Director Zack Snyder has stepped down from the helm of Justice League, following the suicide of his daughter Autumn earlier this year.
Joss Whedon, the filmmaker behind the Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has been hired to finish the Warner Bros. superhero movie.
Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter: “I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me.”
The film is currently in postproduction and with Whedon’s help, is still on track for its 17th November release date.
Snyder’s wife Deborah, who is a producer on Justice League, is also taking a break to focus on their family and seven other children.
The couple’s daughter Autumn died by suicide in March aged 20. At the time, Justice League was put on a two-week break for the Snyders to deal with the immediate effects of the tragedy.
Snyder said he initially was eager to return to the film, which stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller.
“In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was the way through it,” he told THR.
“The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all-consuming. And in the last two months, I’ve come to the realisation … I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”
The studio has fully supported the move. “What they are going through is unimaginable, and my heart – our hearts – go out to them,” said Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich.
Before the decision to step down was taken, Whedon was already on board to write some additional scenes. On Whedon’s involvement, Emmerich added: “The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set.
“We’re not introducing any new characters. It’s the same characters in some new scenes. He’s handing the baton to Joss, but the course has really been set by Zack. I still believe that despite this tragedy, we’ll still end up with a great movie.”
This isn’t the first time that Warner Bros. has dealt with a tragedy affecting a high-profile DC movie. In 2008, Heath Ledger passed away after shooting had wrapped for The Dark Knight but prior to the movie being finished and released.
Snyder also spoke about how the death of his daughter has shifted his perspective: “I want the movie to be amazing, and I’m a fan, but that all pales pretty quickly in comparison.
“I know the fans are going to be worried about the movie, but there are seven other kids that need me. In the end, it’s just a movie. It’s a great movie. But it’s just a movie.”