Posting to his Facebook page a short time ago, Gordon-Levitt wrote the nature of the project changed when New Line Cinema took over all the Vertigo-based material in the Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment portfolio. “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,” he explained. “So unfortunately, I decided to remove myself from the project. I wish nothing but the best for the team moving forward.”
Gordon-Levitt was slated to direct the film based on the Neil Gaiman comic book. Early reports suggested he would also play Morpheus, but that never firmed up as he, David Goyer and Gaiman began work on developing the project.
New writer Heisserer’s previous work on projects like the Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing remakes indicates more of a horror bent for the project keeping in tone with the early chapters of the series. It is possible Gordon-Levitt wanted to lean more toward the fantasy and literary elements of the series.
In any event, the search begins anew for a filmmaker to bring the tale of Lord of the Dreams to the screen.
Gordon-Levitt’s statement in full:
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.
Neil Gaiman offered a comment via Twitter following a retweet of Gordon-Levitt’s statement:
And, for the record, my respect for @hitRECordJoe, is undiminished. Getting to know him was the best bit of the last round. He’s special.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 5, 2016