Neil Gaiman had to tell ‘The Sandman’ star to ‘stop being Batman’

Morpheus, DC’s Lord of Dreams, is finally making his live-action debut later this year in Netflix’s The Sandman, the long-awaited adaptation of the seminal Vertigo comic book series of the same name. Centering on the mythical Morpheus and operating on a cosmic, metaphysical scale, it’s not your typical superhero show. And yet its star still found himself slipping into a Batman impersonation when finding his way into the character.

Entertainment Weekly spoke to both The Sandman creator/executive producer Neil Gaiman and its leading man Tom Sturridge, with the pair illuminating a little on the challenging process of bringing Morpheus to life. Gaiman stressed that he was very protective of the character’s dialogue, which he feels is extremely “specific.” As he put it:

“Morpheus’ dialogue is incredibly specific. It was probably the thing I was most obsessive about. Someone would have written a fabulous script… but there would always be a point at the end where I would still be noodling on the Morpheus dialogue: Making sure the words were right, that the rhythms were right.”

In the comics, Morpheus’ dialogue is always presented in white lettering against black speech bubbles, which gives him an otherworldly feel. That’s difficult to translate to the screen, however. Thankfully, Gaiman supplied Sturridge with a poetic description of Dream’s style of speaking that helped him better understand the role. As the actor explained:

“I remember you said to me that everything he says has to feel like it was etched in stone. He’s never improvising. He has experienced and perceived every thought, dream, and moment, and therefore he knows what you’re going to say. That was very helpful.”

Discovering the Sandman’s voice was a little more tricky, though, as Gaiman went on to joke that he had to give his star a telling-off at one point. “I growled at him once and said, ‘stop being Batman,'” Gaiman recalled. “He was trying to get a bit whispery.”

“It was literally my first day!” Sturridge made clear, before admitting that Gaiman’s admonishment did the trick. “But it was incredibly helpful.”

Sturridge is joined in the series by an incredible ensemble cast including Gwendoline Christie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Charles Dance, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Fry, and the voice of Patton Oswalt. A release date has yet to be supplied, but we know the 11-part first season of The Sandman is set to awaken on Netflix at some point before 2022 is out.