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The Sandman's Neil Gaiman Reveals Big Way Michael Jackson Wanted To Join Previous Adaptation Attempt

Michael Jackson (left) and Tom Sturridge in The Sandman (right)
(Image credit: Getty Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage | The Sandman, Netflix )

While David Bowie was the inspiration for the suave, fallen angel and ruler of Hell Lucifer Morningstar in the DC comic The Sandman, the King of Pop Michael Jackson was attempting to become the King of Dreams. Neil Gaiman has spoken for years about the difficulty of creating an adaptation of The Sandman for the screen in a way that would live up to the comic, and in the process, he entertained some wild ideas, including Michael Jackson playing the title role of Dream. 

On the podcast Happy, Sad, Confused (opens in new tab) Gaiman told host Josh Horowitz all about the countless attempts to get The Sandman made. One of the most shocking of these stories was that, apparently, in the mid-’90s Michael Jackson put himself up for the role of Morpheus. As he put it: 

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. 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.'

 The King of Pop as the King of Dreams? Now that’s an idea. The popular author said in the podcast he thought casting this character would be easy. They just needed “an English-speaking actor with great cheekbones.” Michael Jackson met these two criteria--he did speak English and had some stellar cheekbones. Personally, I think he also would have looked iconic in the all-black get-up that Dream travels through the realms in.

Despite this being a really cool concept, it’s a little hard to imagine MJ as Dream. He probably could have pulled it off, but it feels like this show was meant to come out now in 2022, with Tom Sturridge in the title role. Especially seeing the positive feedback for the show, with some even saying The Sandman is one of the best adaptations ever, I think Gaiman was right to take his time in getting this show off the ground. 

While speaking about the show Gaiman said he saw about 1500 actors ultimately audition for the role of The Sandman. Tom Sturridge was one of the first they saw, and while they really liked him the creatives involved wanted to see who else was out there. After weeks of auditions, Sturridge remained their top choice and was hired.

Along with Sturridge, the show has been praised for its diverse casting, even though Gaiman has had to fight off a few trolls on Twitter. He said that Kirby Howell-Baptiste was the only person who could play Death, citing Episode 6 of The Sandman as so moving it made him cry twice. Jenna Colman has spoken gleefully about her role as Johanna Constantine, formally John Constantine in the comics. Gaiman also praised both women for their performances and showed a clip of Gwendoline Christie’s take on Lucifer, saying she is perfect for the role. 

While Michael Jackson may have made for a fun Dream; however, it’s for the best the show waited so long to come out so it could live up to fans’ astronomical expectations. It landing as a show on Netflix has given it the space and budget needed to create the world of the dreaming without sacrificing much. It’s seemingly paid off too, as the show has been popular on the streamer's Top 10 list. And while we patiently wait for the show to be renewed for Season 2, it’s fun to hear all the stories of what could have been, what are now simply lost dreams, and what dreams have become a reality.   

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.