The Suicide Squad & Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is having a huge moment, which The Hollywood Reporter dives right into in a massive interview spanning the upcoming Peacemaker series, the management of Marvel Studios vs. DC Films, and what could come next for the superhero mastermind after he’s done with superhero franchises. We’ve split it into two parts for easy reading, so make sure to check out the other half as well!
MARVEL VS. DC
On comparing Marvel Studios and DC Films, Gunn explained that the key difference is that film producer Kevin Feige is also the head of Marvel Studios, whereas at DC, the producers and studio heads are separate. But in both production companies, producer opinions are crucial to his development process.
“[The Kevin Feige equivalent for The Suicide Squad] would definitely be Peter Safran, Simon Hatt and Chuck Roven [because they] were very, very hands on in terms of always giving their opinions…I need to see what other people think…and see how I feel as somebody else is watching something…it gives me a more objective view of the film [to] see things through their eyes and that helps me to make a better film.“At Marvel, [Kevin Feige] serve[s] the role of producer and of studio, really. And at DC, there’s a studio and then there’s a producer, so it’s very different in that respect.”
Furthermore, despite crossing over to DC, Gunn revealed that Marvel producers Kevin Feige and Lou Esposito still came to The Suicide Squad set to support their friend, and they happened to come on the same day the wild villain Starro the Conqueror was first revealed. No bad blood between the studios here!
THE NEW DC
Another significant difference between studios is that WB/DC has had major shifts in leadership every few years for most of the last decade. Speaking to the changes at WB/DC, Gunn mentioned that it’s currently “a new regime” than the executives who ran the first Suicide Squad movie and there’s “no doubt” he “received [greater] creative freedom” after the difficulties David Ayer experienced on the first Suicide Squad film.
“There’s always adjusting happening at a studio with individuals and with people making movies. I adjust myself all the time according to lessons I’ve learned, and I think that’s the same for the people at Warner Bros…It’s mostly different people.”
As an example of the freedom he was given, Gunn said that he told WB/DC “‘I’ve never had a song not clear, so don’t come to me saying that a song won’t clear.’” Gunn explained that at times he’s even had to “write a personal letter or email [to the musical artist] to just to tell them what I think of their music” and that “the hardest of all was ‘Mr. Blue Sky’” for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – but he always gets the songs he wants.
On a more serious note, Gunn proudly said that the new WB/DC are trying to balance continuity and standalone projects better than ever before. He even teased that The Suicide Squad’s spinoff series Peacemaker will be connected to “other DC properties”.
“They’re really just trying to make everything fit together much better. And I know a lot of it because of working on Peacemaker…which is definitely connected to The Suicide Squad and it ends up being connected to other DC properties…more than ever, there’s sort of an eye to connect stuff a little bit more. But also, they’re willing to take those properties like Joker and make them stand-alone DC properties. So I think that’s a good balance.”
Continuing the thought, Gunn compared The Suicide Squad to Peacemaker. While there are “a lot of similarities” especially in that “there are no holds barred”, he emphasized that Peacemaker would be “quieter” and “a little bit more about society”. One of the leads opposite to John Cena’s Peacemaker is actor Danielle Brooks, who has “a very different political view” than Peacemaker. Gunn also relished having more time “to delve much deeper into these characters and…the drama and comedy of them”, even saying that Peacemaker “probably would’ve been more fun than The Suicide Squad if I didn’t have to wear a mask the whole time”. While the first season is set in “a big science-fiction storyline”, the show is “more grounded, more natural and more real”. And although “the main storyline lasts for that [first] season”, Gunn is quick to clarify “that doesn’t mean there’s only one season of Peacemaker,” teasing a second season already.
As for future DC projects after Peacemaker, Gunn wouldn’t reveal any project names but explained that they were in the “dreaming” phase.
“We’re always talking about different things, too, so there’s a lot of dreaming going on and dreaming is one of the most fun parts of moviemaking…We’re trying to find the right dream that can actually weave itself into reality in the proper way.”
This November, Gunn will start production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Gunn famously finished the first draft in 2018 and has since done “a thousand drafts” to make the best movie but “nothing [major] has been changed”. Speaking about other Marvel projects, Gunn also revealed that he “gave notes on the script” for Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Star-Lord in the upcoming What If …? animated series, although Gunn hasn’t seen the finished episode yet.
Lastly, after leaving his mark on both Marvel and DC, Gunn said he isn’t against “mak[ing] comic book movies for the rest of my life” as he has “ideas of things I want to do and that I’m interested in” that are “still kind of comic book movies, just not from comic books”. One example could be Brightburn, a horror Superman pastiche he produced. Gunn continued by admitting he has no interest in making small Oscar-winning films and prefers making big spectacle films that still emotionally resonate with viewers.
“I like making big movies. That’s fun to me. I’m not a guy who’s like, “Oh, I have to prove myself to the Academy.” I don’t have any of that desire that other filmmakers have…I just don’t care about that stuff. I really just want to make movies that I love and that speak to an audience. That’s what’s fun for me.”
The Suicide Squad is in theaters and on HBO Max now. The spinoff series Peacemaker will release exclusively on HBO Max in January. Gunn’s next projects are The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, both of which will begin filming this November.