It’s been a good year for Emerald Fennell. Coming off two Emmy Award nominations for her work as head writer on Killing Eve‘s second season, the multitalented British actress has skyrocketed to fame thanks to a major role in Netflix’s The Crown, followed by her feature film directorial debut with Promising Young Woman; a revenge thriller seeped in social commentary that has sparked heated discourse while scooping up nominations and wins at every prestigious awards ceremony – including five Oscar noms, three for Fennell herself. She probably doesn’t stand a chance against the awards-season juggernaut that is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, but either way, she and Zhao will be fine – they’re both now attached to major superhero franchises.
Fennell, it is reported, will write the script for a Zatanna solo film set in the DC Extended Universe and produced by J.J. Abrams as part of his overall deal with Warner Brothers to specifically help bring characters from DC Comics’ Justice League Dark roster to the big screen. Currently, Fennell is only set to write the film, not direct, but hopefully she’s given enough creative freedom and input to leave her distinctive stamp on the final product: if anyone can give Zatanna the adaptation she deserves, it’s Fennell. Promising Young Woman has all the eccentric flair, dark humor, and gloriously campy production design I’d hope to see from a film centering DC’s best magical character.
Zatanna Zatara is a classic stage magician and illusionist, whose character builds on every antiquated trope associated with the business: from the magic wand, to the flowing cape, tarot cards, and top hat (which, in Zatanna’s case, doubles as a gateway to other dimensions). Descended from sorcerers and alchemists dating as far back as Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci, and Nicholas Flamel, Zatanna belongs to the race of Homo Magi, who possess the innate ability to cast spells by speaking backwards (and are therefore susceptible to throat injuries). But while Zatanna’s magic makes her one of DC’s most powerful beings, theoretically capable of overpowering Superman, she’s at her best while working alongside gritty characters.
Batman and Catwoman are frequent allies/opponents of hers, a result of living just outside Gotham in a magically-guarded mansion named Shadowcrest, but Zatanna’s strongest allegiance is to the team of sorcerers known as Justice League Dark. Formed by Madame Xanadu to guard earth from supernatural threats, the team goes through many iterations, with Wonder Woman even leading it at one point – while possessed by the fragmented spirit of Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft. Zatanna has an on-and-off relationship with her teammate, John Constantine (who is in the process of being cast for an HBO Max series following the occult detective’s own adventures).
With witches all the rage right now, it makes sense to finally elevate Zatanna to big-screen status, after having previously only appeared in live-action once on the CW. There is currently no actress attached to star in the lead role, although the internet is abuzz with fan-casting. My personal suggestions are British-Indian actress Anya Chalotra, who flawlessly portrayed the sorceress Yennefer in The Witcher‘s first season, and Pakistani-Indian actress Jameela Jamil – who’s already a member of the DC family thanks to a small role in the Harley Quinn animated series. If the film is more serious in tone, Chalotra’s quiet intensity would be a good fit for the role – but Jamil would nail a more irreverent, humorous interpretation.
As a third choice and a bit of a curveball, I’ll also throw Lady Gaga’s name into the mix, because she’s an Oscar-nominated actress who shares the character’s Italian heritage from the comics, and would certainly bring the campiness I want, as well as the kind of star power that could make this a true event film for general audiences. It feels a bit too much like stunt-casting, to be honest, but I’d be open to the idea.
So what do you think? Who are your top fan-casts for the role of Zatanna, and how do you want to see the character brought to life? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!