Neil Gaiman Tells Story of How He Sabotaged a Previous Sandman Adaptation

Earlier in August, Neil Gaiman’s infamous comic series, The Sandman, finally made its leap from page to screen courtesy of Netflix. But as you can imagine, this isn’t the first time even an attempt was made. According to an interview with The Rolling Stone, Gaiman turned down several offers until the right one was made. He even went so far as to leak a potential script to the presses!

“It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody.”

Gaiman’s story involves Jon Peters (Wild Wild West), who came up with an idea about a potential Sandman adaptation. Gaiman admitted that he only read “as much of the script as he could take,” the plan was to turn the story into an action movie involving giant mechanical spiders, something friends still cannot believe when he brings it up.

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“People were like, “Oh, you are kidding.” And I’m like, “No, it had a giant mechanical spider.” But much more important than that, Lucifer, Morpheus, and the Corinthian were identical triplets. They were a family of identical brothers, and it was all a race to see who could get the ruby, the helm, and the bag of sand before midnight on 1999, before the new millennium started, because whoever got it would be the winner. That was the plot.”

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According to Gaiman, a representative of Peters called him and asked if he read the script. Gaiman tried to be polite and searched for reasons to praise the script, but every man has his limits.

“A guy in Jon Peters’ office phoned me up and he said, ‘So Neil, have you had a chance to read the script we sent you?’ And I said, ‘Well, yes. Yes, I did. I haven’t read all of it, but I’ve read enough.’ He says, ‘So, pretty good. Huh?’ And I said, ‘Well, no. It really isn’t.’ He said, ‘Oh, come on. There must have been stuff in there you loved.’ I said, ‘There was nothing in there I loved. There was nothing in there I liked. It was the worst script that I’ve ever read by anybody. It’s not just the worst Sandman script. That was the worst script I’ve ever been sent.’”

In order to make sure the film was fully dead in the water, Gaiman leaked the script.

“I sent the script to Ain’t It Cool News, which back then was read by people. And I thought, I wonder what Ain’t It Cool News will think of the script that they’re going to receive anonymously. And they wrote a fabulous article about how it was the worst script they’d ever been sent. And suddenly the prospect of that film happening went away. And instead Jon Peters turned his attention to Wild Wild West.”

It sounds like things worked out in the end. Peters was able to focus on other projects, his most recent being 2018’s A Star is Born. Meanwhile, Netflix’s The Sandman sat on the Global Top 10 list for three weeks after its premiere. Currently, the team is waiting for the greenlight for season 2, but Gaiman confirmed that should it not be the case, they will have the freedom to shop around other services for production.

Back when we put the deal together, we made sure that there were ways to continue with Sandman. But we also all hoped that none of them would possibly be necessary, because we love our Netflix people and they love us. And they’ve been amazing. I mean, they even made a secret 11th episode of Sandman.