Nobody Wanted James Gunn’s New DC Job

Many other people than James Gunn and Peter Safran were first offered the DC head role, including Todd Phillips.

By Sean Thiessen | Published

james gunn guardians of the galaxy

The appointment of James Gunn and Peter Safran as co-heads of DC Studios marks the dawn of a new era for a whole host of superhero legends. As the new dynamic duo map the future of DC films, early decisions have stirred mixed emotions in fans, with reactions ranging from relief to rage. Taking the reins of a franchise that has been rocky at best for nearly a decade is not an enviable task, and according to a report from MovieWeb, Gunn and Safran were far from the first to be approached about taking the helm at DC. The report included insight from an unnamed industry insider who said, “The whole town turned the job down. It was almost Todd Phillips. They begged him.”

Phillips directed DC’s 2019 hit Joker, which featured an Oscar-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix as the budding Clown Prince of Crime and grossed over a billion dollars. Before James Gunn and Peter Safran took the job, it was also rumored that Dan Lin, a producer with an impressive filmography including The Lego Batman Movie, It (2017), and Disney’s upcoming Haunted Mansion reboot, was on the shortlist for the DC job.

Since James Gunn and Peter Safran took the big job at DC in late October of 2022, they have rocked fans with a series of shakeups. Their new film slate will include a sequel for Todd Phillips’ villainous origin story with Joker: Folie a Deux, but many other DC projects and filmmakers have not survived the transition of power.

After the return of Henry Cavill as Superman was teased in the October release of Black Adam, the star announced on Twitter that he will not return to the role of Superman. This announcement was corroborated by James Gunn, who noted that Superman was a top priority for DC Studios, but the next outing for the Man of Steel will focus on a younger version of the character. The future of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam is also in jeopardy, despite the years of hype that led to his 2022 debut.

Director Patty Jenkins, who helmed Wonder Woman and its sequel is also out of the picture, and the planned third installment for the Amazonian is currently on ice. Though films like The Flash, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom are still on track to release in 2023, reportedly only actor certain to be safe in the new future of DC is Margot Robbie. The actress has been a fan-favorite as Harley Quinn since she first appeared in 2016’s Suicide Squad, and developed a rapport with her new boss when he directed her in the 2021 quasi-sequel The Suicide Squad.

john cena peacemaker spinoff

James Gunn’s Peacemaker series, which debuted early in 2022 to rave reviews from fans and critics, is also expected to get a second season next year. Matt Reeves’ The Batman is also getting a sequel and at least one spinoff series, with more likely on the way, though it is unclear whether or not Reeves’ vision of Gotham City will exist in the new DCU. James Gunn himself will write the next Superman film.

Announcements about James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new era of DC projects are expected to come in January of 2023. Some loyal fans of Snyderverse have felt so scorned by the work of the Gunn/Safran regime that they’ve accused Gunn’s appointment to be a conspiracy by Marvel Studios, for whom Gunn made the Guardians of the Galaxy films, to tear DC down from the inside. For others, the changes are a breath of fresh air for fans hopeful that a new vision can reset a franchise long plagued by inconsistency and mediocrity.

The captains of a ship are sure to have a massive influence on its course. A world in which Todd Phillips had taken the big job at DC Studios would have certainly looked a lot different than whatever is on the way from Gunn and Safran, but hopeful fans can take some solace in the fact that Gunn’s DC projects have been some of the best-received franchise entries of the past 10 years. Whatever they have in store, James Gunn and Peter Safran’s vision for DC Studios is coming in faster than a speeding bullet, and only time will tell if the reset proves to be worth the sacrifices it has necessitated.