3 Ways Warner Bros. can handle his Ezra Miller problem
Ezra Miller’s alleged behavior presents an unprecedented challenge for Warner Bros.’ The flash.
We’ve had big movie stars, even quite recently, who got involved in acts of public misconduct and outright criminal activity, and yes, we’ve had movies downright shelved due to off-screen revelations about a filmmaker. Just five years ago, Ridley Scott spent another $10 million to trade Kevin Spacey for Christopher Plummer in All the money in the world after the former was charged with numerous cases of sexual harassment and assault. Meanwhile, Louis CK’s directorial effort I love you dad (a comedy-drama starring CK as a concerned father over his falling daughter with a much older, Woody Allen-like filmmaker) was pulled from release after rumors of sexually inappropriate/unprofessional behavior surfaced from rumors that had been simmering for a long time to a reported fact. And Johnny Depp was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald in the third fantastic beasts film after a UK court found the domestic abuse allegations to be factually substantiated. However, the circumstances surrounding Ezra Miller star surrenders the flash are simply unprecedented in the history of cinema.
Big-budget franchise films with explicit ties to related franchises are a relatively new phenomenon.
A mostly unknown actor taking on an (estimated) $200 million comic book fantasy with explicit cinematic universe ties is a relatively new standard for Hollywood. It’s not like, intentionally, an exaggerated comparison, any future directed by Christopher Reeves Superman the movies would have been in jeopardy if Helen Slater had been exposed as a serial killer before the release of super girl. The failure of Joel Schumacher batman and robin ($235 million on a budget of $130 million) 25 years ago is not what killed Tim Burton superman lives (which was due to open next summer) nor was Bryan Singer’s disappointment The Return of Superman (394 million dollars on a budget of 270 million dollars) had no concrete impact on the production of The black Knight. However, the flash was meant to be a franchise launcher but a “mythological installment” of the cinematic universe (and rumored soft reboot) in the DC Films continuity. What can Warner Bros. Discovery? It seems to boil down to three options. Sorry Dumbledore, but none of them are “correct” or “easy”.
1. Warner Bros. Discovery may remake the film with a different actor.
I can’t even pretend to imagine how expensive it would be to recast Barry Allen (Dylan O’Brien seems to be a popular choice among fans) and remake most of the movie. The danger there, beyond planning and logistics, is a repeat of what we’ve seen with Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story (where Chris Miller and Phil Lord were replaced by Ron Howard) and WB’s Justice League (where Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon). Studios spent maybe 50% more money to produce final films over or under $300 million that were 10-20% more commercial. Unless the flash drawn Aquaman big (Solo won 1/3 of A thugit’s $1.05 billion), the additional production expenses will turn a simple commercial disappointment into a real financial disaster. Unless A) it can be done much cheaper than we all expected and/or B) there is an insurance payout (as happened when Paul Walker died amid filming Furious 7), it’s probably just throwing money at evil.
2. WBD can release the movie as is and center Batgirl and Batman.
WB could center the marketing and promotional campaign on Michael Keaton and Sasha Calle (playing DC Films’ version of Supergirl) and hold their breath. In a world where big names attract more than movie stars, a big budget Glow movie (with Supergirl and the return of Michael Keaton as Batman 31 years later Return of Batman) could still be commercially successful. I’d bet most moviegoers beyond perpetual online don’t know or care about Miller and their transgressions. Of course, neither of Keaton Batman the films were massively big earners overseas. may find themselves in a biased situation where they have a gain Glow film featuring a charismatic star performance that becomes unnecessary for future DC films. If a large part of the flash is to have a specific cinematic incarnation of The Flash that will become an A-level movie star (think Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool or Jason Momoa’s Aquaman) and then a hit Glow movie will make a sequel without Miller even more complicated.
3. the flash can run directly to HBO Max.
The cheapest option may simply be dumping the flash on HBO Max. David Zaslav certainly doesn’t mind taking an immediate financial hit (like dumping CNN+ just days after launch) instead of falling prey to a sunk cost mistake. the flash wouldn’t be of much value to the streamer, because A) most in-the-know subscribers would be aware of the circumstances and B) most who would sign up just to the flash are already on board since Zack Snyder Justice League or that of James Gunn Peacemaker. A possible subscription boost is far less valuable than a worldwide theatrical release, but at least the marketing spend would be far less. If Michael Keaton’s return is deemed theater-worthy, they can still trade Miller’s the flash for Leslie Grace bat girl (currently set for HBO). That Zaslav is aware that theatrical movies do better on streaming than premieres on streaming, and that director Andrés Muschietti is a valuable WB asset certainly muddies the waters on an HBO Max “demotion.”
Why the studio (arguably) didn’t act sooner.
I don’t envy Warner Bros. Miller as Barry Allen was a good idea for years until it was no longer. Like, JK Rowling (whose arguably transphobic ramblings turned her into an unpopular Twitter celebrity), Miller didn’t start getting in trouble. until early 2020. It was, coincidentally, also when Warner Bros. began courting Snyder’s fanbase by announcing Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Just as Miller was starting to make headlines, Cyborg actor Ray Fisher publicly accused Joss Whedon of unprofessional and/or abusive behavior during the Justice League reshoots and higher WB to enable and conceal said behavior. The charges, which were at least partially rooted in allegations of racial biasmay have made Warner Bros. more timid about canning the openly queer (and Jewish) artist they hired to headline the flash. Add it all up, and maybe (speculation) they were hoping that Miller (who, by the way, is an adult) would shape their act or wait for an explicit legal statement of wrongdoing to cover up. Alas, neither happened before production on the film ended.
Ezra Miller was a smart casting choice eight years ago.
The film is not expected to be released for a year, on June 23, 2023, which would mark Tim Burton’s 34th birthday. Batman. It would be a bittersweet way to mark Zack Snyder’s 10th birthday Steel man (June 14, 2013) which was to kick off WB’s response to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No, I don’t blame the Zack Snyder cast for any of this. First, WB did his big “here’s your Justice League casting” announcement in October 2014. At the time, the choice of a quirky, quirky, and “weird in a good way” indie darling as the openly queer (and now genderfluid) Miller to play Barry Allen was inspired “Marvel doesn’t never would!” foundry. Since then, Miller’s work has been defined almost entirely by a theory Glow film, with a small supporting role in Rail accident and supporting roles in Justice League and the three fantastic beasts movies. The fact that the Miller scandals have become viral news online shows just how much superhero movies dominate the discourse.
WBD has plenty of time to make a decision.
Warner Bros. Discovery still has several months to discuss internally. If most of the more serious allegations are true, and Miller doesn’t find himself sober and mentally on the mend in time to promote the film next summer, Warner Bros. will have to make a decision. Sending it to HBO Max is the cheapest option, but also the least advantageous commercially. Simply releasing the film as is may be more profitable (or less expensive) than recasting. However, he leaves the Glow franchise in the same place it would be if no movie existed. Spending time and money to reshoot can mean less profit or losing even more money if the movie isn’t very good or The Scarlett Speedster isn’t as big as hoped. However, it’s a bet on creating long-term value for a speedster-centric franchise within DC Films. Come what may, Ezra Miller the flash typifies an entirely new type of Hollywood problem for a relatively new type of Hollywood.