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Has DC finally found its Kevin Feige? James Gunn takes over as creative head of DC film, TV projects

Gunn and super-producer Peter Safran are teaming to lead a newly-named studio division at DC.

By Benjamin Bullard
James Gunn GETTY

The hugely publicized search for DC's very own creative sensei is finally over, and it’s a double doozy: None other than Peacemaker and Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn reportedly will be taking the reins of all things screen-related at DC, sharing equal duty alongside Shazam! and Aquaman super-producer Peter Safran as co-leaders of a newly-created entertainment division at Warner Bros. Discovery.

The Hollywood Reporter has broken the seismic news as DC arrives at the apparent end of its lengthy, faltering search for creative leadership in the vein of Marvel’s top-down creative oversight from studio president Kevin Feige. Gunn and Safran will share leadership of “DC’s film, TV and animation efforts as co-chairs and co-CEOs of DC Studios, a newly formed division at Warner Bros. that will replace DC Films,” the outlet reports.

Among other bits of fallout, that means fans will likely get used to seeing “DC Studios” as the new, all-encompassing name atop everything from small-screen series like Peacemaker, Titans, and Harley Quinn to big-budget spectacles like the planned sequel to The Joker and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. THR notes Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to tap Gunn as the new studio’s creative chief marks an “unprecedented move” in entrusting a “top executive post” to a big-name movie director.

For Gunn, it’s a full-circle success story: After briefly falling out of favor at Marvel over remarks he made on social media in 2018, he’s since gone on to helm DC’s The Suicide Squad while elevating Peacemaker to must-watch television at HBO Max, and returned to the MCU once again as the creative force behind the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise.

Via the report, Gunn will be in charge of DC Studios’ creative direction, while Safran targets “the business and production side of things.” Each will reportedly carry on with their previous familiar work as a film director (Gunn) and producer (Safran), while reporting “directly to [Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David] Zaslav, and work closely with Warners film bosses [Michael] De Luca and Pamela Abdy.”

The hunt for a new DC steward appeared to be ending earlier this summer, before Warner Bros. Discovery’s courtship of genre producer Dan Lin fell apart. Former DC Films boss Walter Hamada already had been set to make an exit from his role once those talks had concluded; instead, Hamada stayed on until last week, when the longtime DC veteran exited his role — now filled by Gunn and Safran — at the studio.

In the early aftermath, there’s still plenty left for the new studio structure to settle, including whether director Matt Reeves’ budding universe framed around The Batman will fall under the new duo’s direct guidance. Gunn, of course, is deeply enmeshed with Marvel projects as well as DC ones, and “there has been talk,” per THR, “that he could continue on [at Marvel] in some form after the conclusion of his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy.”

It’s worth noting, as the report also does, that Gunn’s announcement as DC Studios’ new co-leader comes only hours after Marvel dropped a new trailer for the Gunn-directed The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. With that project and the May 3, 2023 premiere of the Gunn-helmed Guardians of the Galaxy 3 rounding out his current commitments at Marvel, today’s news “seems to have closed the door on Gunn’s chapter in the MCU,” the report speculates. But that said, he'll certainly still be promoting his final few Marvel projects, just while also running things at DC Studios.

“We’re honored to be the stewards of these DC characters we’ve loved since we were children,” Gunn and Safran said in a joint statement provided to THR. “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.”

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