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‘Promising Young Woman’ Filmmaker Emerald Fennell Set to Join DC Universe with ‘Zatanna’ Script

The Oscar nominee and recent WGA winner is next taking on scripting duties for a standalone film about the magical sorceress.

Emerald Fennell

Emerald Fennell directing “Promising Young Woman”

Merie Weismiller Wallace / © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

Hot off last night’s Writers Guild Awards win for her original screenplay “Promising Young Woman,” filmmaker Emerald Fennell appears to be lining up her next big move. Variety reports that the Oscar-nominated writer and director will now turn her attentions to writing “Zatanna,” a big-screen take on the DC Comics heroine of the same name. The outlet adds that “the movie, from Warner Bros.’ DC Films and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, is set to be released theatrically.”

There’s no word yet who will direct the film, though Fennell’s recent nomination for Best Director (alongside Marvel filmmaker Chloé Zhao, making 2021 the first year two women were nominated in the category) must certainly appeal to Warner Bros. brass.

Also not yet announced? Who will actually play the powerful sorceress, who will be making her big screen debut in the film. As Variety notes, while the character “is known for her involvement with the Justice League, … [she] has never appeared in a DC movie. Serinda Swan perviously portrayed Zatanna, marking the superhero’s live-action debut, on later seasons of the CW show ‘Smallville.'”

Multi-hyphenate Fennell burst into the filmmaking scene with her 2020 Sundance debut “Promising Young Woman,” which recently notched five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress for star Carey Mulligan, and Best Editing. Fennell, who is also an actress, was previously best known for serving as showrunner on the second season of “Killing Eve” and recently appeared on Netflix hit “The Crown” as Camilla Parker Bowles.

While Fennell’s move into the world of blockbuster superhero filmmaking is hardly surprising — taking on a Marvel or DC feature after a smash indie hit is a traditional path for many talented filmmakers — it is heartening to see her taking on a flashy, fun superhero like Zatanna who is equally skilled in magic and hand-to-hand combat. With “Promising Young Woman,” Fennell explored a similarly layered leading lady.

Even better: Fennell’s skills with misdirection will likely serve a character all about sleight of hand and butt-kicking action. As she told IndieWire last year, “It’s just part of the fun of making something, the smoke and mirrors and the misdirections,” Fennell said. “I love all that stuff, all of my favorite movies have that sort of thing in them. It’s very interesting, isn’t it, how much we want violence, how much instinctively as an audience we’re begging for blood.”

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