“We’ve done a reset.” That’s how Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav described DC on Aug. 4, days after he made the call to shelve the $90 million HBO Max film Batgirl. The mogul said there’d now be a team that would create a “10-year” plan for DC, although who’s on that team is unclear.
And Zaslav took digs at former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy of developing straight-to-streaming films. “We are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it’s ready,” said the executive. “DC is something we can make better.”
The remarks were not well received inside DC, according to multiple insiders who used the same word to describe members of the film division: “pissed.” And DC Films president Walter Hamada nearly exited after learning of the shelving of Batgirl before being convinced to stay on at least until the Oct. 21 release of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. (That film had a June test screening, including a new post-credits scene introducing a new element to Johnson’s place in the DC Universe.)
Before Warners’ sale to Discovery, Hamada was gearing up to release three or four films a year. The executive was brought on in 2018 to chart a new course for DC after a road map spearheaded by Zack Snyder imploded in the wake of the disastrous release of Justice League in 2017.
Hamada’s plans were said to have included a Crisis on Infinite Earths event, a take on the seminal DC Comics story that was adapted for TV on The CW. Rumors circulated about introducing the Secret Six, a villain team that in the comics have been Suicide Squad antagonists. More concretely, Warners had films based on Supergirl, Green Lantern Corps and Static Shock expected in the next few years, plus a J.J. Abrams-produced Black Superman film from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Development has slowed, with none of those features attaching directors.
Some key collaborators have received assurances their projects are safe. The Suicide Squad filmmaker James Gunn has multiple projects in development at DC, including season two of Peacemaker, which is moving forward. Insiders say Blue Beetle, starring Xolo Maridueña as DC’s first Latino superhero to topline a movie, is also on track for its August 2023 release date. After Batgirl‘s cancellation, observers had feared for the project, given that it at one time was slated for HBO Max before being upgraded to theatrical. The studio is also moving full steam ahead with a sequel to Joker, with Lady Gaga confirming her casting the morning of the WBD earnings call.
Zaslav turned heads when, among DC’s upcoming films, he highlighted on an earnings call not only Black Adam and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom but also The Flash, starring the embattled actor Ezra Miller. “We’ve seen them. We think they are terrific, and we think we can make them even better,” Zaslav said of those films. The optics were not good, coming days after axing Batgirl, which would have been the first DC Extended Universe film to star a Latina, Leslie Grace.
Work has kept up on The Flash, which has been testing well. Miller participated in regularly scheduled additional photography over the summer, apparently without incident, before being charged with burglary — their third arrest this year — on Aug. 7 in Vermont. Still, neither DC nor Zaslav has indicated the film will move from its June 2023 release date, though insiders say the studio is evaluating all options.
Kim Masters and Borys Kit contributed reporting.
This story appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.