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Inside Dwayne Johnson's DC exit, failed Black Adam vs. Super man

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From chaos comes order, to paraphrase Nietzsche.

And that’s certainly the hope in the new year when it comes to the DC Extended Universe, which has endured the most tumultuous 12 months of any studio division in 2022. Amidst the turmoil, the release plan for the next “The Flash” faltered after a a series of arrests and meltdowns involving its star Ezra Miller, the closely guarded “Aquaman” settlement points were revealed in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard libel trial, and the $78 million “Batgirl” movie was permanently shelved in the post-production as a script. low. All of this was just an appetizer for an executive shift that put James Gunn and Peter Safran in the driver’s seat at DC. But perhaps nothing was as dramatic as Henry Cavill briefly returning as Superman in a “Black Adam” cameo in October, only to miss the show two months later.

As 2023 begins, DC bosses Gunn and Safran continue to sift through the rubble and will soon unveil their three-year interconnected vision for the cinematic universe, which won’t include Cavill’s Superman or Wonder Woman. But things could have gone in an alternate direction: behind the scenes, a different group made a play for control of DC. Not long after the close of the Warner Bros. Discovery back in April, Dwayne Johnson directly pitched to CEO David Zaslav a multi-year plan for Black Adam and a Cavill-led Superman in which the two properties would intertwine, establishing a Superman versus Black Adam. final showdown, sources say. “Black Adam” producers Hiram Garcia, who is Johnson’s former brother-in-law, and Beau Flynn were also part of the group of brains looking to take DC down a new path. Other sources confirmed the meeting but played down any discussion of Black Adam’s future.

While the move came amid a power vacuum created when former DC boss Walter Hamada and Warner Bros. Toby Emmerich were preparing to leave, it ruffled feathers internally, sources add. “Dwayne bypassed everyone, which didn’t sit well,” says one.

Eventually, co-directors of the new Warner Bros. film, Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, approved a Cavill cameo in “Black Adam,” despite the fact that Emmerich made the call in 2018 to find another actor to dress. the red cover.

But “Black Adam,” which opened Oct. 21, flopped with a worldwide haul of $391 million against a budget of $195 plus $40 million in reshoots, thwarting any plans for more outings for the anti-hero wielding lightning and officially ending the Cavill Superman era. Cavill split from his manager, Johnson’s ex-wife Dany 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 straining after Johnson pushed for a producing credit on the animated film “DC League of Super-Pets,” which premiered in July but did little to promote it. The actor also insisted on a tequila bar at the New York premiere of “Black Adam” with his Teremana brand, despite the film being rated PG-13.

“Their demands increased and the returns just weren’t there,” notes another source.

Still, box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian says Johnson found himself “in a trap” with “Black Adam.” “You can’t have a more modest budget when that level of talent is involved,” he notes of Johnson’s track record. “Budgets are proportionate to the talent involved. Something on a smaller budget like ‘Shazam!’ it’s dubbed success, because ‘hits’ are based more on profitability.”

“Shazam!” it earned $366 million worldwide in 2019 on a budget of $100 million. Dergarabedian notes that “Black Adam” still managed to crack the top 10 at the box office in 2022.

As for what else Gunn and Safran have planned for DC’s future, sources describe it as a broad reset, but not a general one. At this point, nothing is ruled out. Given that Miller has been out of trouble since starting mental health treatment in the summer, some executives are willing to stick with the actor as the speedster who saves the world after “The Flash” opens on June 16. “Aquaman,” “Shazam!,” “Blue Beetle” and Gunn’s HBO Max series “Peacemaker” could have a seat at the table. Gunn and Safran, who were recommended by De Luca, have the full support of the WBD’s top brass.

And in a testament to the notion that no Hollywood relationship is truly broken, “Batgirl” directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah say Variety that they are open to working with Warner Bros. in the future.

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