Emerald Fennell on her scrapped DC Zatanna project

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Emerald Fennell was at one point set to take on the DC Comics sorcerer as part of JJ Abrams’ Justice League Dark project. Fennell reveals a few nuggets about that process…


Emerald Fennell is two films into a very promising career as one of those writer/director filmmakers who envisage original ideas and successfully realise them, often to the delight of audiences. She nabbed an Oscar (for Best Original Screenplay) for doing so with 2020’s Promising Young Woman and this year gave us the deliciously trashy Saltburn (for which you can catch our review here).

However, Fennell’s career could have started out in a very different fashion indeed. She revealed on the HappySadConfused podcast that she actually wrote a draft of a Zatanna movie for JJ Abrams when he was trying to set up a Justice League Dark project at Warner Bros.

Zatanna (pictured on the right of the header image) is one of DC Comics’ most powerful (and popular) sorcerers but the character hasn’t yet made her live action debut.

Abrams was keen on changing that when it was announced back in 2020 that his production company, Bad Robot, was looking to take on Justice League Dark for Warner Bros.

Justice League Dark (exactly what it sounds like – a ‘dark’ take on the Justice League with grim, anti-hero characters) has a pretty tortured history when it comes to getting a film adaptation up and running (we once covered its various failed attempts here) but with Abrams in charge, fresh from his Star Wars adventures, there was hope that the long-gestating project would soon get moving.

Ultimately, that never happened but as somebody on the inside of the process, Fennell has spilled a little tea on the process.

“This was all before Promising Young Woman, actually … and it was when JJ Abrams had just arrived at Warner Brothers and was going to reboot the Dark Universe and … they were going to kind of make this new kind dark, sort of, villain universe, or hero/villain universe. And I just thought he was the coolest”.

Fennell admits that superheroes aren’t an area of expertise for her, but that she loves genre films. And it was the character of Zatanna that caught her eye. “I wrote, in the end, I think, a script that is reasonably demented … in a good way, I think. But in the end, I think the whole universe … was changed. But that’s fine.”

Fennell adds that she simply enjoys writing and so the process was fun, even if the film never got close to being made. We’re sure she’s happy with the way things eventually turned out.

As for Justice League Dark and Zatanna? Now James Gunn is in control of a new-look DC universe, who knows? Maybe the project will be dragged out of development hell once more. Time will tell…

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