Sandman's move from the pages of DC Comics to the big screen hit another roadblock today, as Eric Heisserer, the latest screenwriter on the film, has left the project. He broke the news to io9 while promoting his film Arrival. Heisserer said he left the movie because no matter how they tried to break it, the story of Sandman was more suited to a high-end television adaptation.
"I had many conversations with [Sandman creator] Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of work on the feature and came to the conclusion that the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy," Heisserer said. "The structure of the feature film really doesn’t mesh with this. So I went back and said here’s the work that I’ve done. This isn’t where it should be. It needs to go to TV. So I talked myself out of a job!"
Heisserer himself replaced Jack Thorne as screenwriter on Sandman for Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema subsidiary, and is just the latest in high-profile departures from the film. Joseph Gordon-Lefitt, who originally championed the movie and was going to work as producer, director, and star of the film, departed the project officially in March 2016, though reports say he'd actually left about half a year before. He also didn't think that New Line knew "what makes Sandman special and what a film adaptation could/should be."
Neil Gaiman, who created this version of the character for DC Comics, commented on twitter about the latest departure, saying, "The very smart [Eric Heisserer] leaves Sandman movie, with a message" and the link. That seems to indicated Gaiman agrees that Sandman should be going to television, not film.
Gaiman's creator-owned novel American Gods meanwhile is being adapted to television, due to kick off on Starz in 2017. That joins Ash vs. Evil Dead in adaptations on the network, which has been growing its reputation for quality high-end television to rival established carriers like HBO and AMC.
Sandman hails from DC Comics, where it was born as an offshoot of the main superhero brand during a comics renaissance in the late 80s. It eventually became the backbone of their new Vertigo imprint, an adult-oriented line of comics that tackled darker storylines, and had more of a "Rated R" feel to them than the superhero books published under the main DC Comics label.