After years in development limbo, Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics are well on their way to the big screen – and the sci-fi and fantasy writer has some ideas of who he wants in the lead role. 

The Sandman, first released in 1989, is the graphic novel that made Gaiman's name. It centres on Dream, also referred to as Morpheus, an abstract being who rules the domain of dreams. Man of Steel's David S Goyer is producing a film adaptation, alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gaiman himself, with The Fades' Jack Thorne hired to write the script. But what actor could possibly do justice to a character typically portrayed as tall, dark and with the sort of cheekbones that could skin a cow? 

"It's a funny thing with Morpheus. Again, it's that thing where you look around and think, 'Yes this person would be a fantastic person', and then time passes," Gaiman tells RadioTimes.com. "There was a time Johnny Depp would've been a great Morpheus, but now he's too old and it's fine. I think the first time I saw Benedict was as Sherlock Holmes, I thought, 'wow, that's incredibly Morpheus'. And fans probably thought the same because they immediately started doing fan-art, meshing the two of them up."

Sadly, Cumberbatch is now committed to Marvel's Doctor Strange, meaning that he probably won't want to do another superhero movie any time soon. Gaiman, however, does have a back-up.  

"Then again, Tom Hiddleston is still out there! And the truth is, as far as I'm concerned, anybody who sounds English with great cheekbones can probably pull it off."

Gaiman also gave us an update on what it's been like to oversee the script's development. Throughout the late 1990s, a Sandman film was planned by Warner Bros, parent company of DC Comics, but the scripts were apparently dreadful, with Sandman reportedly being written as more of a pants and tights superhero film than with the cerebral tone of the comics. In fact, Gaiman once described the last screenplay sent to him as being, "not only the worst Sandman script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read."

This time, however, Gaiman is much more involved in the writing process. 

"I really am [glad to have more input]," he says. "My position on it has always been, for over 25 years now, I would rather see no Sandman movie than a bad Sandman movie. A couple of times, people say, 'It's a crime there's never been a Sandman movie', and a couple of times, to be honest, I have thrown my body in front of a bus on a couple of bad ones over the years. I'm just happy that no bad Sandman movie has ever been made. But I'm really hoping that a good one will be. They're a good team. And with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in charge, his instincts are good and he loves the material. He wants it to be true to the material."

And just how is the script going at the moment? 

"Every now and then, I'll come in and last time I was in was earlier this year spending a day in a hotel room with Joe, and going over everything and answering questions with him and so on and so forth. So they've written a script. I got a phone call about two, three weeks ago from Joe and David saying, 'Jack did a script, we read it, we want some things done to it. We want you to see it, but not this version. The next version will be in three weeks and then you'll be the first person to see it.' So I am now a week before seeing the script. It's going to come in just before Christmas. I'm nervous, I'm on tenterhooks. But do I have good feelings? Yeah I do."