James Gunn and producer Peter Safran have been hired to lead the film, television and animation departments as co-chairs and co-CEOs of DC Studios, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The company is a newly formed division at Warner Bros. that will replace DC Films.
Gunn’s hiring by DC is unprecedented, as he’s a top director, best known for the Guardian of the Galaxy trilogy, assuming a top executive post at a movie studio. The filmmaker’s hiring in one of the most coveted positions in Hollywood comes after Warner Bros. Discovery [WBD] CEO David Zaslav led a months-long search to replace DC Films boss Walter Hamada, who left the studio last week.
The hiring of Gunn and Safran, who produced Aquaman and The Suicide Squad, comes after they spent time over the past several weeks attending meetings on the Warners lot with the studio’s film co-chair, Michael De Luca about future projects. The duo were initially considered over the summer after De Luca reportedly recommended them, even while the studio was in discussions with It series producer Dan Lin about taking the job.
Gunn will focus on the creative side of development, while Safran will focus on the business and production side of those projects. Both are expected to continue to direct and produce their own projects, respectively. The duo will report directly to Zaslav, and work closely with Warners film bosses De Luca and Pamela Abdy.
The two filmmakers have reportedly signed on to serve as the co-chairs and co-CEOs for DC Studios for four years, during which time Gunn will work exclusive for DC. They will not only serve as producers, but also serve as executives and occasionally work on their own projects.
Unlike Marvel Studios, DC has multiple movies set in separate creative universes. Joker‘s writer-director-producer, Todd Phillips is working on the Oscar-winning thriller’s upcoming sequel, which goes into production later this year. But the follow-up will not be overseen by Gunn and Safran; instead, it will be guided by De Luca and Abdy.
Matt Reeves, who worked under Hamada, is also working on building a franchise for his Batman film, The Batman. It’s not yet known if the co-scribe-helmer-producer’s future projects in the series will be moving forward under the supervision of Gunn and Safran.
Besides working on movies, the duo will also work with top executives at WBD, including TV boss Channing Dungey; HBO and HBO Max’s Casey Bloys; US Networks Group chair and chief content officer Kathleen Finch; consumer products chief Pam Lifford; and Warner Interactive Entertainment’s David Haddad. DC Studios will share resources across the company.
“We’re honored to be the stewards of these DC characters we’ve loved since we were children,” Gunn and Safran said in a statement. “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. We’re excited to invigorate the theatrical experience around the world as we tell some of the biggest, most beautiful, and grandest stories ever told.”
The move comes after Hamada led the company over the past four years under the DC Films banner. He departed amid tension with new Warners leadership under Zaslav, who made the controversial decision to not release the Batgirl movie this past August, after it was already filmed. He has also vowed to reshape DC with a ten-year plan as it seeks to compete with its rival, Marvel Studios.
Zaslav had previously talked about finding an executive for DC Studios, much like Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige. However, over the summer, Zaslav’s team started looking into emulating Pixar’s model, in which producers and filmmakers also work as executives. That model has never been tried at a live-action studio before.
Gunn and Safran’s work at DC Studios will officially begin on November 1. Their hiring comes as De Luca and Abdy have been making creative decisions and overseeing post-production on multiple projects for the company, including The Flash, Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom, since they started their jobs in early July.
“We could not be more excited to have James Gunn and Peter Safran join the team and assume the leadership of the DC Universe,””De Luca and Abdy said in a statement. “James is a brilliant filmmaker and storyteller and Peter is a tremendously successful and prolific producer and to have them both committing to work together to forge this new era for DC is a literal dream come true. We all share a very similar sensibility and passion for this universe and the stars couldn’t have aligned any better. We can’t wait to get started, dig in, and collaborate with these unmatched creative minds.”