DC Films Leadership – James Gunn and Peter Safran now CEOS – how did this happen, and what could this mean?

James Gunn is having a very great week this week (this news dropped as the trailer for his new Guardians of the Galaxy Disney+ special), which shows that perhaps getting FIRED from Disney 4 years ago, ironically, led to the best possible career jump Gunn could have ever had.


You may already recall in July 2018, when the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn was fired from Disney and Marvel, due to Tweets written by Gunn from years past which were seen as “too vulgar” and “immature” for Disney’s brand.

Many fans and cast members begged Disney to reconsider, resulting in the studio and its execs eventually agreeing to hire James Gunn back after a month.

But during that month of absence, the filmmaker allegedly became disinterested in Marvel, only promising to finish the Guardians of the Galaxy’s storyline, and nothing more. Can you blame him?

After James Gunn was fired, he was very quickly picked up by Warner Bros. who immediately signed him on to direct DC’s The Suicide Squad. While the film bombed, it opened to critical acclaim (90% Rotten Tomatoes), and was the best reviewed DC project in years.

Now jump to today, and James Gunn has produced a few successful DC shows (Peacemaker + Harley Quinn The Animated Series), along with his life-long producing partner Peter Safran, seen on the bottom photo on the right. Both Gunn and Safran have earned so much goodwill from Warner Bros. that their CEO David Zazlav, seen in the top image, has just signed them on for a 4 year contract, as co-CEO and Co-chairmen over DC Studios.

This is a massive deal for the studio, even if the core talent essentially remains the same.

Warner Brothers’ CEO David Zazlav has made no secret that he’s desperately been looking for showrunners to produce the next 10 years of DC storylines and films, as Kevin Feige has done so successfully with Marvel. 

Personally, I don’t think James Gunn will be as successful as Kevin Feige, as there’s still too much baggage around DC, compared to Marvel. But James Gunn will soon have Kevin Feige’s level of exposure.

James Gunn will be there to appear at every Comic Con presentation, every premiere red carpet, and every press junket for every DC project going forward.

Let’s just hope James Gunn hires a very good publicist to watch what he says. Because as we’ve seen from his previous tweets, Gunn can be pretty vulgar and crude sometimes when saying things off the cuff.

I’m also hoping future James Gunn / Peter Safran projects are capped at $100 million, as every artist had their creative limit.

Just look at James Gunn’s own The Suicide Squad, which while well-received well by critics, the film was too expensive ($185 million budget) and earned practically no money ($168 million worldwide + HBOMax) to earn any profit.

General Audiences who saw the film gave it a “B+” Cinemascore, indicating a mixed but positive reaction. The TV shows which he later produced (Peacemaker and Harley Quinn) similarly received great reviews but only “so-so” streaming numbers.

Perhaps Gunn’s brand, and R-rated style and vision, might not be appealing for everyone or all DC fans. He has a a fun creative direction, and he clearly knows what characters he’s better at adapting (he himself admitted he couldn’t write many of DC’s female characters).

This just means we’re going to get more films like The Suicide Squad or Peacemaker, less like Wonder Woman or Batgirl.  Whether this new focus translates to an expanding DC fan base remains to be seen.

I think a very valid concern is Warner Bros. CEO David Zazlav: he has been selling off franchises and IP’s left and right, firing staffers, laying off the animation division, and restructuring up to $4 BILLION in content write-offs.

He is trying to make Warner Brothers as lean and mean and digestible as possible, so that Universal Pictures can acquire and buy the studio soon. 

I believe the most important thing now is to give James Gunn and Peter Safran safety, or protection, from leadership changes and shifting corporate priorities, after Universal Studios takes over DC and Warner Brothers in a few years. 

POTENTIAL COLLABORATIONS with filmmakers in DC projects

More Dwayne Johnson?

Even after Black Adam had a solid start at the box office just last week, opening to $140 Million worldwide, it’s doubtful that The Rock would be immediately willing to work with Gunn.

Both are incredibly self-promotional, and personal with their respective brands, have had no history working together, and it’s very likely The Rock wasn’t privy about the James Gunn deal at all! He might not have wanted Gunn in charge.

I say give this relationship time to breathe.

Zack Snyder / “The SnyderVerse”

Yes, Zack Snyder still has a small but vocal fanbase, who loves his work and constantly yells online for Zack to continue making DC projects, within his (amusingly titled) world: “The SnyderVerse”.

But based on Snyder’s personal history, and the films themselves (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League), and the negative reactions they each received from both Warner Brothers and a lot of audiences/DC fans, I still think Snyder’s return as a DC filmmaker is too soon. 

So while Snyders return as a DC filmmaker is too hard to tell, I believe James Gunn will build upon the world that Snyder created.

Margot Robbie will stick around as Harley Quinn, and Henry Cavill is fantastic as Superman (even if I’d argue that his portrayal as Clark Kent could use some work), and he has fans excited after his return in Black Adam.

James Gunn would be wise to keep them both.

Christopher Nolan

Recall back in 2020: after Nolan’s own film Tenet underwhelmed, and the studio Warner Brothers announced they would premiere all their upcoming films on HBOMax (without telling any filmmakers), Nolan decided to quit and leave Warner Brothers.

After 18 years of working under the studio, producing hits from Inception to The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan fled to Universal Pictures.

Now is it possible in a few years, under new management from Universal Pictures, that Nolan might be more inclined to return to make more superhero blockbusters under DC, like The Dark Knight? It’s very well possible.

But would Christopher Nolan even want to?

Marvel crossover? 

Now this it would be quite the feather in James Gunns’ cap, if he could pull this off. James Gunn has mentioned for years that merging these two superhero universes would be an amazing sight to see, even if a merger of this size would take more than 10-20 years to pull off. But man, imagine! 

If Marvel’s quality somehow takes a nose-dive over the next 5 years, and DC’s rises back up, then an in-universe merger could be in the cards. As always, we’ll see…

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