David Zaslav Says ‘There’s Not Going to Be 4 Batmans’ at James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DC

DC Studios has seen major changes recently, with James Gunn and Peter Safran joining Warner Bros. Discovery to lead the company’s film and television superhero projects. What their tenure will look like remains to be seen, but during a keynote discussion for Capital Markets’ Technology, Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference, WBD CEO David Zaslav previewed a streamlined approach for the studio.

“I think in the next few years, you’re going to see a lot of growth and opportunity around DC,” Zaslav said on November 15. “There’s not going to be four Batmans.”

Zaslav’s “four Batman” crack presumably refers to the current complicated state of the character on film, where three actors have recently or are about to portray the iconic superhero. In addition to Robert Pattinson’s “The Batman,” Ben Affleck also plays the character in the vaguely defined DC Extended Universe of linked films, although his most recent appearance as the character was in last year’s “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” cut. Additionally, Michael Keaton, who played the character in 1989 and 1992’s “Batman” films, will reprise his role for next year’s “The Flash” — he also was supposed to appear in the HBO Max film “Batgirl” before it was canceled and shelved. Finally, while it doesn’t feature the character, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” and its upcoming sequel stars the character’s most famous nemesis.

While this approach gives fans no shortage of options for getting their bat-fix, it doesn’t align with Zaslav’s goals for the company, which seems to be to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s more cohesive approach.

Discussing the decision to hire Safran and Gunn to lead DC, Zaslav said he spent the year before the deal closed talking to several current and former studio executives — including Disney CEOs Bob Igor and Bob Chapek — about the best way to organize Warner Bros. Discovery. From those talks, he determined that the current strategy the company had in place for DC content — where it was produced and developed by separate subsidiaries and departments — wasn’t conducive to the brand’s success.

“The strategy that Igor put together was all Marvels in one place. You don’t wake up and find out that there’s a Batman TV show somewhere and a Batman cartoon somewhere else, they all have to relate to each other,” Zaslav said. “There has to be a look and feel for all of it. And so, I went on a journey a few months ago of, ‘How do I put all of DC in one place?’ ‘Cause I think it’s one of the biggest opportunities at this company.”

Zaslav also teased a bit about what Gunn and Safran’s approach to managing DC will look like as the director and producer begin to take the reins. He revealed Gunn is currently working on a script for a DC film and spoke vaguely about Safran “fixing” Aquaman — presumably referring to reshoots for “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” next year’s sequel to the 2018 Jason Momoa blockbuster. He also revealed that the two have developed a “bible” for what the DC Universe will look like on film, which they will soon finish.

As to what films will be developed under Gunn and Safran, Zaslav specifically mentioned “Superman” as a character they need to invest in. The last solo Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” premiered nine years ago in 2013. Henry Cavill, who played Superman in that film and both versions of “Justice League,” appeared in a cameo in “Black Adam” this year and confirmed he will return to play the character again.

“Part of our strategy is drive the hell out of DC, which James and Peter are gonna do,” Zaslav said. “They thrilled the fans, I think they’ll thrill you over a period of time. But also really focus on our strategic advantage, the great content we have that everyone in the world knows, and focus on telling those stories.”

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