DC Studios Hires James Gunn and Peter Safran
Shortly after the exit of Walter Hamada from DC Films, Warner Brothers Discovery is reorganizing DC Films into DC Studios, with James Gunn and Peter Safran serving as Co-CEOs and Co-Chairs of the reorganized division.
The Hollywood Reporter has broken the news that Gunn and Safran have taken the top positions at DC Studios after months of searching for someone to take control of the company. In addition to films and television, the new division will also oversee DC’s animated efforts. This move represents one of new CEO David Zaslav’s efforts to reorganize the Warner Bros. film division to be more like the Walt Disney Company with “silos” for various parts of the company (Disney Live-Action, Disney Animation, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and Twentieth Century Studios all having their own systems of management within the larger whole). One of Zaslav’s stated missions has been to make three silos: one for feature films, one for animated films, and DC content. Despite the existence of a DC Films label, the division wasn’t given full autonomy, meaning that previous efforts have had to compete internally with resources for other projects. With Gunn and Safran on board at DC Studios, that should hopefully be a thing of the past.
Safran recently re-upped his contract with Warner Brothers, initially leading to speculation that he passed on the DC Studios chief role that Zaslav was looking for, although we now know that the opposite is true. Safran’s current DC credits include producing Aquaman, Shazam!, and The Suicide Squad, and executive producing Peacemaker; credits for upcoming DC projects including Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Safran also produced The Conjuring trilogy and the spin-off Annabelle trilogy and The Nun, while also producing the upcoming spin-offs The Nun 2 and The Crooked Man, along with The Conjuring 4.
Gunn, in the meantime, had a forced split with Marvel Studios after very dark jokes that he made resurfaced, leading to his temporary firing from the company. (The two companies patched things up, with Gunn writing and directing The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special for Disney Plus and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for next year, but he had been expected to stick around as a producer after completing his trilogy prior to the shake-up.) DC saw an opening and courted Gunn for whatever DC IP he wanted to work with, with Gunn opting to do an R-rated quasi-sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, simply titled The Suicide Squad. While the movie didn’t have much luck at the box office, it scored massive numbers for a DC Films-produced project out of any movie on HBO Max, which it was simultaneously released on. The spin-off television series Peacemaker would go on to be one of the most watched HBO Max originals, leading to Gunn being given carte blanche to develop multiple film and television projects, including one that will star Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller.
The deal is said to have first been discussed with Gunn and Safran over the Summer as part of the search. Zaslav’s top pick, Todd Phillips, wasn’t interested, and industry legend Alan Horn’s suggestion of Dan Lin didn’t work out due to Lin’s commitment to his production company, which is currently making movies for Universal. The agreement put into place places Gunn in charge with creative aspects tied to DC Studios, while Safran handles the business and production side of the equation, and both will answer directly to Zaslav while working alongside WB film bosses Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy. The current contract has Gunn and Safran in their current positions for four years, with both expected to continue directing, writing, and producing future DC projects. Gunn will be exclusively making DC content during this time, outside of seeing the completion of his two Guardians of the Galaxy projects through. Peacemaker Season 2 is up next for him.
Also of note is that the DC Extended Universe franchise has now seemingly been renamed “the DC Universe” as part of this rebranding effort, as the DCEU name was never truly official and there was nothing that officially replaced it. How non-DCU projects will be affected by the creative shake-up aren’t clear; it is presumed that Matt Reeves will continue to have creative freedom on his projects tied to The Batman, while Phillips’s Joker: Folie à Deux will be a creator-driven film explicitly seen under the supervision of De Luca and Abdy. Whether or not Reeves will eventually answer to Gunn or Safran remains to be seen, although he has been given a great deal of creative freedom as part of his contract.
Grant Davis is a freelance writer who has covered entertainment news for more than seven years. His articles have frequently appeared in Star Wars News Net as well as as other entertainment-related websites. As someone who grew up on Star Wars and comic book movies, he’s completely thrilled with the current era of genre entertainment.