8 Neil Gaiman Stories That Have Been Adapted for Screen
Gaiman's first professional short story, Featherquest, was published in 1984. Since then, he's written a number of epic fantasies, in multiple forms, including short stories, novels, and even comic book series.
Here are eight TV and big screen adaptations for your viewing pleasure, and they're topped up with Anglo favorites:
1. Good Omens
Most recently, Gaiman's 1990 Good Omens, which he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett, was made into a TV series, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. The story follows the demon Crowley (Tennant) and angel Aziraphale (Sheen), who put their differences aside and team up to stop the Antichrist Adam and his gang from bringing about the Apocalypse on Earth.
Gaiman talked to the BBC about the story and his friend and co-writer, saying, "Almost 30 years ago Terry Pratchett and I wrote the funniest novel we could about the end of the world, populated with angels and demons, not to mention an 11 year-old Antichrist, witch-finders and the four horsepeople of the Apocalypse. It became many people's favorite book. Three decades later, it's going to make it to the screen. I can't think of anyone we'd rather make it with than BBC Studios, and I just wish Sir Terry was alive to see it.”
2. American Gods
In 2017, the ten-part series American Gods premiered, based on Gaiman's 2001 novel. In this story, we see a conflict between the gods, with the traditional gods focusing on mythology and religion and the new gods' attention turned to celebrity and money, among other modern day vices.
The first look trailer released at 2016's San Diego Comic-Con, which introduced us to Shadow Moon, played by Ricky Whittle (Austenland), who is recently released from prison after learning his wife has been killed in a car crash. He meets a stranger while traveling, who, because it's Wednesday, decides he will go by Mr. Wednesday, portrayed by longtime Anglo fan favorite Ian McShane (Snow White and the Huntsman). The second season aired in 2019, and we can expect a third season, which is still due out later this year.
In the below clip, Gaiman talks about moving from England to Wisconsin in 1992. And that he really just didn't understand American life. So, to make sense of it, he decided to write about it and that's where American Gods came from. His recap is extremely interesting and entertaining, it's probably best if you hear it in his words:
Lucifer, which stars another Anglo favorite, that being Miranda's Tom Ellis, is going into its fifth season, with a sixth and final season confirmed. The series kicked off in 2016 and is still going strong. As the title suggests, it revolves around... the Devil. Ellis takes on the title role and is living in modern-day Los Angeles, ironically referred to it as the City of Angels. He's over living underground in Hell, and wants to stretch his legs and get out a bit.
In 2019, Gaiman revealed a fun fact about the series. When a fan Tweeted at him, asking who the narrator is, and if it was possibly Gaiman himself, he Tweeted back with this:
4. How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Switching gears, Gaiman's work has also been made for the big screen, including 2017's How to Talk to Girls at Parties. It's based on his 2007 science fiction short story by the same name. At first glance, it may sound like a coming-of-age rom-com, but there's a twist. Set in the London suburb of Croydon, two young guys (Alex Sharp, A.J. Lewis) go to a party, in hopes of meeting girls. They do, but the girls are a little different from the girls they're used to hanging out with, being aliens and all. Elle Fanning stars as Zan, who is a rebellious teen alien and fascinated by all things Earth.
If you'd like to backtrack and read the original short story, you can do so here.
5. Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories
This four-part 2016 miniseries is made-up of unrelated short stories, including a 1985 write-up that appeared in Penthouse, a 2002 piece that ran in McSweeney's, with a third pulled from a multi-author anthology, and finally, a story from a comic book.
With all of them being fantasy, maybe the series should be called Unlikely Stories... but, that's just us. We suppose, the unknown is likely (to be possible) to Gaiman and fans alike. In this 2018 interview, Gaiman talks about a 5,000 year old tree being the oldest thing alive on Earth (as far as he knows), and goes on to say, "We have stories older than that, that are still being told." That short snippet helps us see how his mind works. We take it as, stories are as real as that long-standing pine tree.
Gaiman's 2002 novella Coraline made it to the big screen in 2009 as an animated film. Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is an 11-year-old little girl who dreams of a life that is better than the one she knows. She gets what she's been wishing for... sort of. Coraline comes across a small door in her own home, that leads her to a parallel universe. In this new world, it's the same house, same garden, same parents, but glorified. She embraces this new life, but when she's asked to exchange her own eyes for button eyes, she is quite alarmed.
As we all know, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Talking to CBR.com, Gaiman said of the adaptation, "It's astonishing and seeing it with your 3D glasses on in a big theater is just unbelievable." It was originally planned to be a live-action film, but then transitioned into animation, with Gaiman explaining the change-up, "I do like that he (Henry Selick) wrote a live-action script, partly because the pacing for the film is live-action pacing, it's a 100-minute film, it's 20 minutes or more longer then it would be if someone sat down to make an animated film."
You may remember the 2007 movie Stardust, starring Claire Danes and Charlie Cox, narrated by Anglo favorite Sir Ian McKellen. It's based on Gaiman's 1997 novel. The story revolves around a young man named Tristan (C0x), who promises his love interest that he will find a fallen star for her, in exchange for her hand in marriage. He does... but, surprisingly, the star is in the form of a woman (Danes). This sort of complicates his mission to seek and retrieve.
In 2007, Gaiman talked to MTV about why he turns down a lot of adaptation requests. The short answer is, it doesn't seem like people are going to handle the story correctly. With that said, there's an easy-ish fix—sign on as a producer. If you'd like to read the longer answer, you can do so here.
Gaiman's 1996 urban fantasy novel Neverwhere revolves around a young Londoner named Richard Mayhew. Gary Bakewell plays Mayhew in the 1997 miniseries. His life is pretty typical, that is until he comes across a young woman who is injured. Running into this supernatural damsel in distress, simply named Door (Laura Fraser), changes his life completely. She introduces him to a parallel universe, referred to as London Below. Mayhew helps Door find who murdered her family, with the help of the Angel Islington, played by Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi.
The TV series actually happened first, with the novel following. But, even so, it seems like a good fit for this roundup. And, if for some reason, that switcheroo doesn't sit well with you, the novel was adapted into a radio series in 2013, starring James McAvoy as Mayhew.
Bonus: It's been announced The Graveyard Book, published in 2008, is being made into a movie. The story revolves around an orphaned boy who is raised by supernatural beings living in a graveyard. The start date is still in the works, but something to look forward to.
Shall we have a Neil Gaiman marathon this weekend?