“We did a reset,” said David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, DC on Aug. 4, days after he canceled the $90 million HBO Max film Batgirl. The mogul said there would now be a team that would create a “10-year” plan for DC, although it’s unclear who is on that team.
And Zaslav echoed former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy of developing films directly for streaming. “We will focus on quality. We won’t release any film until it’s finished,” the CEO said. “DC is something we can improve on.”
The remarks weren’t well-received within DC, according to several insiders, who used the same word to describe members of the film department: “pissed off.” And DC Films president Walter Hamada nearly quit after learning of Batgirl’s hiring before being convinced to stay at least until the October 21 release of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. (This film had a test screening in June, including a new post-credits scene that introduced a new element to Johnson’s place in the DC Universe.)
Before selling Warners to Discovery, Hamada was preparing to release three or four films a year. The Executive Branch was tasked with charting a new course for DC in 2018 after a Zack Snyder-led roadmap imploded following the disastrous 2017 release of Justice League.
Hamada’s plans reportedly included a Crisis on Infinite Earths event, a version of DC Comics’ groundbreaking story adapted for television on The CW. Rumors circulated about the introduction of the Secret Six, a rogue team who were Suicide Squad antagonists in the comics. More specifically, Warners had anticipated films based on Supergirl, Green Lantern Corps and Static Shock, as well as a JJ Abrams-produced Black Superman film by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates over the next few years. Development has slowed, and none of these features bring directors.
Some key employees have received assurances that their projects are safe. Suicide Squad filmmaker James Gunn has several projects in development at DC, including Season 2 of Peacemaker moving forward. Insiders say Blue Beetle is also on track for the August 2023 release date, starring Xolo Maridueña as DC’s first Latino superhero to direct a movie. After Batgirl’s cancellation, observers had fears for the project, as it was once slated for HBO Max before it was upgraded to cinema. The studio is also in full swing with a sequel to Joker, with Lady Gaga confirming her casting on the morning of the WBD results call.
Zaslav caused a stir when he singled out not only Black Adam and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom among DC’s upcoming films, but also The Flash, starring embattled actor Ezra Miller. “We saw her. We think they’re great and we think we can make them even better,” Zaslav said of those films. The visuals weren’t good coming days after the cancellation of Batgirl, which would have been the first DC Extended Universe film to star a Latina, Leslie Grace.
Work continued on The Flash, which was well tested. Miller participated in regularly scheduled additional tapings over the summer, apparently without incident, before being charged with burglary in Vermont on Aug. 7 — her third arrest this year. Still, neither DC nor Zaslav have indicated the film will be pushed back from its June 2023 release date, though insiders say the studio is evaluating all options.
Kim Masters and Borys Kit contributed coverage.
This story appeared in the August 10 issue of magazine. Click here to login.