New DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran are in the final stages of prepping their multiyear plan ahead of next week's pivotal presentation to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
Call it DC Rebirth or DC: Genesis. Maybe call it Identity Crisis or Flashpoint. These titles of past DC comics event series aptly describe the state of Warner Bros.’ DC movies, which are on the cusp of a new era, but not before a potentially messy transition period.
A cleaning of the slate is common when a new executive team is put in place to run a studio or division but there is likely little precedent for the amount of Clorox James Gunn and Peter Safran could spray as they prepare to launch DC Studios and guide superhero movies for the next half decade and beyond.
The duo in recent days flew back to Los Angeles from the snowy city of Aspen, Colorado, where they were huddled in deep planning, and now like holy figures coming down from the mountaintop, have sets of commandments or a DC Bible in hand. Or at least a working blueprint.
Gunn and Safran are expected to meet next week with David Zaslav, the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO who is radically reshaping the media company and who hired the duo in October to lead a newly launched film and TV division. The pair will unveil to Zaslav a plan that is expected to lay out their vision. Although much of their plan, which insiders paint as still a work-in-progress and one that has yet to be approved, is being kept deep in the Batcave, details of several possible paths forward are trickling out. And at least one path not being taken has also been revealed.
Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3 is not moving forward and is considered dead in its current incarnation.
Sources say that Jenkins recently submitted her treatment, co-written with Geoff Johns, and that Gunn and Safran, as well as Warner Bros. Pictures co-chairs and co-CEOs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, broke the news to the filmmaker, telling her the project — as it stood — did not fit in with the new (but still unfolding) plans. Jenkins directed and co-wrote the previous two movies, starring Gal Gadot and released in 2017 and 2020. No decision has been made about next steps.
And while costs are not a factor — insiders say that DC Studios will not have any overburdensome financial restrictions — the studio could end up saving tens of millions of dollars by not making the third installment. Gadot, according to sources, was on track for a $20 million payday for Wonder Woman 3 while Jenkins would have received $12 million. Those figures don’t include any possible backend bonuses.
Warners had no comment.
It is unclear how any future Wonder Woman movie, and Gadot’s portrayal of the hero, would fit into the new DC plan. In a bit of head-scratching timing, Gadot tweeted out of the blue a thank you to fans Tuesday, saying she was grateful to be allowed to play the heroine and role model, adding, “Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you.” It was unclear whether or not the actress knew the project was being toe-tagged.
The rest of the DC slate remains in flux, or at least is being kept deep in a pocket of Gunn’s own utility belt but there are several rumors and possible scenarios to consider ahead of next week’s meeting.
The first, which builds on the shuttering of Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3, is the closing curtain of the Snyderverse, and the heroes cast by filmmaker Zack Snyder for his Justice League. This one sees the shutting down of Man of Steel 2, with a returning Henry Cavill, and having no more Aquaman, fronted by Jason Momoa.
These characters are to cameo in Flash, the highly anticipated time travel adventure movie that is due to release June 16. Cavill shot his part of the cameo in September. But sources say there is a debate inside the studio as whether or not to keep the cameo and if its inclusion promises something that studio would have no plans on delivering.
A Warners insider cautions that no plans have been finalized and that Flash remains an unlocked picture.
The Cavill situation is a more than a little thorny as the actor made a cameo in Black Adam, the DC-centric movie released in October. The Monday after the movie opened, Cavill posted a video on Instagram where he announced, “I wanted to make it official — I am back as Superman.”
And at that time, he was not incorrect. Warner Bros. was indeed developing a sequel for 2013’s Man of Steel and actively meeting with writers. Andy Muschietti, who directed Flash, even expressed interest in sitting behind the camera for something that would have brought a tone similar to the hopeful and heroic colors of the 1978 movie directed by Richard Donner, considered a benchmark in comic book movies. In fact, the current leadership team at Warner Bros Pictures — Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy — did desire one more go-around of the Snyderverse heroes, possibly even having another Justice League movie with those actors.
But that was before Gunn and Safran began formulating their new (and still in flux) plan.
Also unlikely is a sequel to Black Adam. Despite the hype surrounding the movie of launching a new corner of DC, a lot of it led by star Dwayne Johnson, the movie has only grossed $385 million worldwide and insiders at the studio say the movie, which cost more than $190 million to produce (two sources peg the actual cost at $230 million, not including marketing), will be lucky to break even, even considering ancillary revenue. Even if the movie does eke out a minimal profit, any follow-up’s inherent rising costs dim the prospect of a sequel.
Johnson hoped to carve out his own piece of the DC pie, but multiple sources say his playing up of a returning Cavill and his own involvement with DC may not be endearing him to the new management. Johnson and Cavill are both managed by Dany Garcia, who is also Johnson’s producing partner. The perception of Adam turning a profit or not is a conflagration now being waged in public, with Johnson tweeting the movie would net over $50 million after a Variety story said the movie would lose over $50 million theatrically.
Momoa, meanwhile, could emerge as a pivotal figure in the new plans, according to several sources. In one scenario, the actor would wrap up his days as underwater hero Arthur Curry with Lost City, due out Dec. 25, 2023, which would be the final movie released that was made by the previous regime. But it would not spell the end of the actor’s involvement with DC, with sources saying the actor would lead another movie or franchise. The character of Lobo, a foul-mouthed cigar-chomping intergalactic bounty hunter, has been mentioned in connection with Momoa.
Whether or not Momoa does play everybody’s favorite bastich, Lobo emerging as a rising character early on in the conversation may point to the kinds of characters the Gunn-Safran team may be focusing on. The character is an outsider, an anti-hero, and is keeping in line with Gunn’s specialty of taking the off-beat and quirky and flipping it into crowd-pleasing fare.
Part of the plan could entail a truly fresh start and having no baggage from any previous regimes as they set about resetting how DC movies and shows are made. That, however, does not take into account the possible success of movies such as Shazam! Fury of the Gods (March 17, 2023), on which Safran is a producer, and Blue Beetle (Aug. 18, 2023). Would that plan include forging ahead without the actors who inhabit those characters and recast them even if those movies prove to be box office hits?
Observers are convinced the plan calls for an interconnected story universe and there is rumblings of the establishment of a creative brain trust. The brain trust may be already rolling in some capacity as sources say that Safran had in recent weeks been meeting with writers at his Los Angeles home in an effort to hone the presentation, gathering feedback and ideas for the plan.
One part that the Gunn-Safran agenda seems likely not to touch, at least for now, is the Matt Reeves Batman universe in which Robert Pattinson dons the cowl of the Caped Crusader. Reeves is writing the sequel to The Batman, which opened March 4. The filmmaker is also overseeing the launch of two Batman series that spin out of his movie, including The Penguin.