Not Lex Luthor, not the Joker. For many DC fans, the biggest archenemy of their favorite heroes is Warner. And it is that, after a series of controversial decisions, the company that owns the rights of the characters of the comic book publisher, has just announced one of its most controversial determinations: not to release, neither in the cinema nor on any platform, the Batgirl movie .
The news was released on Tuesday by the New York Post. The film focused on the life of Barbara Gordon, the daughter of the Gotham City commissioner who decides to adopt the identity of Batgirl to fight crime, stars Leslie Grace and would mark the return of Michael Keaton in the role of Bruce Wayne, the role which he played in Batman and Batman Returns , under the orders of Tim Burton.
In 2021, Marvel filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah were given the green light to begin filming the film, as part of an effort by Warner Bros to create feature films specifically for the HBO Max platform. However, according to Variety , the studio’s new business regime, after merging with Discovery , “has shifted the company’s priorities back to film features, leaving Batgirl without a proper home.”
“Studio insiders insist the decision to cut Batgirl was not driven by the quality of the film or the commitment of the filmmakers, but by a desire for the studio’s slate of DC movies to have the scale of a hit. box office ”, indicates that medium. And he explains that Batgirl was budgeted to be shown directly in homes through HBO Max, and not in theaters.
The version of the New York Post is very different: the newspaper assures that the study had begun to carry out test projections and that the reactions of the public were not good at all. Given this situation, Warner would have decided to “reduce their losses and ensure the future of the brand.”
According to the newspaper, this would be “one of the most expensive film discards in history.” The initial budget was $75 million, but due to delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, it ended up rising to $90 million. That is why the decision is surprising, especially considering that the premiere was announced for this year and the film was completing the post-production stage.
From the time that Warner Bros. merged with Discovery, David Zaslav became the CEO of the new entity. Shelving a multimillion-dollar project would not be unusual for Zaslav, whom the New York Post calls “a ruthless cost-cutter.”
The strange determination also occurs in a context that is not clear for the continuity of DC’s heroes on the big screen: Warner Bros is still debating what to do with The Flash , the film that will take up the adventures of the publisher’s greatest speedster, this time alone, after his debut in The Justice League. Its premiere is still announced for 2023, despite the multiple accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct against its protagonist, Ezra Miller.
In April of this year, Warner announced the making of a film based on the Fantastic Twins, but months later they decided to cancel it because it was a very “niche” product and had an excessive budget for a film that would go directly to the company’s streaming service , HBO Max, an argument very similar to the one they would use later to refer to the Batgirl ‘s dark destiny .
A troubled relationship
The relationship between the studio, its managers, and the actors who bring DC characters to life on the big screen is fraught with conflict. In June 2020 Ray Fisher took to his Twitter account to accuse Joss Whedon of “gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable” conduct on the set of Justice League. Since then,the actor used his networks to allege racist attitudesby the director of the film and to highlight that the Warner Bros. studios covered up these behaviors .
It all started when in 2017 Zack Snyder, the director of the feature film, decided to leave the project due to the suicide of his daughter. It was there that Whedon took control. According to screenwriter Chris Terrio, Fisher had been heavily involved in crafting the story, as he would be the first black superhero in the DC universe. “With a white writer and director, we both thought having the perspective of a black actor was really important. And Ray is very good with story and character, so he became a partner in creating it,” he explained.
However, once the new director arrived, everything changed. In that context, Fisher felt the need to “explain some of the most basic points of things that would be offensive to the black community.” Faced with the actor’s offer of collaboration to determine some issues of his character, which had undergone resounding changes, Whedon responded curtly. “It seems like I’m taking notes right now and I don’t like taking notes on anyone, not even Robert Downey Jr.”, a response that he would also have given to Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa at some point.
“We can’t make Joss angry,” would have been the response that Geoff Johns, who was co-president of DC Films and producer of the film, gave to his claims. Once the recordings began, the friction with Whedon became frequent, which is why Fisher’s representative decided to call the president of Warner studios, an action that Johns did not like at all: “He told me, ‘he considered that we were friends’, which I knew was not true. ‘I don’t want to make your name bad within the industry,’ he posed to me”.
Fisher wasn’t the only one in the cast who was unhappy with what was happening. Gal Gadot had many concerns with the new version of the film, including “issues about his character being more aggressive than in Wonder Woman . ” And he added: “She wanted the character to flow from one film to another.” Whedon even threatened the actress with damaging her career and her reputation if he didn’t say some lines that she didn’t like.
“Joss was bragging that he had a fight with Gal. She told him that he was the screenwriter and that she was going to shut up and say the lines like that because if she wanted she could make her look incredibly stupid in the movie, ”said a person from the film’s production in dialogue withThe Hollywood Reporter. “I had my problems with Whedon and Warner Bros. but I handled them in a timely manner at the time,” Galdot said when asked about these accusations.
Momoa also came out to support your partner after he alleged that every time he wrote a message on Twitter telling what he had experienced, the studio published something to distract the attention of the press. “Serious things happened. The facts have to be investigated and the people have to be held accountable,” he had said.
Given the accusations that were circulating, Warner Media decided to launch an investigation. Katherine Forrest, a former federal judge who led the investigation, said in a statement that during interviews with more than 80 witnesses she found “no credible support for claims of discrimination and racial insensitivity.”
Fisher alleges that the process was suspicious and that both the studio and its parent company seemed focused on protecting top executives. According to him, all of the research was done on and off, and when the actor was forced to escalate his public outcry, the studio responded with what Fisher calls a deliberate smear. In turn, Warner maintains that they done everything necessary to address the concerns of the star, who still wants an apology.