With the release of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam this Friday, and DC Films chief Walter Hamada quietly wraps up his tenure in the next few days, DC is charting a course into truly unknown territory.

Indeed, without a permanent leader to lead the stable containing some of the greatest and most well-known characters in the world, DC is currently the scene of a secret, yet dramatic, IP land grab among some of Hollywood’s greatest players.

Johnson is publicly advertising his vision for a future Black Adam vs. Superman movie, with his words fueling fans’ desire to see Henry Cavill return as the red-cloaked hero. Matt Reeves is planning his own expansion The Batman universe, while JJ Abrams stays in the mix with his plans as well.

And The Hollywood reporter can exclusively report that James Gunn, the director behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films as well as DC-based Warners’ The suicide squad And pacifierhe’s fishing for his new DC project (or two).

The sources say so THR that Gunn and producer Peter Safran are in talks with Warner for a mystery movie, perhaps more, that Gunn could tackle. (Safran is already in the DC business, being a producer on Shazam! and its next sequel, as well as Aquaman and the sequel to that film.)

Warner hasn’t commented, but as an insider notes, a carving of the comic book company’s intellectual assets is taking place. “DC is definitely at stake,” says this person. The amount of play may depend on your perspective from inside or outside the studio.

While it’s unclear which hero or teams Gunn is targeting, and the writer-director would focus on a second season of pacifier First, the studio’s eyes are on Superman. Under the leadership of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Warner Bros. Pictures are headed by Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, Warner has an intense desire to reprise the hero’s Cavill iteration. The project that would essentially be Man of Steel 2 is produced by Charles Roven and is currently looking for writers. (There is a wish list, of course. And Christopher McQuarrie, the hand that drives the Mission Impossible the movies were about it. McQuarrie worked with Cavill on the 2018 episode, Fallbut sources say no official outreach has been made nor could it be feasible, as the director is working on the next back-to-back ME installments.)

Johnson, however, has plans for Superman and has been very outspoken about his desire to make a Black Adam vs. Superman movie, a desire he has only reiterated more frequently in view of. Adam’release. This comes as he talks about the “surprise” cameo at the end of Adam, with the actor claiming that Cavill will appear. Insiders are wondering if Johnson’s comments are meant to cheat the movie’s opening weekend box office numbers or to maneuver Superman on his own chessboard, or maybe both.

Either way, Johnson is definitely at the center of Cavill’s return to DC, which hasn’t been without some drama. Johnson’s manager is Dany Garcia, his ex-wife who is also his production partner at Seven Bucks Entertainment. Garcia also represents Cavill.

Superman, as well as Cavill, weren’t in the initial plans for Black Adam. The idea was born during a series of shootings for the film earlier this year, but the cameo was rejected by Hamada, the executive who for the past four years had been striving to take DC beyond the era in which one director, in this case Zack Snyder, had too much influence and could command an entire list for years. Hamada had his own plans for Superman, one of which was to present a black Superman with a multi-decade story from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

After Hamada said no, Johnson went around the executive, addressing De Luca and Abdy, who gave the thumbs up. A furious round of negotiations occurred before Labor Day, a deadline that Warners insisted on, with the scene filmed in mid-September.

Meanwhile, in Gotham City, director Reeves is quietly making his expansion plans. Reeves is developing a sequel to his The Batman, which grossed a respectable $ 770.8 million worldwide when it was released in March. A spin-off series focusing on Colin Farrell’s Penguin is already shooting next year. But Reeves is plotting more. The director is meeting with writers and directors to build films – yes, films, not just series – focusing on the Batman Rogue gallery, both established and darker, with characters ranging from Scarecrow to Clayface to Professor Pyg. All of these projects are in the very early stages of gestation.

It’s unclear where Superman’s moves leave Abrams, who is still on track to produce Coates’ film focusing on Krypton’s last child. That feature would exist outside of any broader DC film continuity, just like Todd Phillips’s Joker movie. The mega-producer had some setbacks when some of his DC shows – based in the supernatural corners of DC and featuring characters like Constantine and Zatanna – were scrapped from WBD’s HBO Max streaming service. (They are now being sold to other streamers.) But it’s not out of the game and is yet another Hollywood power in the mix vying for a piece of the DC pie.

All this happens as Hamada, who did not participate in the Adam premiere in New York on October 12, he packs the final belongings from his Burbank office before his last day this week. The executive isn’t even getting a production contract with the studio, a traditional move among executives who are let go but who receive a soft landing and a polite “thank you for your service.” For many, that action speaks volumes about how hard the transition from the AT&T era to Discovery under Zaslav was, including the controversial cancellation of the Bad girl movies in August.

And it takes place in the shadow of total failure to find a new leader. After months of research, Zaslav came close to hiring executive producer Dan Lin for the role of head of DC, but the talks failed. Part of Zaslav’s intent for Lin was to act as the supervisor of all things DC, both movies and series, and he would act in part as a traffic cop among the IPs.

For now, De Luca, who is known for his fanboy roots and displays a deep understanding of the esoteric lore of comics, remains firmly in command of DC. He gave the green light Joker 2has made decisions about it Aquaman and the lost kingdom And The flash, and met the directors. Rumors abound that her role could evolve into one with more permanent and even DC exclusive oversight. As for Johnson, last week he publicly expressed interest in helping lead the search for a DC boss.

“The best position I could have for DC is as a consultant, where I can help. I love DC. It’s in my blood, ”Johnson said Variety on Adam Red carpet. “In the spirit of growing with the DC Universe. I’m here to help in any way I can, including finding and finding the right leader or leaders. “

That quest goes on even as the IP continues to be taken off the board by powerful players.

“Right now it’s the Wild West,” says an insider. “Everyone is trying to grab as much as possible. And this is exactly what happens in a leadership vacuum. ”

A Warner insider disputes the idea of ​​a leadership vacuum, saying the studio is not standing still and is moving on several fronts, focusing on some of its A-list characters as it plans and develops the wave beyond. A script for Wonder Woman 3 by Patty Jenkins is upcoming and a screenplay for a Rapid the sequel has already been written – by Aquaman screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick – in case that film, due out on June 23, 2023, goes well. (The film stars controversial actor Ezra Miller, who met with Warner leadership in August after a string of arrests and bad headlines, and today pleaded not guilty to a burglary charge.) With Superman again. in the field, more Reeves The Batman The sequel that goes on, puts the big stars of the company into the big screen rotation.

It is said that De Luca and Abdy want more things in development and more things on the runway ready to go, an ethics opposed by Hamada, who has taken a more focused approach.

Johnson, for example, is eager to move beyond DC’s A-list.

As he said The New York Times for a profile published on Monday: “It is the safest bet to continue investing in the IP that the world knows. The Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman. I understand. But it took the studio to look beyond the Justice League into the DC universe, and there are some really cool characters there. You just have to try and trust the investment. ”

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