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Justice League's behind-the-scenes drama explained: From Zack Snyder's departure to Joss Whedon accusations

Get the complete story on this troubled blockbuster.

Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot in Justice League (Warner Bros, HF)
Warner Bros
Published: Monday, 24th August 2020 at 5:09 pm

You may have thought that the official announcement of Justice League's long-fabled Snyder Cut would effectively put an end to any controversy surrounding the film - but you were wrong.


While director Zack Snyder is officially returning to complete his vision for DC's iconic heroes, this strange Hollywood story continues to develop in unexpected ways.

The ill-fated 2017 Justice League movie made headlines once again at the beginning of July, as star Ray Fisher made serious accusations about the behaviour of stand-in director Joss Whedon during filming - and in August 2020, Fisher revealed that the circumstances of the film's production were being formally investigated.

This saga has become quite the epic, so in the immortal words of Aquaman star Julie Andrews: "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."

Here's your full timeline of every shocking Justice League story (so far):

22nd May 2017: Zack Snyder steps down from Justice League and Joss Whedon takes over

In late May 2017, news broke that director Zack Snyder would be leaving his role on Justice League to mourn the passing of his daughter, who had taken her own life two months prior.

Joss Whedon (The Avengers) was announced to be stepping in to finish the movie, but initial reports suggested his involvement would not drastically alter the finished product.

As Variety reported at the time, his influence was said to extend across only "a handful of reshoots that had already been scheduled prior to Snyder’s daughter’s death" and the post-production process.

26th May 2017: Joss Whedon was "already working" on Justice League before taking over

A few days later, at an event celebrating the launch of Gal Gadot's solo Wonder Woman film, producer Charles Roven revealed that Whedon had already been working on Justice League reshoots before formally stepping in as director.

Roven told Variety: "We were saddened by the events that caused Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder to have to leave and turn the reins over to Joss Whedon.

"He was already working with us on some of the scenes for the additional photography that we’re gonna be doing shortly, and it was fortunate that Zack convinced him, and he agreed to step in and finish the movie, help Zack finish his vision, and we’re excited about that."

14th June 2017: Junkie XL dropped as Justice League composer

One of the first major red flags for Zack Snyder purists came in June, when composer Junkie XL (Deadpool) was dropped from Justice League and replaced by Danny Elfman (Batman Returns).

The decision proved controversial as fans had enjoyed Junkie XL's work alongside Hans Zimmer on the Batman v Superman score, including the distinctive theme music they had created for Wonder Woman.

Junkie XL said via Twitter: "As my mentor Hans Zimmer told me: you haven't made it in Hollywood as a composer until you get replaced on a project. So I guess I finally graduated this week.

"It pains me to leave the project, but a big thanks to Zack for asking me to be part of his vision, and I wish Danny, Joss, and Warner Bros. all the best with Justice League."

18th July 2017: Zack Snyder removes Justice League imagery from his social media

Unease among Zack Snyder fans only grew later that summer, when the director removed all promotional imagery for the Justice League movie from his Twitter account.

As he was still said to be billed as director on the project, some commentators speculated that he was unhappy with its new direction, but his exact motives were never confirmed.

24th July 2017: Variety reveals "extensive" reshoots and moustache-gate

An investigation by Variety revealed the extent of Joss Whedon's work on Justice League, contradicting initial reports that he would be making minimal tweaks to Snyder's vision for the project.

The publication explained that while reshoots on big blockbuster movies are common practice, they usually only take one or two weeks and cost less than $10 million.

By contrast, insiders leaked that Justice League reshoots had been ongoing for two months and skyrocketed to an estimated cost of $25 million.

The amount of time being poured into these last-minute changes had caused scheduling conflicts with some members of the cast, most notably Superman actor Henry Cavill.

He had to take a break from filming Mission: Impossible - Fallout to return for the reshoots, but was contractually obligated to keep the moustache he had grown for his upcoming spy flick.

In an odd turn of events dubbed as "moustache-gate", the facial hair was digitally removed from Cavill's face in Justice League's post-production, although most fans and critics found the effect distractingly obvious.

Questions also began to be asked over whether Whedon would be listed as co-director on the film or if Snyder would retain the sole credit, which ultimately he did.

29th August 2017: Joss Whedon gets screenwriting credit

In late August, it was officially confirmed that Whedon would be credited as a writer on Justice League, which is significant as it indicates he had penned more than 33 per cent of the film (according to Writers Guild of America guidelines).

Snyder and his co-writer Chris Terrio were also given writing credits, implying that their input was still present to some extent in the theatrical cut of the movie.

17th November 2017: Justice League released to poor reviews

Justice League cast including Henry Cavill (Superman), Ben Affleck (Batman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman)

Despite behind-the-scenes turmoil, Justice League did meet its originally scheduled release date of 17th November 2017, but the critical response was weak to put it kindly.

While there was some praise for Gadot's performance and a few of the action sequences, most critics complained that the CGI was poor, the jokes felt forced and the film felt creatively disjointed.

This tepid reaction was mirrored in Justice League's box office takings, earning $650 million worldwide, which was well below expectations and barely enough to cover the film's inflated budget.

19th November 2017: #ReleaseTheSnyderCut is born

After years of anticipation, many DC fans were understandably miffed that the epic crossover they were promised had turned out to be a dud, positing much of the blame on Joss Whedon's involvement.

They began demanding that Zack Snyder's original version of the film be released, said to be a more direct and faithful follow-up to his work on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

This movement soon became known as #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, spawning numerous petitions and dominating many Twitter threads with calls for the unreleased edit.

The community of fans courted some controversy over the next two years, launching what Vanity Fair describes as "harassment campaigns" and occasionally outright abuse on certain media figures.

Regardless, it had undeniable momentum and succeeded in getting the attention of Justice League's stars, including Snyder himself...

17th November 2019: Justice League cast unites in support of Snyder Cut campaign

On the two-year anniversary of Justice League's release, supporters of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut scheduled another big push to get the film back on the agenda.

What made this particular instance noticeable was that Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher all got in on the action, igniting fresh hope that Snyder's original vision could finally see release.

20th May 2020: Zack Snyder's Justice League announced for HBO Max

Some months later, the fateful day arrived: Zack Snyder's Justice League was officially announced for release on US streaming service HBO Max in 2021.

The ambitious project is said to be a $20-30 million investment for Warner Bros and promises to be wildly different to the theatrical cut of the movie.

1st July 2020: Ray Fisher accuses Joss Whedon of "abusive" behaviour on set

The most recent development in this Hollywood saga came in July, when Justice League star Ray Fisher accused Joss Whedon of "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" behaviour on set.

The actor, who plays Cyborg in the DC Comics crossover, had praised Whedon prior to the film's release, but took to Twitter in late June to "forcefully retract" those earlier comments.

Justice League producer Berg told Variety that it is "categorically untrue that we enabled any unprofessional behaviour" on the set of Justice League, while both Whedon and Warner Bros are yet to publicly respond to Fisher's claims.

It is unclear what exactly happened during filming to provoke such a firm backlash, but it seems Fisher wasn't the only one who had a bad time making the film.

Back in March, Ben Affleck described Justice League as having "one problem after another" and said that he lost his passion for the Batman role after his experience working on the movie.

20th August 2020: Justice League investigation launched by WarnerMedia

Ray Fisher recently revealed that the circumstances of the film's production were now being formally investigated - adding that the working environment had been "toxic and abusive".

Fisher wrote: "After 5 weeks of interviews with various cast/crew, @WarnerMedia has officially launched an independent third-party investigation to get to the heart of the toxic and abusive work environment created during Justice League reshoots.This is a MASSIVE step forward.

"I believe this investigation will show that Geoff Johns, Joss Whedon, Jon Berg (and others) grossly abused their power during the uncertainty of AT&T's merger with Time Warner.

"Thank you @WarnerMedia and @ATT for making strides to ensure a safer workplace for all!"

Zack Snyder's Justice League has no specific release date just yet beyond sometime in 2021, so there could well be more dramatic developments in store before the mythical cut becomes available...


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