Gordon-Levitt broke the news himself via a Facebook post. He explained that he was pleased with the progress that he, Gaiman, David Goyer, and screenwriter Jack Thorne were making with the film. Unfortunately, when Warner Bros. shifted the Vertigo comic catalog to New Line, problems started to arise. You can see the full text of his Facebook post below:
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 realize 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.
Sounds familiar? It happened with Edgar Wright and Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man. The writer-director worked for years for the project until “creative differences” occurred and Wright had to leave the project.
It remains to be seen how Gordon-Levitt’s departure will affect the Sandman film, or whether the final film will bear much resemblance to how the project was originally conceived by Goyer and Gordon-Levitt.
Given how instrumental Gordon-Levitt was to getting the Sandman ball rolling, some fans may wonder whether the film will see a release at all after his departure. But given the studio just hired a new writer, it seems likely that the project is moving forward, just in a direction Gordon-Levitt was not comfortable with. Nevertheless, this departure is certainly going to be a cloud over the production, and may drag down fan interest since it suggests New Line isn’t interested in making the Sandman film that fans want to see. They may hope to play up elements that will be more attractive to mainstream audiences, making a film that’s more like the other comic book fare out on the market.