The world premiere of hotly anticipated Netflix series “The Sandman” at London’s BFI Southbank on Wednesday evening was a star-studded triumph, with Neil Gaiman and cast greeted with cheers and adulation.
Apart from Gaiman, on whose iconic comics the series is based, the cast and crew, Netflix and Warner Bros. Television executives, the audience was largely composed of comic book aficionados who evidently were familiar with the nuances of every single one of the 75 comics in the series.
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The first two episodes of the show were screened to a rapt audience, and Gaiman kicked off the post-screening Q&A by describing how he had spent well over 30 years “fighting terrible film adaptations” of his comics. And, after Netflix boarded the project, “suddenly, in 2019, it was the opposite,” Gaiman said. “It was like, okay, now we can do it. Now we don’t have to try and squeeze 3,000 pages of story into two hours of film.”
The series was shot in London and U.K. locations across various COVID-19 lockdowns. About the first two episodes, Gaiman said: “Think of them as the beginning of the roller coaster ride, to the top of the roller coaster. Now the ride begins. From here on, it’s just a wild ride to episode 10. And it doesn’t stop — it’s glorious, and these people and Tom [Sturridge], it’s magic.”
Sturridge plays Dream, also known as Morpheus, one of the seven Endless. “First and foremost, I am a fan of this piece of literature,” said Sturridge. “I care about it so deeply, it is a story about stories that I wanted to live inside.”
“When you think of Morpheus, you think of quite abstract ideas, the prince of dreams and Endless — someone who’s lived for millennia, I don’t really know what that means, or how to act it,” added Sturridge. “But I do know what it means to create a dream because, if you create a dream, then you’re aware of how someone feels. What is a dream, if not the most lucid articulation of our true selves?”
Sturridge continued: “And then I realized that he knows how everyone feels, and is in fact — contrary to how people sometimes perceive him as the most extraordinarily empathetic being — managing this unstable thing, which is the collective unconscious of the universe, this incredibly dangerous thing, which is all of our feelings. And to manage that, he has to push it down into his belly and hide it, because the consequences are disastrous.”
Gwendoline Christie, who plays Lucifer, said that her introduction to Gaiman was via his 2013 novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” and when showrunner Allan Heinberg and Gaiman approached her, she read the comics.
“Lucifer in the comic books is extraordinary — Neil’s always talked about this idea of Lucifer being inspired by a young David Bowie, this idea of a junkie angel. The idea of being God’s favorite and cast out was really exciting to me,” said Christie. “And as a female performer playing that character, the idea of that choked bitterness of the resentment of endless, myriad disappointment — I could connect. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
The original “Sandman” comic book series was published by DC mature readers imprint Vertigo and ran from 1989 to 1996 for a total of 75 issues. The series was noted for blending a variety of literary, mythological and historical subject matter, and for its large cast of ensemble characters. “The Sandman” is generally considered one of the best comics of all time, winning over 20 Eisner awards and receiving several spinoffs and follow-up miniseries.
“The Sandman” was developed for TV by Gaiman, David S. Goyer and Heinberg, who all executive produce. The series, which is produced for Netflix by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television, streams starting Aug. 5.
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