In the decades before Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was successfully adapted as a hit Netflix series, Warner Bros. had been pushing the comic book writer to make a film. In an appearance on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast, Gaiman mentioned that an executive at the studio once mentioned to him that Michael Jackson wanted to star as the protagonist Dream (aka Morpheus) during the mid-’90s.
According to Gaiman, he had previously come to an agreement with Warner Bros. executive Lisa Henson in the early ’90s to not make a Sandman movie because he was “just getting started on the comic” and “it would be a distraction.” In the mid-’90s, however, he took a meeting with a different exec and was told the property was one of Warner’s “crown jewels.” Not only that, Michael Jackson wanted in.
“By 1996, I was being taken to Warners, where the then-president of Warner Bros. sat me down and told me that Michael Jackson had phoned him the day before and asked him if he could star as Morpheus in The Sandman,” Gaiman said. “So, there was a lot of interest in this, and they knew that it was one of the crown jewels and what did I think? And I was like, ‘Ooh.'”
Check out Gaiman’s appearance on the podcast below.
It seems like Gaiman wasn’t too enthused by the prospect of Jackson taking on the role, but to be fair, he maintained that general attitude for any adaptation that wasn’t up to his liking. Gaiman even killed a movie by leaking the “really stupid” script in 1998.
Jackson was a highly unlikely candidate to star in a Sandman adaptation even if there was a project approved by Gaiman. Prior to the artist’s death, he only had two movie roles: the Scarecrow in 1978’s The Wiz and a brief cameo as Agent M in 2002’s Men in Black II.
Developed by Gaiman with David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg, Netflix’s The Sandman stars Tom Sturridge as Morpheus. The streamer quickly followed up the success of Season 1 with a bonus episode featuring guest stars Sandra Oh, David Tennant, James McAvoy, Michael Sheen, and more.