Earlier this week, Netflix announced its cast for the live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s critically acclaimed graphic novel The Sandman. Published first in 1989, there have been numerous attempts at adapting this towering tome of stories that have inspired the flourishing genre of dark fantasy. Often compared with Alan Moore’s Watchmen for its cultural significance, its gigantic size in terms of stories, and intellectual capacity has made a live-action adaptation of The Sandman so torturous. However, after decades of developmental hell, the online streaming giant has finally greenlit the series with Tom Sturridge, Charles Dance, Boyd Holbrook, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar starring in major roles.
While the casting decision has been met with much excitement, the gender-swapping roles of Lucifer Morningstar and Lucien have caught the attention of fans. With Vivienne Acheampong playing the role of Lucienne, the Chief Librarian in the Dreaming, and Gwendoline Christie portraying the role of Lucifer Morningstar, the Ruler of Hell, the burning question is, why Tom Ellis was not considered for the role of Lucifer in The Sandman?
Tom Ellis rose to meteoric fame for his portrayal of the Devil in the series Lucifer, which was later picked up by Netflix when the show was canceled by Fox after three seasons. While the first three seasons had received mixed reviews, the fourth season was widely acclaimed by fans and critics, especially praising the acting performance of Tom Ellis as Lucifer himself. With Netflix developing both The Sandman and the final season of Lucifer, why didn’t Neil Gaiman cast Ellis as the Ruler of Hell?
Recently, Gaiman answered this question which was asked by a fan on Tumblr. Here’s the full statement:
“The theology and cosmogony of Lucifer is a long way from Sandman’s. It’s ‘inspired by’ Sandman, but you can’t easily retrofit the Lucifer version to get back to Sandman, if you see what I mean. It seemed easier and more fun to have the Sandman version of Lucifer be, well, much closer to the Sandman version of Lucifer.”
While fans of Tom Ellis might be disappointed, Neil Gaiman surely raises a valid point. Despite the revival of Lucifer in its later seasons, the character and the show had parted their ways from the original source material a long time back. While the show might have the Devil as its major protagonist, the dark and urban theme is developed to better suit the current fan demographic. As a result, the character needs to be re-written for The Sandman, since the show will be exploring the mysterious realms of Dream, and in some scenes, literal Hell.
In a recent interview, Neil Gaiman has also revealed his plans for the upcoming live-action television series. Ahead of the release of his audiobook on Audible, Gaiman said that he will be approaching the series with a new perspective that can gel easily with the current timeline, instead of adapting each panel to the screen while stuck in the early ’90s.
“Doing the Netflix TV series, we’re very much looking at that as going, ‘Okay, it is 2020, let’s say that I was doing Sandman starting in 2020, what would we do? How would we change things? What gender would this character be? Who would this person be? What would be happening?”
“For Netflix right now, people have tried making some movies and TV adaptations for 30 years, and actively tried making them for 25 years, and they’ve never worked, and they never worked because of all the special effects and what would be needed to do the special effects. They never worked because you were making something that was adult. People would write Sandman movie scripts, and they go, ‘But it’s an R-rated movie, and we can’t have $100 million R-rated movies.’ So, that wouldn’t happen. You needed to get to a world in which long-form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And the fact that we have seventy-five issues of Sandman plus — essentially, 13 full books — worth of material, is a really good thing. It’s not a drawback. It’s on our side. And the fact that we’re in a world in which we can take things that only existed in comic book art, and that can now exist in reality.”
While it surely might be a bit unsettling for a few fans to witness a gender-swapped Lucifer, considering the imposing screen presence Gwendoline Christie possesses, we can’t wait for the Game of Thrones alumnus to weave her magic once again in the realms of Hell.
No release date has yet been revealed for The Sandman.