#4 ROGER AVARY’S SANDMAN
Of all the comics that have been in development for the big screen, none of them have had a harder life getting to theaters than Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.” The first commissioned screenplay for the film came from writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who at the time had just come off Disney’s Aladdin but are now most well known for the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Rossio and Elliot wrote a draft that adapted the first two volumes of the series, “Preludes and Nocturnes” and “The Doll’s House,” and at some point in their writing of the script, producer Jon Peters (whom some may remember from Kevin Smith’s story about a failed attempt at writing Superman) got himself attached to the project as a producer and thus began the slow downfall of the film.
After Rossio and Elliot turned in their first draft, the pair were told that WB found the script to be ‘undeliverable’ and refused to pay them for what they felt was an inferior draft (a process they opened up about on their own blog). The writers were also tasked with a note from Peters, who asked that “a bunch of teenagers at a slumber party holding a séance are the ones that capture Dream.” From there the project remained in limbo, no hope of ever seeing the light of day.
Then enters Roger Avary, who read the draft by Rossio and Elliot and went back to WB to tell them they were wrong – the script was good and he wanted to direct. A second draft of the script was done, removing a section that adapted the single issue story of “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and weaving in some elements of the fourth volume of the series, but in 1997 Avary had pulled out of the project which the now defunct Coming Attractions reported (via “Tales from Development Hell”) was due to “creative differences with the Peters Company — apparently they wanted a Sandman in tights and a cape punching out The Corinthian.”
Later, Gaiman himself was very complimentary of most of the work put into adapting the series.
“I watched Sandman, my great epic comics opus, go through traditional development hell,” Gaiman told a BBC Radio documentary based on “Tales from Development Hell,” “beginning with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the great writers who did Pirates of the Caribbean and such, doing these really very good drafts of a script which the producer at the time, Jon Peters, famously did not ‘get’. Roger Avary was brought on as director and he did a draft of their script, again it was very good, he went in, he showed them Jan Svankmayer’s Alice and said, ‘I want the dreamy sequences to look like this,’ and was fired. And then scripts came in and they got worse and worse.”
Since then, David Goyer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have been brought on to work on a big screen adaptation of the series, which is rumored to hit theaters Christmas 2016.
Tim Burton’s Batman almost spawned a spin-off series. Find out more on page 5!