Michael Jackson wanted to play The Sandman’s lead role, reveals creator Neil Gaiman

Michael Jackson next to Tom Sturridge as Morpheus on a purple background

The Sandman creator Neil Gaiman has revealed the show could have looked very different if it had been made in the ’90s – because Michael Jackson put himself forward for the main role.

Tom Sturridge has captured viewers’ hearts in the lead role of Morpheus (aka Dream) in the 2022 Netflix adaptation of the comic books, so right now it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the part. 

In an interview on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast, Gaiman explained talks to adapt his iconic graphic novel first took place in 1996 – and Jackson was vying for a role.

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’.”


It didn’t happen and MJ’s Sandman dreams were turned to dust.

There have been many attempts to get a Sandman adaptation off the ground – and all but the most recent ended in failure. 
Other big names have been lined up to play Morpheus in the past – including Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2013. He quit, blaming creative differences with Warner Brothers.

The Warner Bros version of The Sandman was to be written by A Star Is Born producer, Jon Peters.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gaiman suggested it wasn’t quite up to par.

I haven’t read that whole script, [but] I’ve read as much of the script as I could take,” he joked.

“I’m not sure if it would’ve been an action movie or quite what it would’ve been. It was a mess. It never got better than a mess. It had giant mechanical spiders in it.”

Neil Gaiman, creator of The Sandman. (Paula Lobo/Getty)

Neil Gaiman spills on the 30 year long struggle to get The Sandman on screens. (Paula Lobo/Getty)

Gaiman admitted he sabotaged the early project by sending the script over to entertainment website Ain’t It Cool News.

“They wrote a fabulous article about how it was the worst script they’s ever been sent.  And suddenly the prospect of that film happening went away,” he added.

So while you’re watching the iconically queer adaptation and being lulled to sleep by Tom Sturridge’s soothing voice just remember – you could have been watching a Michael Jackson action film where he battles giant mechanical spiders.