The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is truly changing.
In a stunning turn of events, filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran have been tapped to spearhead DC’s film, television and animation efforts as co-presidents and co-CEOs of DC Studios, a division newly formed at Warner Bros. which will replace DC Films.
The unprecedented move, in which a top director will assume a leadership role, marks the end of a months-long search by the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery director David Zaslav to replace DC Films boss Walter Hamada, who left the studio last week. This search had all of Hollywood guessing and playing executive bingo to see who would get one of the most coveted and challenging jobs in town.
In recent weeks, Gunn and Safran have been spotted on the Warners lot, meeting with Warners film co-chairman Michael De Luca about future plans. And according to sources, the initial opening to Safran and Gunn came from De Luca over the summer, even as the studio was in tentative talks with Dan Lin to take the job.
Gunn will focus on the creative side, while Safran will focus on the business and production side. The two are expected to continue directing and producing projects, respectively. They will report directly to Zaslav and work closely with Warners film bosses De Luca and Pamela Abdy. Sources say the deal is for four years and Gunn will be exclusive to DC. The goal is for them to not just be producers, but to genuinely function as executives, even if Gunn sometimes polishes a film.
Unlike Marvel Studios, DC has several films set in separate creative universes, and according to sources, Joker Filmmaker Todd Phillips’ work on the upcoming sequel, which will go into production later this year, will not fall under the purview of Gunn and Safran and will instead be overseen by De Luca and Abdy. Matt Reeves, who worked under Hamada, has a nascent universe based on The Batman film. It’s unclear who would own future Reeves projects, but everything else would be up to Gunn and Safran.
“DC are among the most entertaining, powerful and iconic characters in the world and I’m thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter join our world-class team and oversee the creative direction of the legendary DC Universe,” said Zaslav in a statement. “Their decades of experience in film, their strong ties to the creative community, and their proven track record of enthusing superhero fans around the world make them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, television and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling.
Gunn is one of the most respected minds in comic book cinema. He came into the independent film space and became a top filmmaker in 2014 with Marvel Studios. guardians of the galaxy and its 2017 sequel. He jumped to DC in 2018 to develop The Suicide Squad after rival Marvel fired him as director of guardians of the galaxy Flight. 3. (The studio later reinstated it, and that project is slated for release in May 2023.) His foray into DC The Suicide Squad was critically adored and spawned the hit HBO Max spin-off Peacemaker, with John Cena. Gunn is currently working on a second season.
Safran came as a manager, where Gunn was among his clients, and is fully entangled in the world of DC as a billion dollar producer. Aquaman and its upcoming sequel, as well as Crew, Peacemaker and Shazam! and this is next. His relationship with Warners dates back ten years and includes the $2 billion Conjuring horror franchise. Safran recently renewed its production agreement with Warners.
Gunn and Safran will work with top WBD executives, including TV boss Channing Dungey; Casey Bloys of HBO and HBO Max; Kathleen Finch, president and chief content officer of US Networks Group; head of consumer products Pam Lifford; and David Haddad of Warner Interactive Entertainment. DC Studios will share the resources within the company.
“We are honored to be stewards of these DC characters we have loved since we were kids,” Gunn and Safran said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with the world’s most talented writers, directors and actors to create an integrated, multi-layered universe that still allows for the individual expression of the artists involved. Our commitment to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn and the rest of DC’s stable of characters is matched only by our commitment to the marvel of human possibility that these characters represent. We are thrilled to reinvigorate the theatrical experience around the world by telling some of the biggest, finest and grandest stories ever told.
The move comes at a seismic moment for the DC, which has been run by Hamada for four years under the DC Films banner. The executive left amid friction with new management at Warners under Zaslav, who took the controversial decision to ax bat girl in August and has pledged to reshape DC with a 10-year plan as it seeks to compete with rival Marvel Studios. Even though Zaslav has talked about finding a Kevin Feige-style framework, over the summer the team started exploring the possibility of emulating the Pixar model, where you have producers and filmmakers working as frames. It’s never been tried in the live action space.
DC released black adam over the weekend, which featured the return of Superman actor Henry Cavill to the DC Universe, and what’s next has Shazam! Fury of the gods released in March.
As for Gunn’s future at Marvel, it’s been rumored that it may continue in some form after the conclusion of his guardians of the galaxy trilogy. However, today’s news, which comes hours after Marvel touted its upcoming Gunn-directed film Guardians holiday special, seems to have closed the door on Gunn’s chapter in the MCU.
The hiring is effective November 1 and comes as De Luca and Abdy have been making creative decisions and overseeing post-production on everything from the flash at Aquaman and the Lost Kingdomsince taking office in early July.
“We couldn’t be more excited for James Gunn and Peter Safran to join the team and take on the leadership of the DC Universe,” De Luca and Abdy said in a statement. “James is a brilliant filmmaker and storyteller and Peter is an extremely successful and prolific producer. To have them both commit to working together to forge this new era for DC is a literal dream come true. We all share a common sensibility and a very similar passion for this universe and the stars couldn’t have aligned better. We can’t wait to get started, dig in and collaborate with these unparalleled creative minds.”
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