Though it came bolting out of the gates, with the best opening weekend for Dwayne Johnson in a starring role ever ($25 million) and was seemingly paved with good intentions, with Johnson saying he fought for fifteen years to bring a character of color to a leading role in the DC Universe, Black Adam fizzled, with its overall box office numbers ending up at a disappointing $390 million worldwide. Though the $390 million mark seems like nothing to sneeze at, the movie’s high production budget (between 190-260 million) and marketing budget ($100 million) necessitated that it pull in roughly $600 million worldwide to make a profit.
That wasn’t the only problem with the Black Adam movie however. According to those who had worked on the movie with Johnson, it was The Rock’s overshadowing attitude which also soured the movie’s impact.
“Dwayne tries to sell himself as bigger than the movie,” said a high-ranking Hollywood executive in a sit-down with The Wrap. “He’s one of the few people who always thinks he’s the most important person in any situation or room. Instead of making a movie, he wants to extend his brand and make a brand centered on himself.”
Fans were also disappointed that Black Adam, a character who has been well-established as the arch-nemesis to Shazam, seemed to want nothing to do with the well-received Shazam film or pitting his character against Zachary Levi’s Shazam either.
Also from The Wrap interview:
Johnson did plenty of work in public to undermine “Shazam,” chiefly by promoting a face-off between Black Adam and Superman instead of the more canonical link between the hero Zachary Levi played and the former pro wrestler’s own character. Privately, he vetoed a planned post-credits scene in “Black Adam,” which would have seen Shazam recruited by Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, and other costumed heroes, into the Justice Society of America, TheWrap can report exclusively, thanks to disclosures by two high-level Hollywood insiders.
Notwithstanding, Johnson has his own views on why he’s not returning as Black Adam.
“I think that Black Adam got caught in a vortex of new leadership,” Johnson said when asked why he’s not returning as Black Adam on the latest episode of Hart to Heart, Kevin Hart’s Peacock talk show. “And at that time as we were creating ‘Black Adam,’ developing it, shooting ‘Black Adam,’ we got knocked down a little bit because of COVID and the shutdowns, got back up, there were so many changes in leadership.”
Johnson went on to add that it wasn’t only the changes in leadership but the decisions made by said executives that soured him on reprising his role as Black Adam as well.
“And as you know, anytime you have a company, but especially that size and magnitude… and you have all those changes in leadership, you have people coming in who, creatively, fiscally, are going to make decisions that you may not agree with, philosophically,” Johnson added.
Johnson also added that the decision made by James Gunn and Peter Safran, as well as the other executives who had taken over the reins of the new cinematic DC Universe to not go forward with him reprising the role of Black Adam was “one of the biggest mysteries” for himself and his team at Seven Bucks Productions.
“So I think ‘Black Adam’ was one of those movies that got caught in that web of new leadership,” Johnson continued, “and that will always be one of the biggest mysteries, not only for me and us on our end, but also throughout our business.”
Johnson cited Black Adam‘s successful opening weekend, the 7th highest out of 13 DCEU movies thus far and how he was disappointed that a movie which set out to “establish a new superhero” and “grow out the franchise” wasn’t given a chance to continue.
“That was a question out of Wall Street,” Johnson added, “that was a question out of Hollywood, that was a question like ‘Wait a second, you had the biggest opening of your career, sure no China, that could have been a maybe $100, maybe $200 million more. You’re establishing a new superhero, you want to grow out the franchise, you bring back Superman and Henry Cavill – the world went crazy. And also too, you were texting me this on opening weekend, we created a diverse superhero portfolio where you had men and women of color, in ‘Black Adam 2’ as well.”
Johnson believes that a big cause for contention came from his mentality to put the “audience first,” something that “wasn’t looked at through that lens” by the new Warner Bros/DC Universe leadership.
“And I think as business-minded people, you and I are always thinking ‘audience first.’ Yes, we look at and respect the bottom line economically, but also when you think about opportunity, creating opportunity, creating things that are fresh, and delivering things for the audience, which is our number one boss,” Johnson added. “When that wasn’t looked at through that lens, it makes things a little more challenging for guys like you and me where you’re like, ‘You sure you wanna do this?'”
Johnson also compared the situation to new ownership for an NFL team, with the ownership making changes to a successful team for the future despite the championships they’d won in the past.
“But at the end of the day, it’s like new ownership coming in,” Johnson said, “buying an NFL team and going like ‘not my head coach and not my quarterback.’ Doesn’t matter how many times you won the Super Bowl, doesn’t matter how many wins we got, I’m going with somebody else.”
What do you think of the explanation from Dwayne Johnson on why he’s not returning as Black Adam? Let us know in the comments.