January 30, 2023

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Inside Dwayne Johnson’s DC exit, Black Adam vs. Superman’s failed plan

4 min read

Out of chaos comes order, to paraphrase Nietzsche.

That’s certainly something to look forward to in the new year for the DC Extended Universe, which endured the most tumultuous 12 months of any studio division in 2022. Amid the turmoil, plans for the upcoming “The Flash” release have been undermined by a series of arrests and setbacks involving its star Ezra Miller in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, the closely guarded “Aquaman” contract points vacated and the $78 million “Batgirl” ” The movie was permanently shelved in post-production as a write-down. They were just hungry for an executive shakeup that landed James Gunn and Peter Safran in the DC driver’s seat. But perhaps nothing as dramatic as Henry Cavill’s brief return as Superman in a “Black Adam” cameo in October, only to lose the gig two months later.

As 2023 dawns, DC bosses Gunn and Safran are sifting through the rubble and will soon reveal their three-year interconnected vision for the cinematic universe, which won’t include Cavill’s Superman or Wonder Woman at all. But things could be going in an alternate direction: Behind the scenes, a different group was making a play for control of DC. Shortly after the Warner Bros. Discovery merger closed in April, Dwayne Johnson told CEO David Zaslav directly about a multi-year plan for Black Adam and a Cavill-led Superman, in which the two features would set up a Superman-versus-Black Adam. Showdown, sources say. “Black Adam” producer Hiram Garcia, who is Johnson’s former brother-in-law, and Beau Flynn were also part of the brain trust to take DC in a new direction. Other sources confirmed the meeting but played down any discussion of Black Adam’s future.

Although the move comes amid a power vacuum as former DC chief Walter Hamada and Warner Bros. film chief Toby Emmerich prepare to depart, it ruffled feathers internally, sources added. “Dwayne went around everyone, which didn’t sit well,” says one.

Finally, the new Warner Bros. The film’s co-heads Michael De Luca and Pam Abdi approved a Cavill cameo in “Black Adam,” though Emmerich called for another actor to be found to don the red cape in 2018.

But “Black Adam,” which bowed Oct. 21, grossed $391 million worldwide against a $40 million recovery on a $195 budget, thwarting any plans for more outings for the lightning bolt-wielding antihero and officially ending the Cavill Superman era. Cavill split with his manager, Johnson’s ex-wife Dani Garcia, this year, but a source said it was unrelated to the DC drama and that she remains a strategic adviser to the actor. Meanwhile, the Johnson-Warners relationship was already strained when Johnson pushed for a production credit for the animated film “DC’s League of Super-Pets,” which opened in July, but did little to promote it. The actor insisted on a tequila bar at the New York premiere of “Black Adam,” featuring his Teremana brand, despite the film being rated PG-13.

“His demand was up and the returns weren’t quite there,” notes another insider.

Still, box office analyst Paul Dargarbedian said Johnson found himself in “A Catch-22” with “Black Adam.” “You can’t have a more modest budget when this level of talent is involved,” he notes of Johnson’s track record. “The budget is commensurate with the talent involved. Some low-budget films like ‘Shazam!’, are termed hits, because ‘hits’ depend on profits.

“Shazam!” It grossed $366 million worldwide in 2019 from a $100 million budget. Dargerbedian notes that “Black Adam” still managed to crack the top 10 at the box office for 2022.

As for what else Gunn and Safran have planned for DC’s future, sources describe it as a broad but not blanket reset. At this point, nothing is ruled out. Miller has remained out of trouble since beginning mental health treatment over the summer, with some executives considering the actor to continue as the world-saving speedster after “The Flash” bows on June 16. “Blue Beetle” and Gunn’s “Peacemaker” series for HBO Max could all find a place on the table. Gunn and Safran, who were recommended by De Luca, have the full support of the WBD top brass.

And in proof of the idea that no Hollywood relationship ever truly falls apart, say “Batgirl” directors Adil El Arabi and Billal Falla. diversity That they are open to working with Warner Bros. down the road.

“We’re fans of DC, and if we get the chance to do something in that universe in the future, we’ll never say no,” El Arabi said at last month’s Red Sea Film Festival. “I mean, of course, the only condition we have is that the movie needs to come out.”

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