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Tom Sturridge: The Sandman was an 'extraordinary' audition process

Tom Sturridge The Sandman
Tom Sturridge plays Morpheus - aka Dream - in the 10-part series (Image credit: Netflix)

Tom Sturridge has his dream role (ahem) leading a glittering cast in Netflix's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's iconic comic book series, The Sandman

Based on the tales published by DC comics between 1989 and 1996, the 10-part series tells the story of Morpheus — aka Dream — who rules over a land called the Dreaming, a fantastical world that waits for us all when we close our eyes and sleep. 

The entire comic book series spanned 75 issues, with this year’s first series based upon the opening eight parts of the tale and beginning in 1916 with Dream being unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century. 

His absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever, so to restore order Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.

With Gaiman turning down all offers to adapt The Sandman for the screen until now, it's one of the biggest Netflix shows of the year and Tom Sturridge says landing the part of the show's leading character was no mean feat...

"The audition process was extraordinarily long," he explains. "It began in February 2020 and was a relatively traditional. I did two or three auditions. I then had to get on a plane and do a screen test, and then the world changed, which obviously had an impact on everyone in a far more important way than our casting process...

"The final stage was what I could only describe as a Sandman Oxford interview. It was me on a Zoom call with twelve different people all asking questions that one is never asked in an audition process as an actor — quite a deep, philosophical interrogation into my position on the character and the story and the ambition for the series. After this quite haunting and terrifying hour and a half of my life, I got a phone call from Allan Heinberg telling me I'd got the part. It was an astonishing moment."

Securing such a role would have been a cause for celebration in normal times, but with the world stuck in lockdown, Tom thought heading to bed would be the most fitting way to mark the occasion.

"I thought very carefully about how I was going to dream that night," he says. "Because I wanted to find Morpheus, and I wanted to see if I could meet him in my dreams."

Neil Gaiman has since confessed that he and the production team considered nearly 1500 actors for the lead role, yet ultimately thought Tom was the perfect fit, even though he'd never come across the story before.

"The honest truth is I had no experience of the comics," explains Tom. "I was aware of their cultural impact, but I hadn’t read them. The first thing I did was get a hold of one and have a look at it, and then I started to dive into the story. Beyond auditioning for the character, I just fell in love with Sandman as a piece of literature.

"What became terrifying about the audition was not so much trying to become him, but being so excited to potentially be a part of this world. Now I’m an obsessive Sandman fan. I feel I may have read it all the way from start to finish several times now, and I feel like I know it intimately."

With a cast including David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Asim Chaudhry, Jenna Coleman and Game of Thrones alumni Charles Dance and Gwendoline Christie playing a host of weird and wonderful characters, it's a must-watch series for comic book fans.

"What I love so much about The Sandman is the extraordinary cast of humans and creatures and gods who’ve been assembled," continues Tom. "You have Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe and Robespierre and Marco Polo; you have Cain and Abel and Lucifer; you have Johanna Constantine. I just want to be in a room with these characters and watch them come to life. And the places we visit. The Dreaming is like Narnia and Middle Earth and Hogwarts rolled into one, but even more complex and dark and frightening and magical. I can’t wait for everyone to see this world."

The Sandman is now available on Netflix.

Sean Marland
Sean Marland

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.