‘Zatanna’: Emerald Fennell Confirms Her Dark DC Superhero Film Is Dead

Remember when Guillermo Del Toro was going to do a Justice League Dark movie? Or when JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot was going to run an entire Dark Universe corner of the DCEU? It was a big deal that kept getting teased for years, with projects proposed that were talked about but never actually happened. One of those was a Zatanna film from Saltburn and Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell, and she confirms something that we pretty much already knew: it ain’t ever happening.

Fennell was a guest on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, and revealed that her Zatanna film, which she had been hired to write, is dead as a doornail…

“No, no, it’s not happening. I loved it [though],” she said.

Fennell also revealed that she had been working on Zatanna, about a powerful witch superhero in the occult corner of the DC Universe, prior to her breakout film Promising Young Woman. That’s interesting because the news of her hiring came out after she became a household name.

“This was all before ‘Promising Young Woman,’ actually,” Fennell said. “This was something I was working on before [that film]. It was when J.J. Abrams had just arrived at Warner Bros. and was going to reboot the [DC’s] Dark Universe, and they were going to make this kind of dark villain universe or sort of hero/villain universe.”

But Fennell adds that she enjoyed working with Abrams on the Dark Universe stuff, which included multiple shows, such as a Green Lantern series, a Constantine project, that went absolutely nowhere.

“I thought he was the coolest, and his team at Robot was so cool and interesting and because I love genre of all kinds… I was definitely interested,” she explained. “I was like, ‘I don’t know a huge about the whole superhero genre; it’s not a genre I naturally gravitate towards, so I’d love to know how does one make [a superhero film] like that, for someone like me who doesn’t know so much and wouldn’t necessarily buy a ticket for that first time around. So it was that kinda thing, and Zatanna was a really, really cool character.”

It’s been a recurring theme at Warner Bros. that no regime lasts long enough to get anything done, and Fennell and Abrams had to face that problem. It continues to be an issue; multiple regimes have come and gone during the production of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, for example.

Fennell added, “But just like everything…I did write it, but it was complicated; you know, the regimes changed; it’s the classic studio stuff. J.J. is incredible, his team is incredible, and I wrote in the end a script that was reasonably demented—in a good way, I think. But in the end, the whole universe was… you know, it got changed. And that’s fine; I love writing… it was really fun to do in the end. Whether it would have been remotely makeable… that’s the thing, I was only ever slated to write it.”


Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.