“Guardians of the Galaxy” Director James Gunn Is Now in Charge of the DC Cinematic Universe

After working for both superhero studios, he’ll be fully dedicated to running Marvel’s biggest competitor.

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James Gunn at the 2021 premiere of The Suicide SquadRodin Eckenroth

Despite Dwayne Johnson’s claims that the DC movie universe was on the cusp of a new era, the embattled Marvel competitor lacked a leading figure on par with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. That changed on October 25, when The Hollywood Reporter shared news that Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad director James Gunn would become the co-chair and co-CEO of DC Studios, alongside producer Peter Safran (Shazam!, Aquaman).

“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,” Gunn and Safran said in a joint statement shared by THR. “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.”

The news follows an October 17 report, also from THR, indicating that Gunn and Safran had met with Warner Bros. Pictures, parent company of the DCEU, to discuss “a mystery movie, possibly more, that Gunn would tackle.” Clearly, “possibly more” was an understatement, as the duo now head up a studio desperate to carve out its post-Zack Snyder identity with a lighter sensibility. Gunn, unlike Snyder, is known for injecting humor and irreverence into the superhero genre, and he will reportedly be more involved “on the creative side,” while Safran, who has a lengthy history with Warner Bros., will head up “the business and production side.”

The last head of DC Films, Walter Hamada, stepped down in the days before Black Adam’s release, per Deadline. Hamada was the latest in a long line of executives to depart the studio as decision-makers searched for their own version of Feige to steer the full DC vessel, including both films and television shows. As reported by THR, Warner’s Michael De Luca approached Gunn and Safran this summer, while also exploring other candidates like The Lego Movie producer Dan Lin.

Gunn was the rare filmmaker to toggle between DC and Marvel, though under complicated circumstances. As the writer/director behind the first two Guardian of the Galaxy hits, he was firmly entrenched at Marvel until 2018, when they fired him from the third GotG film after past controversial tweets resurfaced. DC welcomed him in to write, direct, and reboot 2021’s The Suicide Squad (after 2016’s disappointing first installment) and oversee its TV spinoff, Peacemaker, and then Marvel flip-flopped and invited him back to head up GotG3 as well as its upcoming Disney+ special, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Gunn will exclusively work with DC after the May 2023 release of GotG3, for the duration of his four-year contract. Per The Hollywood Reporter, both Gunn and Safran will continue directing and producing their own projects, respectively.

Elsewhere in the DC world, Greg Berlanti’s Green Lantern series is getting revived after a stint in production purgatory, though The Hollywood Reporter wrote that its “creative overhaul has nothing to do with” Gunn’s hiring. The original casting included Finn Wittrock and Jeremy Irvine, and there’s interest in having the duo back aboard even though they are not currently signed on.

According to THR, several of DC’s major projects currently in the works may not be overseen by Gunn and Safran, including Todd Phillips’ Joker sequel and, possibly, the planned Matt Reeves Batman series of interconnected films.

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