DC Names James Gunn, Peter Safran to Head Warners’ Superhero Division

The duo will report to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav

james gunn peter safran
James Gunn and Peter Safran (Getty Images)

“Guardians of the Galaxy” series director James Gunn and “The Conjuring” and “Aquaman” producer Peter Safran have been appointed to the new roles of Co-Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of DC Studios, overseeing the overall creative direction of the DC Universe across film, TV, and animation under a single banner, the studio announced Tuesday.

Gunn and Safran will report to David Zaslav, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Bros. Discovery, and will work closely with Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, Co-Chairpersons and CEOs of Warner Bros. Film Group.

The appointments will be effective on November 1.

Gunn and Safran’s hire ends a months-long search by Warner Bros. Discovery for new leaders to oversee its most lucrative franchise, with attempts to find an equivalent to Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige falling short. “It” producer Dan Lin was previously a frontrunner for the job, but talks fell through.

“DC has among the most entertaining, powerful, and iconic characters in the world and I am thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter joining our world-class team and overseeing the creative direction of the storied DC Universe,” Zaslav said in a statement. “Their decades of experience in filmmaking, close ties to the creative community, and proven track record thrilling superhero fans around the globe make them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, TV, and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling.”

Gunn and Safran added: “We’re honored to be the stewards of these DC characters we’ve loved since we were children. We look forward to collaborating with the most talented writers, directors, and actors in the world to create an integrated, multilayered universe that still allows for the individual expression of the artists involved. Our commitment to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn, and the rest of the DC stable of characters is only equaled by our commitment to the wonder of human possibility these characters represent. We’re excited to invigorate the theatrical experience around the world as we tell some of the biggest, most beautiful, and grandest stories ever told. We’re especially enthusiastic about doing all of this with Mike, Pam, Casey, Channing, and the whole Warner Bros. Discovery team, and are grateful to David Zaslav, whose bold vision for the future of the franchise we share and allows for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Most of all, we can’t wait to bring you all into the story of the DCU.”

De Luca and Abdy added: “We could not be more excited to have James Gunn and Peter Safran join the team and assume the leadership of the DC Universe. James is a brilliant filmmaker and storyteller and Peter is a tremendously successful and prolific producer and to have them both committing to work together to forge this new era for DC is a literal dream come true. We all share a very similar sensibility and passion for this universe and the stars couldn’t have aligned any better. We can’t wait to get started, dig in, and collaborate with these unmatched creative minds.”

In their new roles, Gunn and Safran will spearhead the development and execution of a long-term plan for the many properties licensed from DC Comics, focused on continuing the tradition of high-quality storytelling for the DC Universe across audio-visual media, while building a sustainable growth business out of the iconic franchise.

In addition to their executive responsibilities, Gunn and Safran will develop, direct, and produce projects. In their new roles, they will also work collaboratively with Channing Dungey, Chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group; Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO, HBO and HBO Max Content; Kathleen Finch, Chairman and Chief Content Officer, US Networks Group; Pam Lifford, President, Warner Bros. Discovery Consumer Products; and David Haddad, President, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Both Gunn and Safran have extensive experience with the superhero genre having brought some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe’s most popular characters to life in hit films and series that include: Marvel’s blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and DC’s highest grossing movie, “Aquaman,” “Shazam!,” “The Suicide Squad,” and the HBO Max original, live-action series “Peacemaker.”

Gunn and Safran’s hire comes days after the departure of previous DC president Walter Hamada, who was appointed to the position in 2018 after the weaker-than-expected performance of “Justice League,” a film with all of DC’s most famous heroes that was expected to gross $1 billion worldwide but fell far short with just $659 million.

Under Hamada’s tenure, DC released several successful films including “Shazam!” “Aquaman,” “Joker” and “The Batman,” all of which got sequels greenlit. But the studio also saw misfires at the box office like “Birds of Prey” in 2020 and even Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” which failed to make back its $185 million production budget but did spawn the hit HBO Max series “Peacemaker,” which has a second season in development with Gunn as writer-producer.