To anyone who pays attention to popular and critical hits, Warner Bros has emerged as the golden child for several years running. Having recruited Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to first look deals, Variety reports they're now in talks with Robert Downey Jr. and wife / producer Susan Downey, and Zac Efron for similar first-look alliances.

Both Downeys have had a good run at Warner Bros. Downey Jr. has had successes at the studio with films like Sherlock Holmes, Zodiac, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and will probably have another with Due Date. Susan Downey is an executive producer with Silver Pictures, and has Sherlock Holmes, The Book of Eli, and Orphan to her name. They're a powerhouse couple, and anyone would love to pin them down. Who knows what kind of movie magic the studio will claim with Iron Man himself?

As for Efron, he's inked his two-year production deal with the studio. They love him thanks to 17 Again and Hairspray, and they're dying to develop Jonny Quest for him, as well as a mysterious sci-fi project called Algorithm. They may be able to do what Disney couldn't, and develop him into an actor who appeals to men and women of all ages.

As Deadline Hollywood Daily notes, Warner Bros is becoming a glittering stable of talent, the likes of which haven't been seen there since the days when Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood were the big men on the lot. Eastwood's Malpaso is still happily residing there, and DHD points out that Leonardo DiCaprio, Steve Carrell, and Johnny Depp also have very nice set-ups with the studio.
On the geek side, I've appreciated the way they worked with Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and the Harry Potter crew. They're also revamping DC Entertainment to rival what Marvel Studios has been doing, and every DC fan is drooling at the possibilities of extended DC Universe movies. And last year, Kevin Smith mentioned to Slashfilm that their Watchmen daring lured him away from The Weinstein Bros, and he hopes to make more films with them. If Cop Out does well, could he be the next one to get a first look deal? He has Hit Somebody in the wings, after all, has mentioned that he'd love to film it with them.

Who knows who else they might recruit? There's plenty of actors, directors, and producers who have enjoyed some of the best films of their career at the studio. (Calling Guy Ritchie and Gerard "has a production company now" Butler to the floor. Go get in talks! You too, Harry Potter people. All of you! ) Wherever these first look deals end, having all these people in one place makes me suspect 2010 will be the start of an awesome decade for Warner Bros.