Neil Gaiman On SANDMAN And BOOKS OF MAGIC Films That Almost Were

Neil Gaiman on planned adaptations of Books of Magic and Sandman that per his description sound truly horrendous. Morpheus' first line was, "As if your puny weapons could hurt me, Morpheus the Mighty Lord of Dreams."

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By Mark Julian - 6/24/2013
Neil Gaiman was a recent guest on the Empire Magazine Podcast where a number of topics were discussed, including having a number of his literary works exist as unproduced screenplays. One such project is Sandman which has been talked about for a quite a while now including quite a few rumors about possible directors and cast. Also discussed is an almost adaptation of his 4-issue miniseries Books of Magic. The conversation about both DC Comics titles picks up towards the end of the podcast with Neil talking about pitching comic book and graphic novel properties to studios and producers and the process of watching the development of the film morph into something less and less like the story that was actually written.

Neil on "Books of Magic":
"The worst one of all was Books of Magic, it was really weird because the first draft and the second draft scripts were really good. And they were good enough that they got everybody at the studio really excited. But now everyone is giving notes and now everyone is piddling into this thing because they really like the idea of 'smelling their own weight' and it's slowly turning into this sort of 'urine soaked lemonge' and it's no longer any good. Now the original writer leaves and a new writer comes in and all he knows is that the more you change, the more likely you are to have your name on the credit when they make it, so he's changing everything randomly. And then he's fired and they get somebody else in but now they've got a director and the director goes away and does his own draft and I look at the [current] script and it looks like they're about to make it - and for all I know they may have, because I called DC Comics and said, 'This has nothing in common with Books of Magic anymore other than the heroes name is Tim Hunter and the movie is called Books of Magic. And if this movie happens, all it will do is upset any fans of Tim Hunter and the Books of Magic and make them feel used. It's perfectly adequate for what it is, which is terrible, so why don't we ask if [the studio] can pay us off and they can use the script and we take back the name 'Books of Magic' and they can call their hero something else.' And they did and I was incredibly relieved and I have no idea if that film ever got made or not."

Neil on an early Sandman script:
"We also dodged a bullet on the worst of all the Sandman scripts. It was so bad, I couldn't even get to the end of it. I read about 5-10 pages and went 'I can't bear this.' And later read a summary of the plot on AintItCoolNews because somebody there got hold of the script, and I just felt sick the whole way [through]. [In that script] Morpheus' first line was, 'As if your puny weapons could hurt me, Morpheus the Mighty Lord of Dreams.' And I went, 'Oh no, that's awful, this is terrible. He was kept by electromagnets underneath New York and it must have been about 1997 or '98 because it was a millennium based plot. [The lead characters] had to do some stuff before the millennium, the lead characters were brothers, Lucifer, The Corinthian and Sandman were brothers, and it was this race against time to gather a bunch of MacGuffins before the millennium. It never got made and whoever wrote [that script] got paid more for writing that than I ever was for writing the entirety of Sandman. So in terms of how I feel about stuff [I write not becoming films], I feel fine."



RELATED CONTENT:
Looking Back #7: Neil Gaiman's Sandman
COMICS: Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN Series First Pitched To George R.R. Martin
Neil Gaiman Updates Status Of HBO's AMERICAN GODS And Warner Bros.' SANDMAN

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Source: Empire Podcast
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33 Comments
Superior - 6/24/2013, 6:33 AM
Not sure if I ever read a Neil Gaiman book before. Nonetheless, nice find.
maryboo - 6/24/2013, 6:34 AM
Someday I will get my Sandman TV show on HBO.

Someday...
jerryblake - 6/24/2013, 6:35 AM
The one who wrote that Sandman script was probably Goldsman :)
Hellsing - 6/24/2013, 6:45 AM
If you've never read a Neil Gaiman book before then I suggest you rectify that mistake asap.

Also I've never read Books Of Magic, is it any good?
MarkJulian - 6/24/2013, 6:46 AM
@Hellsing If you've read Harry Potter, you've basically read Books of Magic ;)
RorMachine - 6/24/2013, 6:55 AM
That Samdman movie...I can't even...NO!
MarkJulian - 6/24/2013, 6:56 AM
The thing that gets me is that he was held by electromagnets underneath New York. WTF!
ComicFan1134 - 6/24/2013, 7:00 AM
Wish They Would Do A Sandman Movie, But, Hollywood Would Screw It To No End.
fettastic - 6/24/2013, 7:04 AM
All I know about Gaiman is the films he's been involved in. MirrorMask and Stardust.
hummingbird68 - 6/24/2013, 7:05 AM
The Sandman series is possibly one of the greatest stories ever told in comic book form - It won a load of literary awards which was unheard of for comics in its time.

The Books of Magic are also very good and include a whole bunch of DC characters like John Constantine, Zatana and Dr.Fate to name just a few. In some way like Harry Potter novels, but in a DC universe. I'm not actually sure came out first - Harry Potter or the Tim Hunter books of magic.

Neil Gaimen is an excellent writer and has written several novels that are well worth reading, American Gods being my favorite.
SWelch - 6/24/2013, 7:14 AM
Just remember Books of Magic came first. Other than both have a kid that is learning to be magician(or wizard) and they both wear glasses there areenough differences to make Books of Magic, both Neils' limited series and after the ongoing monthly series to make it worth reading.
PapaMidnite - 6/24/2013, 7:21 AM
@Marauder, if you not sure, you didn't read one. Gaiman is the man, i'm so glad that shitty Sandman script didn't see the light of day.

Sandman is special, deserves a passionate director and a terrific cast.
alanb - 6/24/2013, 7:22 AM
@jerryblake

The Sandman script was written by William Farmer, who later worked on a Goldsman production ('Jonah Hex').
GodzillaKart - 6/24/2013, 7:39 AM
Gaiman is fantastic. Wasn't HBO going to do an "American Gods" series?
Hellsing - 6/24/2013, 7:47 AM
I've never read Harry Potter seen a couple of the movies so might give it a shot.
LucasMend - 6/24/2013, 7:57 AM
No update on american gods tv show? bohoooo
MarkJulian - 6/24/2013, 8:10 AM
American Gods with HBO is still on as far as what's been reported thus far.
shangho - 6/24/2013, 8:16 AM
Books Of Magic is EPIC.Def read it asap!
BillyBatson1000 - 6/24/2013, 8:17 AM
That is so sad. But this happens ALL the time in Hollyweird. Everyone good/bad/hack wants to put their 'mark' on a script for a writing credit. And we live in world where absolute garbage like 'The Tourist' can get 4 Golden Globe nominations. Mr Depp and Mrs Pitt were definitely 'slumming' on that one.
ninjahulk - 6/24/2013, 8:43 AM
DAm i been waiting for a Sandman and book of MAgic movie for a very long time now one day both book will see the day of light on the big screen One day my friends one day.
Humperdink - 6/24/2013, 9:00 AM

Gaiman is fantastic. Wasn't HBO going to do an "American Gods" series?


Every time I read about something of Gaiman's being translated into film or TV I shudder.

Gaiman mentioned that there was a film planned for "Anansi Boys", but Hollywood wanted to completely White-wash it because they only seem to want Black characters to be portrayed in a specific light. As Gaiman said:

"That was something I found deeply problematic with the attempt by some people who had a lot of money and a lot of clout, and who wanted the rights to Anansi Boys, at one point. Somewhere in there, they made the fatal mistake of saying to me, "And, of course, the characters won't be black in the movie because black people don't like fantasy." They were suddenly very surprised that we were no longer interested in selling them the book."

Reminds me of the pitch made by Darkhorse Comics crew about a sci-fi film with Blacks in it. They were allegedly told by the execs to change the race because “Black People Don’t See Themselves In The Future.”

Hollywood and film/TV have the ability to shape most of our social perceptions and reality itself, so when they claim a certain group doesn't want to see themselves in the future or as the heroes of a fantasy movie what they really are saying is that they don't want to shape them into the roles we reserve for another group.

Keep them rappers, criminals and comedians because those movies with a predominantly Black cast appeal to them.

Even though (Catch-22?) their the only movies they have with them reflected predominately as the main cast so it's really all they have.



Yeaton10 - 6/24/2013, 9:14 AM
It would would be nice if Gaiman himself wrote a screen play for Sandman.

Interesting. I have not read all sandman books, but what I have seen would take a very good screen writer to make into an even adequate movie simply because they are very different from the typical graphic novels. Gaiman is really good at screen writing as a medium (just like he mastered novels and comic books). Gaiman's graphic novels are acclaimed and have strong name recognition. It is unsurprising that people who cannot really translate the work into a film would try to connect the name Sandman to their scripts. But for a decent film or TV series to actually happen Gaiman might have to write it himself or select a screenwriter who knows can do the job.

The latest update on American Gods I could find said it is nearly a sure thing:
http://hbowatch.com/more-details-on-hbos-adaptation-of-american-gods/

alanb - 6/24/2013, 9:34 AM
@Humperdink

What the [frick] are you talking about? The 'Anansi Boys' thing has [frick] ALL to do with any potential 'American Gods' series. You're just generalizing when it's been made clear that TV - in the form of 'The Walking Dead' and 'Game of Thrones' - has been willing to stay true to the themes and intent of the material.
Pheezmatic - 6/24/2013, 10:45 AM
Ughh...Kickstarter that shit! Make your own movies Neil! id watch it...
Phlegmbot - 6/24/2013, 11:06 AM
They did make Books of Magic -- it was called Harry Potter. Seriously, the number of similarities between the characters couldn't possibly be a coincidence. But, since WB published the books to begin with, who're they gonna sue? Themselves?
MarkJulian - 6/24/2013, 11:26 AM
Gaiman actually touches on other writers that use his concepts and ideas. He says he doesn't mind but only when they're honest and admit they 'borrowed' from him. Rowling to my knowledge, has never admitted to biting from Books of Magic.
Jollem - 6/24/2013, 1:48 PM
aronofsky for sandman
Jollem - 6/24/2013, 1:49 PM
ha. called it awhile ago
SnapperCarr - 6/24/2013, 1:52 PM
Damn. These sound awful.
Gunslinger - 6/24/2013, 1:55 PM
So, did Goyer write the Sandman script? Sounds like something he would write...
ProfOJ - 6/24/2013, 3:35 PM
I agree with the HBO idea...the only way to capture it properly is a series...your talking about a vast world where the main charecter some times isnt even relevant and the focus is on interchanging characters. A movie would be horrible unless it was at very least a trilogy in which nobody would understand until half way through the second...it would be like spawn, 6 hrs of movie in two...kinda leaving you like...huh?..wha?
mctrinket - 6/24/2013, 7:02 PM
Sounds like he got the True Hollywood Experience there.
sameoldthing - 6/25/2013, 7:10 AM
Gaiman has mentioned how closely J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter ripped from Tim Hunter & Books Of Magic but he's a true gentleman & dismisses it all due to the fact he's very successful in his own right & isn't bitter.

He's could easily sue Rowling for the rip-off but I suppose he's wealthy & isn't litigious.

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