With great achievement comes great coverage in Hollywood trades. As Wonder Woman is ensconced as the feel good hit of the summer, as well as a groundbreaking proof of concept for female heroes, WB studio head Toby Emmerich got his profile in Variety with the angle firmly on the Amazon. A respected filmmaker who replaced the untroubled by hitmaking Greg Silverman, Emmerich admits “I don’t speak comic,” but he trusts DC Films Jon Berg and Geoff Johns to fill him in on the important points of continuity. So far the feeling seems to be mutual.
Sitting in a garden patio at Warner Bros.’ Burbank headquarters and later, after the air grows crisp, in a conference room adorned with posters of studio triumphs such as “Wonder Woman” and blunders like “King Arthur,” Emmerich is eager to give the credit for the latest windfall to Johns and Jon Berg, the executives who oversee the comic-book films. He stresses that the success of “Wonder Woman” is more their doing, saying the film was deep into post-production when he took over at the studio. He believes the movie feels fresh because the “heart and humor” that director Patty Jenkins injected into the picture was a break from the downbeat superhero films that have been hitting multiplexes. “The zeitgeist of the culture, in America and many parts of the world, were ready to embrace a female superhero,” Emmerich says.
Emmerich comes across as, if not comic literate, at least not comic-averse like some previous WB regimes, and he’s smart enough to see what works and what doesn’t. But after the genre busting success of R-rated fare Deadpool and Logan, he also expresses interest in this area:
He’s also thinking of ways that DC can differentiate itself from Marvel projects, which tend to be family-friendly. Emmerich says he admires violent, irreverent and very adult comic-book movies such as “Logan” and “Deadpool.”
“I would be surprised if we didn’t at some point make an R-rated DC movie,” says Emmerich.
Evidently, Johns and Berg did not think it prudent to tell their boss that DC already made an R-rated superhero film, a little thing caleld Watchmen. But who’s counting!
Johns and Berg get their own victory lap in a joint interview that’s short on outrageous statements but filled with upcoming film news. Among the headlines: Wonder Woman’s role won’t be expanded for Justice League because it was already big! There’s also praise for the upbeat tone, a wonderful new thing in DC films:
“Suicide Squad” and “Batman v. Superman” made money, but critics hated them. Did you learn anything from the poor response to the films?
Berg: There are lessons from every movie. You would be silly not to analyze how a movie was received — what went right and what went wrong on the making of a movie. On “Suicide Squad,” the movie did incredibly well commercially. It didn’t work narratively. You had some great casting and some great characterizations, but where the story fell down was on narrative, on plot. We could do better. “Batman v. Superman” was tonally dark. People didn’t respond to that.
Johns: “Wonder Woman” celebrated exactly who the character is, but looking at it, it’s not like we should change everything to be about hope and optimism. There’s nothing to change. That’s what these characters are.
And more ladyfilms on the way!
Given the success of “Wonder Woman,” do you expect to make more female-driven comic-book films?
Johns: We’ve got a lot of plans for our female characters just because they’re great characters. There are many wonderful elements to the DC Universe, and one of them is that we have the best female characters, heroes and villains, in the world. No one is going to beat Wonder Woman and Batgirl and Harley Quinn.
MEANWHILE, THR has unveiled its Top 100 Most Powerful People in Hollywood rankings, topped, as usual, by the head honcho at Disney, Bob Iger. The Diane Nelson/Jon Berg/Geoff Johns troika comes in at 64 with some comparative statements that reveal mutual admiration at a healthy level, and Nelson taking th ebold stand of liking Wonder Woman:
If I could switch jobs with anyone in Hollywood for a day, I’d choose
Nelson: Patty Jenkins. To feel demand for your talent, regardless of gender, and knowing you are creating films that are going to leave lifetime imprints.
Johns: Working on bringing DC’s heroes and villains to the screen is the greatest job I could’ve dreamed of. But if it was one day, I would pull a Freaky Friday with Steven Spielberg so I could read the new Indiana Jones script, get the new Gremlins movie greenlighted and have lunch with Harrison Ford.
Berg: Clint Eastwood. Who wouldn’t want to be Clint for one day? I’d just keep giving myself his patented “what you looking at” stare.
Marvel’s Kevin Feige comes in at #18, a well earned top 20 placement despite all of his powers evidently coming from never removing his baseball cap:
Feige has got some. Running Marvel puts him firmly in control of the most successful cinematic superhero universe — a concept he pretty much invented — on Earth. And in a landscape where it’s hard enough to produce one hit, he has 15 in a row. Captain America: Civil War was the No. 1 film of 2016 worldwide. Guardians 2, still in theaters, so far has grossed $844million, while Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, raked in $678million. All of it, over the past nine years, adding up to a staggering total of $11.4 billion in grosses since Feige (and Robert Downey Jr.) reinvented Marvel with the first Iron Man. And now that Feige has wrested creative control over No. 1 superhero Spider-Man from Sony, that number is likely to soar even higher. Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives in theaters July 7, with Sony distributing. “He’s ahead of most people; he has a plan,” says Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, the first African-American actor to headline a Marvel superhero movie (the film comes out Feb. 16; its trailer got 89 million views in its first 24 hours). “He’s thinking five movies ahead. Maybe more than that.”
Feige is a tough act to top, but at WB at least their back in the game again.