J. J. Abrams has seen two more projects dropped by HBO Max, the latest in a series of setbacks for the producer/director.
Deadline reports that the shows HBO has passed on are a Constantine series, a new take on the DC character, which Abrams was working on with British novelist Guy Bolton, and Madame X, a supernatural series featuring DC Comic’s clairvoyant of the same name.
Abrams has already seen three projects cancelled this year. Back in June, news broke that Demimonde, which was due to be Abrams’ first solo creation for television since Alias, had been canceled by HBO due to spiralling costs.
Then, last month, Abrams saw two more of his shows get canned, with Apple TV Plus pulling the plug on My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, which would have seen Abrams reunite with Alias star Jennifer Garner; and HBO ditch Batman: Caped Crusader, a planned follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series, which ran from 1992 to 1995, with Abrams and The Batman’s Matt Reeves on the creative team.
Deadline says that, instead of the Abrams Constantine series, HBO’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, has decided to pursue a long-awaited sequel to 2005’s movie version of Constantine, which starred Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, the supernatural exorcist and demonologist.
The new movie, which will see Reeves reunite with Francis Lawrence, who has since gone on to make billions with The Hunger Games franchise – and it’s not all bad news for Abrams, as he’s slated to executive-produce that movie.
Unlike in the original movie, which found Constantine in middle age and on the verge of death, Abrams’ series was based on the character’s appearance in the Hellblazer comics, and had been due to be contemporary in setting as well as taking place in London. The show has been in active development for more than two years, and Abrams will now shop the project to other studios and streaming services.
As for Madame X, Abrams had been working on that show with Angela Robinson, whose credits include True Blood and How to Get Away with Murder. A long-time DC Comics favorite, Madame X – Madame Xanadu, to give her her full name – is a clairvoyant who uses tarot cards to tell the future, and who also has the power to teleport and to make things levitate.
Robinson was set to serve as showrunner for Madame X, as well as executive-producing alongside Abrams. That project will also be shopped to other studios, with Deadline reporting that Abrams and his team are positive about keeping both shows alive.
Analysis: More belt-tightening for Warner Bros?
It’s no secret that Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav has been on an epic round of cost-cutting, but you probably couldn’t put the demise of Abrams’ Constantine series as being down to that.
It doesn’t make sense for Warner Bros. to have two Constantine projects in the works, and to try and launch both within a couple of years of each other.
Warner Bros. was looking at the same situation with The Flash, where it was about to launch a hugely expensive movie with one actor in the role, while a long-running TV show with another actor in the role was still going on.
While it had long been the plan to have Ezra Miller’s version of The Flash existing alongside Grant Gustin’s, there’s probably some relief that the final season of the TV show will air in early 2023, leaving Miller a clear run when his movie version finally debuts in the summer time.
Trying to sell two versions of the same character to the public, John Constantine in this case, was always going to be a bit of a headache and Abrams’ presence on TV version of Constantine was likely neither here nor there.
HBO’s decision to pass on Madame X is a bit more of a surprise, as, while it hadn’t got to casting yet, the buzz around the show seemed positive. Perhaps it was simply the case that the streaming service already has seven DC shows ongoing, and decided that was enough for now.