James Gunn Blasts Past DC Leadership in Candid Comments
In the three months he’s been running DC Studios with Peter Safran, writer-director James Gunn has been unusually (and some would say refreshingly) candid for a Hollywood studio executive. His propensity to speak his mind was again on full display early this week when he and his partner, Peter Safran, briefed reporters on their ambitious slate during a presentation on the Warner Bros. lot.
Among several choice comments peppered with profanities, Gunn said previous DC regimes were “fucked up” and, at another point in the presentation, insisted that former Superman star Henry Cavill was “dicked around” by the studio.
It was unusual to hear a studio boss speak so openly. As a rule, a newly minted studio principal doesn’t go around making such rebukes — at least not publicly — in a town ruled by relationships.
“This is what happens when you put a writer and a director in an executive role,” says one rival studio executive.
After a lengthy search, Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav stunned Hollywood when hiring Gunn and Safran late last year to run the newly formed DC Studios, which brought movies, TV, animation and video games under one roof. On the film side, they took over from Walter Hamada, who worked for years alongside former Warners movie chief Toby Emmerich. Other previous key players at DC include Zack Snyder, the director behind Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017) and who was key in films like Wonder Woman (2017) before departing the universe in 2017, with Joss Whedon taking over Justice League.
Safran and Gunn’s newly unveiled blueprint calls for an overall unified DC Universe that will, in part, use marquee heroes to introduce lesser-known characters (much as Marvel Studios has done).
Gunn took direct aim at those previously in charge for taking a piecemeal approach to IP (he has an inside view, having directed The Suicide Squad for DC and Warner Bros. and having creating the TV show spinoff, Peacemaker). “As everyone here probably knows, the history of DC is pretty messed up. It was fucked up,” Gunn said. “No one was minding the mint. They were giving away IP like they were party favors at any creator who smiled at them.”
He added, “There is the Arrowverse, there was the DCEU, which then split and became the Joss Whedon Justice League at one point and the Snyderverse. At another point, There is Superman & Lois, there is Reevesverse, there are all these different things,” said Gunn, referencing projects such as The CW’s slate of shows and Matt Reeves’ The Batman. “And even us. We came and did Suicide Squad and that became Peacemaker and all of sudden Bat-Mite is a real thing.”
Gunn and Safran officially arrived on the Warner Bros. lot Nov. 1 and almost as soon made headlines when parting ways with Wonder Woman filmmaker Patty Jenkins, who had been prepping the third film in the Gal Gadot series.
Next came a much-publicized kerfuffle over Henry Cavill. In mid-October, the actor had happily announced on Instgram that he would be returning as Superman after making a cameo as the Man of Steel in Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. But after Gunn and Safran arrived, they explained to Cavill that they would be proceeding in a different direction. Cavill once again took to social media to explain the situation, prompting some of his fans to say he was fired.
During his slate presentation this week, Gunn tried to clarify the the actor’s exit, saying Cavill was never fired, since he didn’t have an official deal. Gunn went further and assigned blame elsewhere. “I like Henry, I think he’s a great guy,” he said. “I think he’s getting dicked around by a lot of people, including the former regime at this company. But this Superman is not Henry, for a number of reasons.” (Gunn’s Superman is a younger version, said to be around 25.)
It wasn’t clear to which regime Gunn was referring to in reference to Cavill, though The Hollywood Reporter previously reported that Black Adam star Dwayne Johnson went around Hamada’s back to get permission from Warner Bros. Pictures bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy to tap Cavill for Adam.
Gunn also took aim at release dates, saying the industry puts far too much emphasis on meeting a date, versus making sure the movie is in good shape. (This may help to explain why only two of the projects he and Safran revealed, Superman: Legacy and The Batman Part II, were dated. Both will hit theaters in 2025.)
“We are not going to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a film where a screenplay is only two-thirds of the way done and we have to finish it while we’re making the movie. I’ve seen it happen again and again and it’s a mess,” Gunn said. “I think it’s the primary reason for the deterioration of quality of films today versus 20, 30 years ago.”
In addition to his duties at DC, Gunn has Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 due out in May. The filmmaker became a high-profile director over at Marvel, rising up with the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, released in 2014.
Since taking over as his new job, Gunn has continued to have an active Twitter presence, responding to fans and cheekily swatting down rumors. Asked by the press if he would continue to have to to use social media to debunk rumors, he responded: “Have to? That’s my joy!”