HBO Max’s long gestation Green lantern TV shows are changing gears.
The drama, which has been in the works since late 2019, will now focus on John Stewart, one of DC’s first Black superheroes. The series, from executive producer Greg Berlanti, was originally set to revolve around Guy Gardner and Alan Scott and already has Finn Wittrock (Ratched) and Jeremy Irvine (Treadstone) as the respective Green Lanterns.
As part of the creative overhaul, writer and showrunner Seth Grahame-Smith left the series after completing scripts for a full eight-episode season. Sources say Grahame-Smith, who signed on as writer and showrunner a year after Green lantern announced, chose to leave the project after experiencing a number of regime changes at HBO Max, its parent company, producers Warner Bros. Television and now DC Comics have endured.
The decision to refocus Green lantern comes at a pivotal time for DC. Sources say the character of John Stewart was off the table for producers who envisioned the show as focusing on the first Green Lantern, the openly gay Alan Scott, and Guy Gardner as well as a “crowd of other Lanterns – from comics favorites to never-before-seen heroes.” With the recent departure of DC Comics mainstay Walter Hamada, a decision was made to start over and build the show around John Stewart, the character who first appeared in the early 1970s and was modeled after Sidney Poitier. noteworthy that the Green lantern creative overhaul has nothing to do with news this week that James Gunn and Peter Safran have been tapped to lead film, TV and animation at DC Studios in a role similar to what Kevin Feige does at Marvel. (Gunn and Safran don’t start their new jobs until November 1.)
Of the previous incarnation, only Berlanti and his Warner Bros. remain. TV-based Berlanti Productions affiliated with Green lantern. (Co-executive producer Marc Guggenheim, who was originally set to co-write the pilot with Grahame-Smith, had not been involved with the show recently before the retooling.)
When HBO Max announced plans for Green lantern in October 2019, Berlanti described it as the “biggest DC show ever made”, with plans for the series to go into space. At the time, insiders said it was poised to be the most expensive show DC has ever made and easily the biggest for HBO Max with a budget estimated in the $120 million range. (House of the Dragon, in comparison, cost less than $200 million.)
The show’s budget going forward is expected to be significantly less, as HBO Max, under David Zaslav’s combined Warner Bros. Discovery, focusing on right-sizing its various assets. As part of the move to find an estimated $3 billion in cost savings, Zaslav and his division leaders dropped a number of projects, including Berlanti’s planned Strange Adventures anthology for HBO Max, JJ Abrams’ original HBO series Demimonde and the already completed Batgirl feature film. (For Demimonde, HBO is said to have balked at Abrams’ request for a budget north of $200 million.)
WBD said in an SEC filing this week that it expects to take $2 billion to $2.5 billion in content-related tax write-offs. The eight previously completed Green lantern Scripts are expected to be included in those tax write-offs, as sources claim it wasn’t Grahame-Smith’s creativity that ultimately doomed the first incarnation of the show, but rather its price.
As for Wittrock and Irvine, neither has been reported Green lantern. Sources indicate that Berlanti Productions is eager to work with both actors when and if the project, which currently has a script-to-series commitment, moves forward. In the spring of 2021, when Wittrock and Irvine were cast, the show was still fast-tracked and would begin shooting that same year. The project is now on a slower, more HBO-like development track under Bloys and Warner Bros. TV star Channing Dungey. A new logline for the series has not yet been determined, as the project is still in early development.
Representatives for HBO Max, Warners, Berlanti Productions and Grahame-Smith declined to comment.
The HBO Max recording is Berlanti’s second stab at the world of Green Lantern. He previously wrote the screenplay (with Michael Green, Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg) for the 2011 DC-produced Ryan Reynolds starrer. This movie received negative reviews and was considered a flop. It earned $219 million against a budget of $200 million.