Few writers have completely altered a medium, displayed such enduring versatility, or enticed the curious mind the way Neil Gaiman has through his novels, short stories, children’s books, and comics. In honor of his 55th birthday, AE returns to the world of Fantasy Draft Casting to express our hopes for the long-awaited adaptation of The Sandman. Gaiman’s 75 issues of The Sandman and the numerous mini-series and offspring that spun their way off of that central thread, changed many readers and critic’s perception of what comics are capable of. There’s no doubt that the literary prowess of The Sandman stands right up there with the numerous novels we cite as the greatest works of the 20th century.
For those unfamiliar with The Sandman, this brief description does it little justice, but it’s a 10-arc epic (collected in 10 trade volumes) that follows the Dream Lord, Morpheus, as he rules over the dream world and faces threats to his rule and his very nature. The comic weaves throughout time, exploring the dreams of historical figures, mythological beings, and occasionally, familiar comic book characters, and Morpheus’ impact on their lives and their impact on his. There’s very little in the way of action, costumes, or traditional comic book tropes; instead Sandman is a fantastical celebration of literature in all its forms, history, and imagination– all contained within the panels of funny books.
Needless to say, there’s nothing easy about adapting the property (many have tried and failed over the years). Some have said the series is impossible to adapt, though we believe that in the right hands nothing is impossible to adapt…though the series might work better as a premium cable show than a feature film series. Currently David Goyer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Neil Gaiman himself are producing the film, though the film has yet to be officially announced by New Line, who are producing the Vertigo Comics side of things at DC Entertainment while Warner Bros. focuses on the traditional superheroes. Last month, Goyer told Collider that the script was in the process of a re-write and that the film would hopefully go into production in 2016. There’s been nothing on the casting front yet, which means everything is fair game for AE to tackle!
The Sandman is filled with countless memorable characters, but for the sake of brevity and avoidance of potential spoilers, we’ll focus on Morpheus and his siblings known as the Endless, encompassing aspects of the universe that are older than the Gods, just to provide a broad sense of Gaiman’s sprawling universe:
Domhnall Gleeson as Dream
Our protagonist Morpheus is weighed down by responsibilities, both those others have tasked him with and responsibilities his own failings have burdened him with. He’s the tragic hero, Byronic, immensely powerful, and the shaper of all of humanity’s creative output. He’s depicted as tall and thin with Robert Smith’s hair, though his appearance differs, like all of the Endless, depending on who is perceiving him. Obviously Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston would be ideal picks as Gaiman and the internet have both attested to, but their contracts with Marvel may prevent their involvement. There’s a chance that Joseph Gordon-Levitt may step into the role himself, but we’re going with the more outside the box pick of Domhnall Gleeson who’s got the versatility, and cheekbones, to pull off the most complicated character in the series.
Gemma Arterton as Death
Death has become a fan-favorite over the years, largely because her sunny disposition and compassionate nature is a compelling deviation from our typical Grim Reaper-figures. She’s depicted as a young Goth woman in casual black clothes with a silver ankh around her neck. As Dream’s closest confidant, Death needs a motherly quality but also a candid demeanor as she doesn’t enable Morpheus’s occasional need to bullshit himself and others. Gemma Arterton has displayed all of these qualities in her various roles and she was the clearest and easiest choice for Death.
Nick Frost as Despair
The twin-sister of Desire, Despair is mostly quiet and somewhat self-loathing. She’s depicted as an overweight, miniature, nude woman with ragged teeth and short black hair pulled back in what looks to be a painfully tight, ponytail. We can easily see Nick Frost stepping out of comedy and making a convincing prosthetic transformation to play the female Despair.
Emily Blunt as Desire
The cunning and occasionally cruel Desire appears throughout the series as a man and woman, but spends most time in an androgynous state. Of course, whenever characters’ possess an attractive androgyny, Tilda Swinton becomes the first name on everyone’s mind. There’s no doubt she could pull it off, but we’re going to step outside the box and go with Emily Blunt, who doesn’t inherently defy physical gender norms but could easily do so. Plus, as perhaps the only truly frightening member of the Endless, Blunt’s powerful command should prove more than enough to give even Dream a reason to pause.
David Bowie as Destiny
The oldest and most mysterious of the Endless, the robed Destiny is largely devoid of emotion, and as such should be defined by a memorable voice. We don’t think there’s anyone more fitting to hold the secrets of the universe past, present, and future than David Bowie, who could truly make Destiny the most otherworldly and inaccessible of the Endless.
Kevin McKidd as Destruction
The powerfully built and red-haired Destruction abandoned his post centuries ago at the start of the series. Dream and Delirium’s search for him forms one of the central arcs in the comic. Kind-hearted, and driven to creative arts despite his nature, Destruction is the most human of the Endless. Kevin McKidd is a fitting choice to deliver the physical presence and big-heartedness required of the character.
Juno Temple as Delirium
Formally known as Delight until some tragedy changed her, Delirium is the youngest of the Endless and appears as a teenage girl with multicolored hair, eyes, clothes, and even speech bubbles. While her sing-song speech patterns seem nonsensical at times, they often hold deeper truths. She looks up on her older siblings with a childlike innocence. Juno Temple’s distinctive vocal patterns and look make her the perfect fit for the quizzical and optimistic Delirium.
Because each of the Endless have been represented in a variety of ways over the series depending on the culture, race, and species of the dreamer, there are plenty of opportunities for a number of actors to step into these roles for brief moments but we think these actors come closest to capturing Gaiman’s vision of the characters, a vision we’re eagerly awaiting to see played out on screen.
Featured Image: Vertigo Comics
Editors Note- 11/12: Content Correction