Joseph Gordon-Levitt has left the anticipated adaptation of Sandman, citing creative differences between his vision of the film and that of New Line Cinemas. Sandman was a comic series written by Neil Gaiman, about Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams.
The series gained a considerable fanbase and critical acclaim over the 75 issues produced between 1989 and 1996. In 2013, Sandman returned as a limited series.
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to adapt the series for film, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt came onboard in 2013, along with David Goyer producing the film and with Jack Thorne writing the script. Now, Gordon-Levitt has dropped out.
The actor announced his departure on his Facebook page:
So, as you might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, a while back, David Goyer and I made a producing deal with Warner Brothers to develop a movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN. Neil himself came on as an executive producer, we hired the excellent screenwriter, Jack Thorne, and we started in on the ambitious task of adapting one of the most beloved and boundary-pushing titles in the world of comics. I was pleased with the progress we were making, even though we still had quite a ways to go.
Recently, as you also might know if you like to follow these sorts of things, the sorta "ownership" (for lack of a better term) of the Sandman material changed hands when Warner Brothers shifted the entire catalogue of Vertigo comics (an imprint of DC) to their subsidiary, New Line. And a few months ago, I came to realise 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. So unfortunately, I decided to remove myself from the project. I wish nothing but the best for the team moving forward.
I'd like to thank all the great people I've had the opportunity to work with on this one. I've had a blast with and learned a ton from David and Jack. Niija Kuykendall, Greg Silverman, and everyone at Warner Brothers have been fantastic, as have Geoff Johns and everyone at DC. And it's been a particular privilege as well as a rocking good time getting to know Mr. Gaiman, whose generous insights and masterful work have certainly convinced me that the Lord of Dreams and the Prince of Stories are one and the same Endless pattern.
Neil Gaiman weighed in as well, noting that he was pleased to have worked with the actor:
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
Interestingly, this comes a day after New Line announced that they were bringing on Eric Heisserer, who has written such movies as Final Destination 5, and The Thing (the 2011 version). It certainly sounds as though this isn't a coincidence, and that New Line wasn't particularly happy with the film that was shaping up.
There's obviously no word yet on who will replace Gordon-Levitt.