The Snyder Cut version of Justice League is coming to HBO Max on March 18th, ending years of questions, mysteries and controversies. And over at Vanity Fair, Anthony Breznican has an amazing story about Zack Snyder and the making of Justice League that finally answers some of those questions. There are so many bombshells in this story that I hardly know where to begin.
But first and foremost, it finally centers the true human tragedy of the tale: the death by suicide of Snyder’s 20-year-old daughter, Autumn, which came in the middle of production. It was this event which, understandably, left Snyder and his wife, producer Deborah Snyder, without the spirit to battle with the studio over the final form of the film.
Breznican’s story makes clear the very real pain that the Snyder family continues to feel over Autumn’s death, and there are many heartbreaking details — for example, that Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” was her favorite song, says Snyder, one of the reasons why it returns in Justice League.
Back in March of 2017, news stories suggested that Snyder had handpicked Joss Whedon to finish the film after quitting to spend more time with his family. Today’s story reveals that this is not factual, as many have guessed over the years.
It also makes it clear that even without Snyder’s personal tragedy, Warner Bros. was already in a panic over the film. You’ll need to read the whole story but here’s a key section:
Soon, it became clear that Warner Bros. was giving Whedon more and more power. He would not just advise during reshoots, but also do some directing himself. Snyder says he only had one conversation with Whedon, about the studio’s notes. Reeling from Autumn’s death—and finding anguish in their work rather than relief—Zack and Deborah quit. “We just lost the will to fight that fight in a lot of ways,” says Zack. “All of us, the whole family, we’re just so broken by [losing Autumn] that having those conversations in the middle of it really became…I was like, ‘Really?’ Frankly I think we did the right thing because I think it would’ve been either incredibly belligerent or we just rolled over.”
Whedon rewrote and reshot about three quarters of Justice League, from what Snyder can gather. When fans ask him about details of the movie that bears his name, he usually has no idea what they are talking about. Worst of all, for Warner Bros., Whedon didn’t exactly save the movie. “When we got to see what Joss actually did, it was stupefying,” says a studio executive, who requested anonymity. “The robber on the rooftop—so goofy and awful. The Russian family—so useless and pointless. Everyone knew it. It was so awkward because nobody wanted to admit what a piece of shit it was.”
Snyder has never seen The Whedon Cut — his wife, along with producer and friend Christopher Nolan, both advised him never to see it — and the film as it will be released on HBO Max is a tribute to Autumn. “Without her, this absolutely would not have happened,” he told VF.
Among the other revelations:
• The Snyder Cut existed as a four-hour, black-and-white cut on Snyder’s laptop — one without any VFX and music — and he would show it to “random people who stopped by, like our friends or whatever.” So this answers the mysteries about why so many people over the years said they had seen The Snyder Cut.
• WB initially wanted to release just this laptop cut of the film, which Snyder firmly said no to for many reason including that it would give them an excuse to say it wasn’t good to begin with. “I was like, No chance. I would rather just have the Snyder cut be a mythical unicorn for all time.”
• Then-DC Films heads Jon Berg and Geoff Johns were brought onto the set as watchdogs, but they didn’t bother Snyder much because “they weren’t that threatening. I just felt the ideas they did have, where they were trying to inject humor and stuff like that, it wasn’t anything that was too outrageous.”
• Although there is a lot to like about Snyder’s take on Justice League, some of his ideas are….troubling, like a subplot where Batman falls in love with Lois that was — thank the maker — never filmed. That would have been a Martha moment for sure.
• Snyder comes out firmly against the toxic fandom that sprang up around the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. “I 100 percent think it’s wrong. I don’t think that anyone should be calling anyone anything. I’ve always tried to give people in the fandom attention who do good things.” Predictably, Zack Snyder truthers on Twitter are already complaining about a female film journalist who is quoted about their troll tactics, and moaning about “toxic bloggers,” proving that self awareness is not one of their top abilities.
• Many of the main players in the saga are quoted — former DC head Diane Nelson, production head Greg Silverman, former DC Films co-president Berg, WB studio head Toby Emmerich, actor Ray “Cyborg” Fisher. Among those who declined to comment: Whedon, Johns, and former studio head Kevin Tsujihara.
• In what is already the headline across the internet, Snyder “has reshot the ending with a hero cameo that will blow hard-core fans’ minds” (Emphasis mine). Twitter has already got Green Lantern trending — and that would indeed be a bit of a mind blower. Human flesh devotee Armie Hammer was originally set to be the new Green Lantern, but given the times we live in and WB benching their only major Black superhero by firing Ray Fisher, can’t it be John Stewart? But note the “hard-core fans” line. We already know Martian Manhunter will appear, so I’ll leave it to the DC mythos experts here at The Beat to tease that one.
This article is definitely highly complimentary to Zack Snyder, and if you had “in 2021 Joss Whedon will be an abusive asshole who should never darken our door again and Zack Snyder is a good guy” on your bingo card, you probably worked with either one of them.
Still, after reading this piece, the story of the Snyders’ personal tragedy should remain the top story about the film — some of the HBO Max proceeds from the film will go to suicide prevention programs. It’s hard not to see WB using his daughter’s death in 2017 as a smokescreen for their replacing him as director as extremely troubling, although to be fair, it also helped Snyder avoid a lot of public controversy at a time he was grieving.
But it’s also clear that had Autumn not taken her life, the Snyders probably would have fought on, and the movie might have been very different — perhaps even with a different outcome at the box office. We’ll never know.
Unknown for now, as well, is what is doubtless a riveting story about WB’s own decisions and alarms over the movie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When the story of Warner Bros.’s stops and starts in their quest for a unified superhero universe is finally told someday in a history book, so many jaws will drop, it’ll register on the Richter scale.