convinced me that the Lord of Dreams and the Prince of Stories are one and the same Endless pattern.

So what do you think of this radical turn of events? Do think there’s still hope left for this movie or does this indicate another drop into the Hollywood abyss of poorly adapted properties? Does the film stand a chance with JGL or is it a doomed project that won’t even make it to a theater? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

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