Green Lantern, a Greg Berlanti-created HBO Max series, is being redeveloped and loses a writer (Exclusive)
After finishing the scripts for eight episodes of the drama that were going to centre on Hal Jordan and Alan Scott, Seth Grahame-Smith left the project.
The stalwart Green Lantern TV series on HBO Max is shifting gears.
John Stewart, one of DC’s first Black superheroes, will be the focus of the drama, which has been in development since late 2019. Greg Berlanti, the show’s executive producer, had already cast Finn Wittrock (Ratched) and Jeremy Irvine (Treadstone) as the show’s central characters, Guy Gardner and Alan Scott.
After finishing the scripts for an entire season of eight episodes, writer and showrunner Seth Grahame-Smith left the project as part of the creative makeover. According to sources, Grahame-Smith decided to abandon the project after dealing with a succession of leadership changes at Warner Bros. Television, HBO Max, its parent company, and now DC Comics. Grahame-Smith joined as a writer and showrunner a year after Green Lantern was revealed.
Green Lantern’s decision to refocus comes at a critical juncture for DC. John Stewart was not on the producers’ radar because they wanted to focus on Guy Gardner, the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who is out homosexual, and a “multitude of other Lanterns — from comic book favourites to never-before-seen heroes,” according to sources. After Walter Hamada, the creator of DC Comics, abruptly left the company, it was decided to restart the series and centre it around John Stewart, an early 1970s character created in Sidney Poitier’s likeness. It’s important to note that the Green Lantern creative revamp has nothing to do with the recent announcement that James Gunn and Peter Safran will oversee cinema, television, and animation at DC Studios, much like Kevin Feige does at Marvel. (Gunn and Safran’s new jobs don’t start until the first of November.)
Only Berlanti and his Warner Bros. TV-based Berlanti Productions are still involved with Green Lantern from the prior edition. (Co-executive producer Marc Guggenheim, who was initially going to write the pilot with Grahame-Smith, was not lately working on the programme prior to its retooling.)
With plans for the series to travel to space, Berlanti called Green Lantern the “largest DC programme ever filmed” when HBO Max revealed its plans for it in October 2019. With a budget thought to be in the $120 million range, insiders at the time stated it was on track to be the most costly production DC had ever produced and easily the largest for HBO Max. (House of the Dragon cost less than $200 million, by contrast.)
Future episodes of the programme are anticipated to have much lower budgets as HBO Max, a division of David Zaslav’s united Warner Bros. Discovery, focuses on appropriately sizing its numerous assets. Zaslav and his division directors have shelved a number of projects as part of the effort to find an estimated $3 billion in cost reductions, including Berlanti’s planned Strange Adventures anthology for HBO Max, J.J. Abrams’ HBO original series Demimonde, and the previously finished Batgirl feature film. (HBO is alleged to have objected to Abrams’ request for a budget for Demimonde that was more than $200 million.)
This week, WBD stated in an SEC filing that it anticipated taking $2 to $2.5 billion in tax deductions linked to content. The eight previously finished Green Lantern scripts are anticipated to be included in those tax write-downs because, according to sources, it wasn’t Grahame-original Smith’s ideas that eventually led to the show’s failure, but rather its high production costs.
Wittrock and Irvine are no longer associated with Green Lantern. According to sources, when and if the project—which is now committed to a script-to-series commitment—moves forward, Berlanti Productions is keen to work with both performers. When Wittrock and Irvine were cast in the spring of 2021, the show was still being expedited and was scheduled to start filming that same year. Under the direction of Bloys and Warner Bros. TV head Channing Dungey, the project is currently moving along at a slower, more HBO-like pace. Since the project is once again in the early stages of development, a new logline for the series has not yet been chosen.
Warners, Berlanti Productions, HBO Max, and Grahame-Smith representatives all declined to comment.
The HBO Max adaptation is Berlanti’s second attempt at the Green Lantern universe. He previously wrote the screenplay for the 2011 DC-produced Ryan Reynolds starrer (with Michael Green, Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg). That film received unfavourable reviews and was labelled a failure. Against a $200 million budget, it brought in $219 million.