James Gunn is no stranger to writing superheroes. As the director and writer of Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Suicide Squad, he used to tackling a hero’s arc over the course of two hours. However, the HBO spin-off Peacemaker, starring John Cena, presented a new challenge: Writing for a television series. When it came to learning the differences between writing for television versus film, Gunn looked to AMC’s Better Call Saul for inspiration.
“It’s the ability to take its time in telling the story,” Gunn tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Both Saul and Chris are kind of sad-sack characters who are really good at one thing and then really bad at a lot of other things. So I think it’s really just taking that incredibly smart dialogue, that relaxed nature of grounded life and then mixing that with the other things that I wanted to do with the show. But I love Better Call Saul. I think it’s one of the best shows on TV, if not the best.”
Primarily, television allows storylines to breathe a bit more and carry out over a longer period of time, which naturally happens when you have about ten hours instead of two.
“I took what I know from screenwriting and I just allowed things to play out a little bit more. That’s really the only thing,” Gunn continues. “You could not tell the story of Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and Peacemaker in a movie. It’s too weird where they start, where they go and where they end up. So it’s just a much more complicated relationship, and you need things to be more cut and dried in a two-hour movie.”
A spin-off series was not always in the cards, but one emerged as Gunn worked with Cena on The Suicide Squad.
“It was a scene with him and Ratcatcher [Daniela Melchior]. I shot that first,” he explains. “And there’s a moment where he is about to kill her and we see something in his eyes that is incredible sadness and regret. I don’t even know if Peacemaker was going to kill her in that moment, but seeing John in that moment made me go, ‘There’s much more to this actor than I knew.’”
The first three episodes of Peacemaker premiered on HBO Max today, with new episodes arriving weekly on Thursdays.