James Gunn and Peter Safran Give DC Studios Bold, Bold, and a Little Risky New Guardians

James Gunn and Peter Safran Give DC Studios Bold, Bold, and a Little Risky New Guardians

James Gunn and Peter Safran Give DC Studios Bold, Bold, and a Little Risky New Guardians

James Gunn spent the summer thinking about the future.

It’s been three months since Tuesday’s shock announcement that he and his longtime manager have become producers Peter Safran would take the wheel DC movies, the director appeared at San Diego Comic-Con in July as a Disney employee, in town to give a first look at Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3″. As she walked the red carpet, Variety there asked him about expanding Marvel’s superhero remit beyond Chris Pratt and the company’s galactic woes.

“All I care about is that when I take on a project, I have to say this is something that’s going to excite me and make me happy for the next two to three years… I don’t want to be bored,” Gunn said.

Boredom won’t be an option, as Gunn and Safran now hold the titles of co-chairmen and CEOs of DC Studios, where they’ll oversee the creative direction of the company’s arsenal of comic book villains and heroes across film, television and comics. , animation and beyond. The job is huge, and success is far from guaranteed, despite Gunn and Safran’s impressive resumes. Both must find new ways to compete with Marvel, the studio that brought Gunny to the A-list and create the cinematic universe’s gold standard, while finding ways to control costs at a time when DC’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery is increasingly focused on staying on budget.

Many Hollywood players Variety Warner Bros. spoke to the decision as “brave”. From Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who has made it clear he wants nothing less than his own answer to Marvel guru Kevin Feige. In Goon he found a renegade (and for a moment, incendiary) filmmaker who is steeped in geek culture and has shown a knack for drawing outside the lines without alienating mainstream audiences.

“If Marvel is going to prove anything, you need someone with fanboy chops and a producer. That’s what they seem to have here, for the first time, in DC,” said one powerbroker, speaking on condition of anonymity. Both Safran and Gunn will report to Zaslav, who is known as a demanding manager who has a bit of a hard time digging into details.

Talks with Gunn and Safran began over the summer, according to insiders, and coincided with discussions the studio was having with prolific producer Dan Lin. Now, Gunn and Safran are among the most powerful figures in Hollywood. While the pair’s compensation package is currently unknown, industry insiders speculate that a job of this size would command a package of $6 million to $8 million each in salary and incentives.

In Safran, DC gets an affable boss with the charm and finesse needed to navigate the corporate world. Saffron was described as “elegant” by a senior talent representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and “as sturdy as an oak tree.” Raised in the UK and trained as a lawyer before landing an assistant desk at United Talent Agency, Safran spent years managing at the management firm Brillstein-Grey (during that shop’s heyday, when clients included Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston). He cut his teeth building James Wan’s The Conjuring universe, which has become one of Warners’ highest-grossing films, and then showed he could handle superhero tentpoles by producing Shazam! and Aquaman. Gunn and Safran worked together on Suicide Squad, which was a critical success but a box office flop, though many attribute that to the studio’s decision to simulcast it on HBO Max. The pair scored a hit with The Peacemaker , which showcases the multi-platform approach where movies feed streaming and vice versa, which Zaslav wanted to see more of at the studio.

But Zaslav and company will need patience. The two men begin work on Nov. 1, but it takes months, even years, to build the slate. They will inherit the reins of several projects left over from the previous regime of Walter Hamada, a beloved DC executive who left after Zaslav left “Batgirl” in favor of a tax write-off, and Tobe Emmerich, the former Warner Bros. the leader. . These include The Flash, which has been completed, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is currently in post-production. Michael DeLuca, who pushed Gunn to hire and met Zaslav, according to insiders, and Pamela Abdi, a Warner Bros. The new directors of the film group gave the green light to “Joker. Folie à Deux, but that film will exist outside. any cinematic universe that Gunn and Safran will build. A Batman sequel is also on deck, but writer-director Matt Reeves has yet to finish the script, so that movie won’t hit theaters until 2025. There are also lingering questions about what to do with Man of Steel, as the Chuck Roven-produced Superman sequel is currently soliciting proposals from writers. Henry Cavill recently announced that he plans to take on the mantle of Superman once again.

So what will this mean for Gunn and Safran? Several senior executives and dealmakers said they were interested to see how up-and-coming filmmakers would treat Gunn, a bold and distinctive voice who will now cut the checks and enter the editing room.

“Imagine if Todd Phillips came in to play ‘Joker’ tomorrow,” said one producer, “would he want to work for James Gunn?” Other players with knowledge of the studio said that particular scenario is where Safran would ideally be most effective, and suggested that De Luca and Abdi could serve as important ambassadors. Under the four-year contract, DC can still see Gunn behind the camera. The pact simply means that he will no longer be able to transfer his particular skill set from Burbank Street to Marvel.

Gunn’s hire also loudly signals that Zaslav is willing to bet on style for a four-square safety. Gunn’s voice is clearly aimed at adults and is never afraid to poke fun or be meta. After all, Suicide Squad ended with the team impaling giant starfish; it’s a step towards rococo that seems far removed from Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet.

Gunn became known as the creator of slyly subversive genres such as Slither and Super, which were made with a rebellious cry and films made outside the creative constraints of the blockbuster business. But with Guardians of the Galaxy, he also showed a talent for maintaining that flavor somewhat, serving the needs of a corporate department that would make movies that would create toys and amusement parks.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing in space. Gunn was eventually fired from the Watchmen franchise in 2018 following a backlash over social media posts in which the director covered child abuse, AIDS, the Holocaust and sexual assault. Alan Horn himself, the industry’s beloved elder statesman who ironically now advises Zaslav and Warner Bros. Gunn apologized and served his time in a Disney prison while filming Suicide Squad for DC Films. In 2019, Gunn was reinstated as director of the third Guardians film following announcements of support from key talent Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff. Those who knew him said he was chastened by the experience and grateful to have been given a second chance.

Ultimately, Gunn and Safran will be judged on their ability to introduce new heroes while keeping the old ones relevant. But for today, at least, both Gunn and Safran are winners, emerging from one of the mostly closed-door auditions in recent Hollywood history with the keys to the DC kingdom.

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