Has the new head of DC has been found?
Dan Lin, the executive-turned-producer who counts hits such as the live-action Aladdin, The Lego Movie, and the It horror movies, is in talks to take the role of DC chief, multiple sources tell THR.
The role encompasses not just overseeing film but television as well, with Lin reporting directly to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, according to sources.
The structure bypasses three separate division heads — Warner Bros. Pictures’ Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, HBO/HBO Max chief Casey Bloys and Warner Bros. TV chair Channing Dungey — and puts control of DC in the hands of one person.
Walter Hamada, the current head of DC Films, would transition out of the role, according to sources. A Warners insider says that no negotiations are taking place and no official offer has been made although other sources say the talks are discussing salary, reporting structure, and the future of Lin’s expansive production company, Rideback.
If any deal does close, it would cap off months of one of the most intense executive searches in recent memory, one that faced scrutiny by rival Hollywood producers and executives, as well as DC fans.
Zaslav has said he was searching for Warners’ own version of Kevin Feige, the famed Marvel executive who has steered the rival comic book company’s movies, and then later its TV portfolio, into a multi-billion dollar pop culture juggernaut.
That is a nigh-impossible ask, but it didn’t stop executives’ names from surfacing. Emma Watts proved to be an early contender while in recent months, names such as Amy Pascal, Matt Tolmach, Sean Bailey, and Greg Berlanti were rumored to be meeting or pushed by canny agency heads.
Lin’s name rose late in the game, but he has a champion in Warners advisor Alan Horn, the former Disney chair who ran Warners as president and COO in the aughts. It was during that latter tenure that Lin worked for Horn, starting as a junior exec and rising to senior VP of production. He struck on his own as a producer in 2008, but not before shepherding movies such as The Departed and 10,000 B.C. He also oversaw the infamous and aborted Justice League feature that was to have been directed by George Miller. (The 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike and tax credit complications were factors in its derailing.)
Lin is a respected producer known for his smarts and, in a town full of hype and egos, his willingness to find experts on the fields that are not his forte. He has worked on franchises — the Robert Downey Jr.-starring Sherlock Holmes moves, the four Lego movies — as well as wildly successful two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s It. His resume ranges from big offerings, such as the billion dollar-grossing bright-colored Aladdin, to intimate dramas, such as the Oscar-nominated The Two Popes. He is coming off of the early August release of Universal’s Jo Koy comedy, Easter Sunday.
And he also has TV experience, a key factor for the new position. Lin and his company executive produced the Lethal Weapon show that aired for three seasons on Fox and Walker, the reboot of Walker, Texas Ranger that will begin its third season on the CW this fall. He and his company are in post-production on the ambitious, big-budget live-action series take on Avatar: The Last Airbender for Netflix.
Lin has also shown ambitions beyond the Hollywood screen. His banner, Rideback, has a non-profit arm and several initiatives and fellowships that aid BIPOC and rising entrepreneurs. It is unclear what would happen to Rideback, but one scenario, according to sources, is that Warner Bros. Discovery would take some sort of stake in the company. Rideback would also continue to operate as a production entity and be run by current president Jonathan Eirich.
If Lin takes over, he will replace Hamada, who joined DC in 2018, a time when the brand was looking to reset after Justice League (2017) bombed. Hamada, who had a reputation as an amiable collaborator, kept a much lower profile than Marvel’s Feige, who is very much the face of the franchise. Though rival Marvel Studios has a closely connected universe, DC under Hamada explored some stories that took place in separate universes, including the $1 billion grossing, Oscar winning Joker (2019) and Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022), which brought in $769.2 million globally. Sequels to both are in the works.
Hamada built relationships with talent such as Marvel favorite James Gunn, who directed The Suicide Squad (2021) and created the HBO Max spinoff Peacemaker, and has other projects in development at DC.
However, Hamada’s tenure also underscored the public pressures that come with leading DC. For the past two years, Hamada has found himself the subject of critical tweets from Justice League actor Ray Fisher, which put the executive in the unusual position of running a film division while being publicly criticized by one of its stars. In the summer of 2020, Fisher accused filmmaker Joss Whedon of abusive and unprofessional behavior on the set of 2017 reshoots for Justice League, which Whedon oversaw after director Zack Snyder departed. Though Hamada was not at DC during the production of Justice League, Fisher accused the executive of attempting to throw Whedon as well as producer Jon Berg, “under the bus” in order to protect Geoff Johns, another Justice League producer Fisher said enabled Whedon.
Hamada was gearing up to release three or four films a year between theaters and HBO Max when the Warner Bros. Discovery merger occurred. Some see his exit as coming only partway through his DC course correct, while other observers believe he did not get enough internal support from the previous AT&T regime.
Lin would join DC at a time in which Zaslav has vowed to reshape DC with a ten-year plan he hopes will allow the brand to compete with Disney-owned Marvel Studios, which has built the biggest film franchise in history.
“We’ve done a reset … We think we can build a much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC,” said Zaslav in an earnings call Aug. 4, just two days after he scrapped the $90 million HBO Max Batgirl film that Hamada presided over. “As part of that, we are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it’s ready … DC is something we can make better.”
—Aaron Couch contributed to this story.
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