Gordon-Levitt was on track to direct and star in the long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman comics, collaborating with Gaiman, longtime DC Comics filmmaker David Goyer, and screenwriter Jack Thorne.
“A few months ago,” he wrote, “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 went on to thank his collaborators on the film, adding that “it’s been a particular privilege as well as a rocking good time getting to know Mr. Gaiman.”
It’s not unusual for films to change hands during the early stages of development, although it’s rare to see such a well-known actor come right out and say that he left due to creative differences. In this case, it’s safe to assume that Gordon-Levitt’s decision was connected to New Line hiring a new writer, a move that generally signals a new creative direction.
The original screenwriter, Jack Thorne, is best known for the acclaimed British drama series This Is England and for collaborating with J.K. Rowling to create Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The new writer, Eric Heisserer, has primarily worked on horror movies like Final Destination 5.
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
On Twitter, Neil Gaiman seemed entirely supportive of Gordon-Levitt’s decision, saying that he’d be happy to work with him again. He also clarified that he has no official creative control over Sandman adaptations.
Reminder for the curious: I don't own SANDMAN. @DCComics does. I don't choose who writes scripts, the director, producer or cast.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 6, 2016
I didn't lose them: I never owned them. The deal was done when I was 26, long ago, & I figured it was worth it. https://t.co/SHqC39XU5p— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 6, 2016
While Gaiman said nothing negative about New Line or Sandman‘s new direction, his tweets tacitly distanced himself from the film. Sandman was always going to be a difficult comic to adapt, and this upheaval definitely feels like a worrying sign.
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)