Zaslav’s Hamptons-Hollywood Vanity Project

David Zaslav
David Zaslav, President and C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
August 18, 2022

You gotta feel a little bit bad for Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, the new Warner Bros. film studio heads. They’re trying to put together big, “theatrical” projects for a company, Warner Bros. Discovery, that now says it wants to prioritize movies that can make millions in theaters first, and they’ve got a few they are almost ready to greenlight. Ryan Gosling, for instance, has agreed to star with Margot Robbie in the prequel to the Ocean’s movies, one of Warners’ biggest franchises outside of DC and Harry Potter. If deals close, the co-stars of next summer’s Barbie, also at Warners, will reunite with filmmaker Jay Roach, whom De Luca worked with way back on Austin Powers at New Line.

Not bad, right? For film executives, Ocean’s checks many of the “theatricality” boxes: proven I.P.; big stars in their prime; the chance, in success, to do several sequels with different heists, or even a TV spinoff for HBO Max. And with what I’m told will be a much bigger budget than Steven Soderbergh’s Clooney-led Ocean’s movies and the Sandra Bullock spinoff, the new one will feel more theatrical and maybe even summer-worthy, while not costing anywhere near the $200 million Netflix burned on Gosling’s The Gray Man. Win win.  

Ocean’s would’ve been a nice first project for De Luca to put in production since taking over for Toby Emmerich in July. (Warners is saying the Joker sequel with Lady Gaga is De Luca’s first greenlight, but that was a foregone conclusion.) Instead, De Luca was forced—sorry, it was suggested, by his boss, WBD C.E.O. David Zaslav—that the studio first say yes to Wise Guys, a mob drama starring Robert De Niro, 79, in dual roles as rival gangsters, one of whom attempts to kill the other. It will be directed by Barry Levinson, 80; the script is by Nick Pileggi, 89; and the lead producer is Irwin Winkler, 91, who has been trying to get this story told since 1974, as evidenced by this archived Times story making the rounds. You can’t make this up.