Saltburn Director Emerald Fennell Confirms Her Zatanna Movie Is Dead At DC Studios 

For all you "Saltburn" fans out there (we at /Film consider it the best "WTF Movie" of 2023), you may have to wait a bit longer for director Emerald Fennell's next project. In an interview on the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast, Fennell confirmed her film with DC Studios — an adaptation of the magical comic book hero Zatanna — is not moving forward.

Fennell was announced as the writer of the "Zatanna" movie in March 2021, fresh off her directorial debut "Promising Young Woman" the previous year. She was not confirmed to be the director of "Zatanna" and from these recent comments, it sounds like that was never the plan. As Fennell explained, J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, was set to produce "Zatanna," but Abrams' vision has been scrapped.

"No, it's not happening. This was before 'Promising Young Woman,' actually. It was when JJ Abrams had just arrived at Warner Bros. and they were going to reboot the [Justice League] Dark Universe. It was complicated because the regime, things change ... it's all classic studio stuff."

For reference, "Justice League Dark" is a recent comic creation (beginning in 2011 DC relaunch the New 52). It brings together the major magical characters of the DC Universe: Zatanna, John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, etc. Fennell says she completed a "Zatanna" script that was "reasonably demented ... in a good way," but with  the shake-up at Warner Bros., there is no place for it in the current DC Universe.

Fennell doesn't go into detail about the "classic studio stuff," but a year after her involvement was announced, Warner Bros merged with Discovery. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has charged James Gunn and Peter Safran (co-heads of the new DC Studios) with overseeing all upcoming DC films and TV shows, and they've chosen to do a soft reboot. Hence, "Zatanna" and Bad Robot's Justice League Dark will be left sitting in a desk drawer at Warner Bros.

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Speaking about what attracted her to the project, Fennell says it was a chance to play outside her wheelhouse. "[The superhero genre] is not a genre I naturally gravitate towards," she explained. "So I was like, I'd love to know how does one make a movie like that for people who don't know so much and wouldn't necessarily buy a ticket first time around?" That said, it sounds like Fennell did develop a fondness for her subject while writing: "Zatanna is just a really, really cool character."

Zatanna is a stage magician, but one with the magic skills of any actual witch. Her usual costume is a classic magician's look, with a top hat, wand, black tuxedo, and white shirt with a bowtie. She conjures spells by saying her desires backward. For instance, to pull a rabbit out of a hat, she'd declare, "Tah fo tuo tibbar!" She's the daughter of Giovanni Zatara, a DC Comics character who debuted in 1938 (preceding even Superman), but she's more famous than her old man at this point.

Part of that goes back to writer Paul Dini, who has a thing for Zatanna (there's a reason he married a real-life magician). Dini wrote episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Justice League Unlimited" guest-starring Zatanna. A younger version of Zatanna appears as a main character in "Young Justice." In this iteration, she's instead a contemporary of the teen heroes like Robin, while her dad is a member of the Justice League.

Gunn and Safran's DC Universe has a Swamp Thing movie directed by James Mangold on the docket, so they're not averse to the Justice League Dark. Perhaps one day Zatanna will get the big screen stardom she deserves.

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