Warner Bros. Steals James Gunn from Marvel to Lead New DC Superhero Slate

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
James Gunn, Superman, Batman

Warner Bros. has been on the lookout for a new leadership for DC, with reports noting that the studio is actively searching for a leader similar to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. 

A past report revealed that Arrowverse's Greg Berlanti was the studio's initial target to take over for the departing Walter Hamada, but it looks like their eyes were set on former Warner Bros. executive Dan Lin. Later, though, it was reported that Lin didn't accept the job, meaning that the search continued for Warner Bros. Discovery. 

As a result of failing to secure Lin, an anonymous talent representative called out DC for being "fragmented," with The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit even describing the studio's search for a Feige-type leader as a "fool's errand."

Now, following Hamda's official departure, it seems that DC has officially found its new leaders. 

DC Found its Leader in James Gunn

James Gunn
The Direct

The Hollywood Reporter shared that The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker filmmaker James Gun and producer Peter Safran were tapped to lead DC's film, TV, and animation efforts as co-chairs and co-CEOs of DC Studios. The said studios is a newly formed division at Warner Bros. Discovery that replaces DC Films. 

This move is being described as unprecedented since it marks the first time that a top director will assume a top executive post. This also puts to an end a months-long search by Warner Bros. to replace former DC Films boss president Walter Hamada.  

The Hollywood Reporter's sources claimed that the initial overture to Safran and Gunn came from Warner Bros. film co-chair Michael De Luca. Gunn will reportedly focus on the creative side while Safran will deal with the business and production side. 

THR's Borys Kit also revealed that the pair signed a 4-year deal. 

Moreover, both are expected to still continue to direct and produce projects. Gunn and Safran will report directly to Zaslav while working closely with De Luca and Warner Bros. film's Pamela Abdy.

THR also noted that "there has been talk" that Gunn could continue in some capacity at Marvel after the conclusion of his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. However, this latest development appears to have "closed the door" on Gunn's chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Given that DC has multiple films set in separate creative sources like Todd Philipp's Joker, THR's sources revealed that the Joaquin Phoenix-led sequel will not fall under Gunn and Safran and instead will be overseen by De Luca and Abdy. 

As for Matt Reeves' The Batman and its planned spin-offs and sequel, it is reportedly unclear if Gunn and Safran will oversee these projects, but everything else moving forward will be under the purview of the pair. 

In a joint statement, Gunn and Safran said that they are "honored to be the stewards" of the beloved DC characters, noting that their commitment to them is "only equaled by our commitment to the wonder of human possibility these characters represent:"

“We’re honored to be the stewards of these DC characters we’ve loved since we were children. 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.”

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav also shared the following statement: 

“DC has among the most entertaining, powerful, and iconic characters in the world and I am thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter joining our world-class team and overseeing the creative direction of the storied DC Universe. Their 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.”

Why James Gunn's Hiring is Key to DC's Bright Future 

James Gunn and Peter Safran's takeover of DC Studios is a sign of many good things to come for the DCEU due to the former's storytelling prowess and passion for the franchise's long list of characters. Moreover, given that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has that same love for these heroes and villains, it seems that the studio's plan to find a similar leadership figure eventually worked out. 

The confirmation that Gunn will lead DC's creative side means that there would be a right mix of the franchise's established and obscure characters that would emerge in the future, considering that the Marvel filmmaker pushed the likes of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Peacemaker into the spotlight. In addition, Gunn also knows how to handle ensemble movies, which is a good sign for fans craving a proper Justice League movie. 

Meanwhile, promoting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (which is set to release in May 2023) is even trickier for Gunn, considering that he's already the head of DC Studios. It seems that being bombarded by a plethora of Marvel and DC questions during a press tour is a possibility, though it is unknown if Marvel Studios will allow a DC-related query.

Whatever the case, Gunn and Safran's leadership mark a new era for DC, echoing Dwayne Johnson's statement when promoting Black Adam. Following the confirmed return of Henry Cavill's Superman, it seems that things are looking up for the DCEU, especially after a tumultuous time. 

- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.