Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has landed former Marvel producer James Gunn and Peter Safran to lead its freshly minted DC Studios production entity.
The duo become co-chairmen and co-CEO’s at DC Studios (fka DC Films), which WBD has created to house film, TV and animation projects from the DC Universe.
Underlining the brand’s importance, Gunn and Safran will report directly to WBD CEO David Zaslav when they start on 1 November. The duo will also work with Warner Bros. Film’s Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, and are expected to work on other, non DC projects.
Guardians of DC
Director Gunn had been behind movies including Marvel Studios’ hit Guardians Of The Galaxy before working on DC project The Suicide Squad, having been let go by the Disney-owned brand. He has since worked on HBO Max show Peacemaker and returned to Marvel to finish Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, which is set to premiere in May.
Safran has worked on shows including Aquaman during his decade-long partnership with WBD and its forerunners. His label, The Safran Company, holds a production deal with the group.
The duo replace Walter Hamada, who left his role as chief at DC Films following WBD’s decision to axe Batgirl. Producer Dan Lin had also been mooted to be among candidates, prior to the appointments of Gunn and Safran.
Zaslav said the duo would oversee “the creative direction of the storied DC Universe”, as WBD looks to rival Marvel’s superhero dominance.
“[Gunn and Safran]’s decades of experience in filmmaking, close ties to the creative community and proven track record thrilling superhero fans around the globe make them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, TV, and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling,” the WBD CEO added.
Gunn and Safran said: “We look forward to collaborating with the most talented writers, directors and actors in the world to create an integrated, multilayered 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 the DC stable of characters is only equaled by our commitment to the wonder of human possibility these characters represent.”
Questions around the DC Universe proliferated after the decision to shelve the $90m-budget HBO Max Batgirl movie despite it being in post production, promoting Zaslav to suggest in August that the film was not up to the standard he wanted to set for the superhero IP going forward. During an earnings call, he added that he could see no “economic value” in “expensive films going direct-to-streaming.”
He further shared that WBD had a “10-year plan focusing just on DC” similar to the approach Disney has taken with the Kevin Feige-run Marvel Studios. Disney has had incredible success expanding its Marvel Cinematic Universe to streaming, with Disney+ series such as Loki and Ms Marvel complementing the theatrical releases.
WBD could soon start connecting its own streaming and cinema universes through titles such as The Suicide Squad spin-off Peacemaker and the upcoming Colin Farrell-led HBO Max series The Penguin, spun off from Matt Reeves’ feature The Batman.