How Netflix’s The Sandman Brings Neil Gaiman’s Masterpiece to Life

“The Smell Test”

It’s an adaptation that many people have wanted to see for a very long time, but one of the reasons we haven’t seen it yet is Gaiman himself.

“I spent literally 32 years making bad adaptations of Sand seller not happen,” Gaiman tells us. “And, sometimes, it was a lot of work to stop versions of Sand seller, normally like movies, does not happen. I have always kept my distance from Sand seller adaptations, in part because if they were going to be terrible, I had to reserve the option for myself to go out into the world and say “No, no, no”. Don’t look at this. It’s awful.’ I wanted to keep that as a superpower.

But times have changed, the world has changed, and Neil Gaiman has changed. He’s no longer an up-and-coming comic book writer, but a successful author, screenwriter and producer, with the good omens TV adaptation showing that he is someone to be taken seriously in the industry.

At the same time, it’s now much easier to portray otherworldly, wildly diverse, and often downright extraterrestrial settings and inhabitants on screen.

“We were very lucky,” says Gaiman. “David Goyer and I had started discussing how we could do this and make it happen. And [writer/showrunner] Allan Heinberg, who was neither free nor available, became free. His contract was over with someone else. We had dinner, more or less, the day after his release. And it came with a Sand seller page of ‘Brief Lives’ which he had bought in 1996 from a gallery in New York. Lord knows how much it will be worth now.

Going from deciding to make a TV series to making one is a notoriously laborious process, but in this case, the stars seemed to align. Gaiman and Goyer had dinner with Heinberg one Friday night, and Monday morning the contracts were signed and the project was pitched. It was quickly picked up by Netflix.

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