HBO Max’s long-gestating Green Lantern TV series is changing gears.
The drama that has been in the works since late 2019 will now focus on John Stewart, one of DC’s first Black superheroes. The series, from exec producer Greg Berlanti, was to originally have revolved around Guy Gardner and Alan Scott and had already cast Finn Wittrock (Ratched) and Jeremy Irvine (Treadstone) as the respective Green Lanterns.
As part of the creative overhaul, writer and showrunner Seth Grahame-Smith has departed the series after completing scripts for a full season of eight episodes. Sources say Grahame-Smith, who signed on as writer and showrunner a year after Green Lantern was announced, chose to leave the project after weathering a number of regime changes at HBO Max, its parent company, producers Warner Bros. Television and now DC Comics.
The decision to refocus Green Lantern arrive at a pivotal time for DC. Sources say the character of John Stewart was off the table to producers who envisioned the show as focusing on the first Green Lantern, the openly gay Alan Scott, and Guy Gardner as well as a “multitude of other Lanterns — from comic book favorites to never -before-seen heroes.” With DC Comics topper Walter Hamada’s recent exit, 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. It’s worth noting 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 is doing at Marvel. (Gunn and Safran don’t start their new jobs until Nov. 1.)
Of the previous incarnation, only Berlanti and his Warner Bros. TV-based Berlanti Productions remain attached to Green Lantern. (Fellow exec producer Marc Guggenheim, who originally was poised to co-write the pilot alongside Grahame-Smith, was not recently involved with the show ahead of its 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 to space. Insiders at the time said it was poised to be the most expensive show DC ever made and easily the largest for HBO Max with a budget estimated in the $120 million range. (House of the Dragon, by 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, is 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 have dropped a number of projects including Berlanti’s planned Strange Adventures anthology for HBO Max, JJ Abrams’ HBO original 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 tax write-downs related to content. The eight previously completed Green Lantern scripts are expected to be included in those tax write-downs as sources maintain it wasn’t Grahame-Smith’s creative that ultimately doomed the first incarnation of the show but rather its price tag.
As for Wittrock and Irvine, neither remains signed on to 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 spring 2021, when Wittrock and Irvine were cast, the show was still being fast-tracked and was to begin shooting that same year. The project is now on a slower, more HBO-like, development track under Bloys and Warner Bros. TV topper Channing Dungey. A new logline for the series has not yet been determined as the project is back to being in early development.
Reps for HBO Max, Warners, Berlanti Productions and Grahame-Smith declined to comment.
The HBO Max takes is Berlanti’s second stab at the world of Green Lantern. He previously penned the screenplay (alongside Michael Green, Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg) for the 2011 DC-produced Ryan Reynolds starrer. That movie was met with negative reviews and was considered a flop. It grossed $219 million vs. a budget of $200 million.