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Justice League: Shocking, Exhilarating, Heartbreaking True Story of #TheSnyder

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« on: February 24, 2021, 06:31:46 am »

Justice League: The Shocking, Exhilarating, Heartbreaking True Story of #TheSnyderCut
A demoralizing battle with Warner Bros. A devastating personal tragedy. A fan base he couldn’t control. Zack Snyder tells V.F. why he quit Justice League, and why he’s returned to complete a cut that’s reached near-mythical status.

By Anthony Breznican
February 22, 2021
ACTION HERO Zack Snyder shoots a scene with Jason Momoa on the set of Justice League.
ACTION HERO Zack Snyder shoots a scene with Jason Momoa on the set of Justice League.By CLAY ENOS.

Zack Snyder, the director of Justice League, has never seen Justice League. His name is in the credits as the filmmaker, but he’s never sat through the version released to the world three years ago. His wife, Deborah, who produced the movie, advised him not to.

In late 2017—months after the couple cut ties with the superhero epic amid an increasingly demoralizing battle with Warner Bros.—Deborah Snyder sat in a screening room on the studio lot alongside Christopher Nolan, one of the movie’s executive producers, as well as the director of the Dark Knight trilogy. She braced herself as the lights went down. “It was just…it’s a weird experience,” she says now. “I don’t know how many people have that experience. You’ve worked on something for a long time, and then you leave, and then you see what happened to it.”

What happened to Justice League was a crisis of infinite doubt: a team of executives who lost faith in the architect of their faltering comic book movie empire, and a director in the midst of a family tragedy that sapped him of the will to fight. Joss Whedon, a director from another universe, the Marvel Cinematic one, left the Avengers after two movies and crossed over to comics rival DC, picking up Justice League not where Snyder left off, but remaking it significantly with extensive rewrites and hurried reshoots, just as the studio demanded.

On November 17, 2017, the team-up between Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash didn’t so much debut in theaters as crash into them. It was sneered at by critics, shrugged at by baffled moviegoers, and all but disowned by those who created it. Whedon has since been accused of unprofessional and abusive behavior on set. (The director declined repeated requests for a comment.) He left his name off the movie except to claim a shared writing credit with Chris Terrio, who had written Snyder’s previous installment, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
With Gal Gadot whom he gave a careermaking role as Wonder Woman.
With Gal Gadot, whom he gave a career-making role as Wonder Woman.By CLAY ENOS.
Gadot in Batman v Superman.
Gadot in Batman v Superman.By Zack Snyder.

Publicly, everyone close to the movie practiced their smiles and rehearsed their talking points in the hopes of doing no further damage to the project, not that it helped much. The movie earned $657 million globally, which sounds like a lot of money until you consider the nearly $300 million budget, including the reported $25 million for Whedon’s reworking, plus a conservative estimate of $100 million to $150 million in marketing costs. Factor in the sizable cut theaters take from the box office, and a return of only $657 million is a clear money loser. Six months later, Justice League’s box office was dwarfed by Marvel’s own all-star showcase Avengers: Infinity War, which flexed its muscles at $2 billion.

After their private screening of the Whedon cut, Nolan and Deborah Snyder emerged into the light with a shared mission. “They came and they just said, ‘You can never see that movie,’” Zack Snyder says during lunch at his Pasadena office, a modernist series of cubes jutting from a hillside that overlooks the Rose Bowl.
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“Because I knew it would break his heart,” his wife adds.

That might seem overly dramatic. It’s just show business, after all. But the Snyders’ hearts had already been through a lot. The battle over Justice League was agonizing, but it wasn’t the worst thing to happen to their family that year. Not even close.

Professionally at least, things have vastly improved. For years, DC fans and Snyder enthusiasts—who worshipped his high-octane brawn-fests like his Dawn of the Dead remake, his ancient Greek battle saga 300, and his twisted Watchmen adaptation—beat a drum on social media demanding, demanding, demanding that Warner Bros. return Justice League to its original filmmaker and allow him to share his version of the movie. They dubbed it the #SnyderCut. The fans could be clever, but many were horrifically toxic. All of them were relentless, and they grew more numerous over time. Last May, they finally got their wish when Warner saw the potential to leverage all the free publicity and do something unprecedented on its upstart streaming service, HBO Max.

It’s not uncommon for directors to lose creative control of big-budget studio spectacles, or for other filmmakers to step in. But it’s unheard of for a studio to return to an exiled filmmaker and offer back the power and creative freedom it has yanked away, especially when some of the most beloved and lucrative characters in pop culture history are involved. The #SnyderCut is coming on March 18.
The battle of Thermopylae in 300.
The battle of Thermopylae in 300.By Zack Snyder.
Jackie Earle Haley as RorschachWalter Kovacs in Watchmen 2009.
Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach/Walter Kovacs in Watchmen, 2009.By Zack Snyder.

For the director’s devotees, it’s a Hollywood ending for a Hollywood story, but for the truly devastating thing that happened to Zack Snyder and his loved ones in 2017, there can be no fix, no do-over. In the throes of the conflict with Warner Bros., the Snyders’ 20-year-old daughter, home from college and in the middle of a long struggle with depression, took her own life.

After two years spent largely focused on their other children and extended family, Zack and Deborah went back to work, a difficult but vital part of the healing process. When they spoke to Vanity Fair for this story, they were completing Army of the Dead—a zombie-filled heist extravaganza that will launch a new, multipronged franchise for Netflix—as well as restoring Zack’s original vision for Justice League. The latter will be a four-hour event for HBO Max that will raise money for suicide prevention programs that could help spare others the grief that shook his family.

“It’s such a lightning strike in the center of this whole saga,” Snyder says of his daughter Autumn’s death. “It has informed everything we’ve done since.”

Their daughter’s death was the reason the Snyders walked away from Justice League, realizing their fight and spirit was needed at home, with their other children, and with each other, rather than in a losing battle with a powerful studio. Now she is the main reason he decided to come back.

“At the end of the movie, it says ‘For Autumn,’” Snyder says, sitting in the shadows of a darkened editing suite, frames from the movie frozen on the screens around him. When he talks about his daughter, the otherwise scrappy, ebullient 54-year-old filmmaker always looks away. “Without her, this absolutely would not have happened.”
Jared Leto as the Joker in Justice League.
Jared Leto as the Joker in Justice League.By Zack Snyder.
Jared Leto as the Joker in Justice League.
Jared Leto as the Joker in Justice League.By Zack Snyder.

Zack and his then-wife Denise Weber adopted Autumn when she was one. “A little over one,” he says, smiling at the memory of her wild energy. “Still an infant, but crazy.” Autumn was slightly older than the couple’s son, Eli. They had two more children before they divorced. Snyder had two sons with line producer Kirsten Elin before marrying Deborah, his longtime producing partner, in 2004, with whom he adopted two more children. The filmmaker has often said being an adoptive father is one of the reasons he was so invested in the story of Kal-El, a powerful being who became Superman thanks to the love and care of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

More than three years after Autumn’s death, Snyder still slips between the past and present tense when talking about her. “She’s the only dork,” he says of his family. “She was the only fan. The rest of them…” He shrugs. Today, Eli is interested in filmmaking, but Autumn was the only one of his children who matched her dad’s kidlike enthusiasm for gods, monsters, aliens, and superheroes. “She’s super creative,” he says. “She was a writer. She was at Sarah Lawrence to be a writer.”

Snyder swipes through his phone to show a selfie Autumn took in the letterman jacket worn by Ray Fisher’s character in Justice League, a football star horrendously wounded in a car accident and rebuilt by his scientist father into the half robot warrior Cyborg.

Autumn had been in therapy and on medications, but the depression remained brutal. “She was always wondering about her worth. ‘What is my worth? What am I supposed to do? What am I about?’” Snyder stumbles on his words, his eyes glassy. “The conversation was like, ‘Of course you’re amazing! What do you mean your worth? You’re worth more than anything in the world!’ And she would just be like, ‘…yeah.’”

Snyder says Autumn used writing to vent her pain, to channel it into words that might contain it, or explain it. She adored sci-fi. “Her main characters are always in this battle with things from another dimension that no one can see,” says Snyder. “But it’s a serious war. And that war was happening to her every day. I think so many people are in that battle, and they smile and nod at you.”

The fact that a studio had lost faith in Snyder’s ability to make Justice League seemed mundane and pointless after Autumn’s death. “It’s such a lightning strike in the center of this whole saga,” says Snyder. “And in a lot of ways it has informed everything we’ve done since.”

The Snyders tried to keep going for two months after Autumn’s death, finding solace in finishing Justice League. But by then the situation with Warner Bros. had imploded. The official story was that the Snyders were voluntarily leaving the movie due to their family tragedy, and that Zack had handpicked Whedon to complete the movie he had planned. Only half of that was true.

In 2010, when he first began working on DC movies for Warner Bros., Snyder was promoted as a visionary director, though critics sometimes differed. Even his hits could be divisive. He’d emerged from music videos and commercials with the breakout remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004 and followed it up with the otherworldly, visually audacious tale of resistance 300, which became a box office behemoth in 2007. Given his choice of projects, Snyder picked Watchmen, the iconic graphic novel that scorned the classic tropes of superhero storytelling and explored the corrupting nature of power. His 2009 adaptation upended comic book expectations just as Hollywood was building epic new franchises. Snyder then made a pair of box office disappointments—a digitally animated adventure about warring owls called Legend of the Guardians and the surreal, and some would say sexist, action movie Sucker Punch—before being called to take on a legend among legends: Superman.

When it debuted in 2013, Man of Steel established Henry Cavill as an object of global thirst, just as 300 had done for Gerard Butler and his washboard abs. Snyder’s twist was to present a conflicted Clark Kent rather than the sunny alter ego played by Christopher Reeve. Snyder’s Superman was willing to kill for what he thought was right—which many longtime fans of the character found reprehensible—and, though he still saved the world, he never felt like he truly belonged in it. The studio had hoped for more than the $668 million it made at the box office. But Man of Steel fared well enough for Snyder to get another shot, this time bringing Ben Affleck into the universe as Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The subtitle was a giveaway. This would be a prologue to Justice League, a superhero crossover event that some moviegoers had been pining for forever.

Snyder wasn’t just making big-budget tentpoles. He’d become the architect of the entire DC cinematic universe—and his casting choices continue to resonate. He chose Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman and produced Patty Jenkins’s stand-alone movie about the Amazonian princess. “I remember Gal saying to me, ‘Zack, I was going to quit the business. I was getting ready to just move back to Tel Aviv and just have a life there. I was done with Hollywood. I was going to do this one more audition.’ Then she came in, and I was like, ‘That’s my Wonder Woman.’” Now she’s the whole world’s.

As with Man of Steel, Snyder continued to challenge expectations and norms, which sometimes led to pushback from the studio and originalist fans. Aquaman, for instance, has always looked WASPy in the comics. In casting the role for Batman v Superman, Snyder decided to forgo the blond hair and blue eyes of the comic book hero in favor of the long, dark locks and smoky gaze of Jason Momoa, who had come in to audition for Bruce Wayne. “He’s a Pacific Islander, there’s a connection to the sea—what if he’s Aquaman?” he remembers thinking. “Everyone was like, ‘You’re insane. That is not a thing.’”
Ray Fisher in his motion capture suit for Justice League.
Ray Fisher in his motion capture suit for Justice League.By Zack Snyder.

It became part of a pattern. The studio gave Snyder the power to go anywhere he chose with its most valuable characters, and he always went somewhere other than… “than what they wanted,” the director says. Still, to his credit, all the recent DC films have used Snyder’s universe as a foundation, even Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey, which take place in his version of Gotham City. The upcoming Flash film will connect all the disparate DC films by ricocheting through multiple universes, with Michael Keaton’s Batman appearing along with Affleck’s.
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But harsh reviews for Batman v Superman demolished Warner Bros.’ confidence in Snyder. Even the director’s champions, like production head Greg Silverman, were worried. “When Batman v Superman came out and we did get a negative reaction from the fans, it was disheartening for all of us,” says Silverman, now the founder and head of independent content company Stampede Ventures. “Zack had made these movies, like 300, that were such crowd-pleasers. And that was our job—to make crowd-pleasers. And here, we have made a movie together, and it didn’t really please the audience.”

When Snyder quit, he took his unfinished Justice League on a laptop as a memento. He figured he’d show it to friends.

Marvel Studios movies, whose success exerted so much pressure on the DC team, hit on a formula that mirrored their comic book roots—telling stories about relatable, everyday people grappling with sudden phenomenal powers. Snyder’s DC universe approached its superheroes from the opposite direction, depicting gods and immortals who are at ease wielding cosmic strengths but strain to be human and connect to the ordinary world. The director envisioned this as operatic, tragic, and perhaps a more challenging type of comic book storytelling, but Warner Bros. feared it made his heroes gloomy, their abilities a curse.

Diane Nelson, who was president of DC Entertainment at the time, says she appreciated that Snyder was more into deconstructing the familiar than just recapitulating it. “Zack is a masterful visual storyteller who goes deep on individual characters,” she says. “For some people, that is amazing, and for other people that becomes the problem because they have fixed opinions about who these DC characters are and are not.”

In 2016, as principal photography got under way on Justice League in the United Kingdom, rumors percolated that Snyder had been fired from the film. That didn’t happen, but Warner Bros.’ then chairman and CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, did assign watchdogs in the form of DC Entertainment creative chief Geoff Johns and Warner Bros. co-production head Jon Berg. The edict was clear: At least one of them had to be on the set every day.

Berg, who’s now production president at Stampede, recalls that duty as a low point. “It was really tricky and not a position that I loved, to be honest,” he says. “I tried to be forthright about what I thought creatively. My job was to try to mediate between a creator whose vision is instinctually dark and a studio that perceived, rightly or wrong, that the fans wanted something lighter. I was respectful of the director and didn’t pursue things that were coming at me from the corporate side that I thought weren’t in line with what would make the best movie.”

Snyder knew why Johns and Berg were on the set. “You could say babysit,” he says. Many filmmakers would have bristled at the intrusion, but he was gracious. “It didn’t bother me too 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.”
Ben Affleck as Batman in Justice League.
Ben Affleck as Batman in Justice League.By Zack Snyder.
Amber Heard as Mera.
Amber Heard as Mera.By Zack Snyder.

But Warner Bros. did nix some of his more sweeping notions for Justice League, like adding a romance between Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Amy Adams’s Lois Lane, who was mourning Superman’s death in the previous film. “The intention was that Bruce fell in love with Lois and then realized that the only way to save the world was to bring Superman back to life,” says Snyder. “So he had this insane conflict, because Lois, of course, was still in love with Superman. We had this beautiful speech where [Bruce] said to Alfred: ‘I never had a life outside the cave. I never imagined a world for me beyond this. But this woman makes me think that if I can get this group of gods together, then my job is done. I can quit. I can stop.’ And of course that doesn’t work out for him.”
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It didn’t work out for Snyder either. The studio said no.

The downside of making epics is the studios’ financial expectations. For Justice League, Warner Bros. wanted a big, round billion dollars in global box office, which Snyder’s movies had never reached. In January 2017, the director showed his first cut to Tsujihara. It did not go well, according to Snyder and others. (Tsujihara, who resigned from Warner Bros. in 2019 amid a sexual misconduct scandal involving the aspiring actress Charlotte Kirk, declined an interview request.)

Among the issues was the length of the film. “There was a mandate from Tsujihara that the movie be two hours long,” says Snyder. That order had a paradoxical impact, because it meant eliminating much of the heart and humor the studio also wanted, like a comical romantic subplot between Ezra Miller’s Flash and Kiersey Clemons’s Iris, the latter of whom was absent entirely from the Whedon film. (On the day Vanity Fair visited his office, Snyder was working on finalizing the music for the restored scene in which The Flash rescues her from a car crash.)

Snyder also saw a bigger structural problem with the “make it shorter” order: “How am I supposed to introduce six characters and an alien with potential for world domination in two hours? I mean, I can do it, it can be done. Clearly it was done,” he says, referring to Whedon’s version. “But I didn’t see it.”

Reports that Snyder himself asked Whedon for help were false. Johns, one of the studio-appointed babysitters, had been planning a Batgirl movie with Whedon, and Snyder and others say Johns recruited him to do rewrites for Justice League. (Johns’s representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.) Once again, Snyder was gracious and even hopeful: “I thought maybe he could write some cool scenes. I thought that would be fun.”

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.”

One by one, he called members of his cast and crew. “I remember I was in a movie theater, coincidentally enough,” Ray Fisher said on the set of Snyder’s reshoots last fall. “I was walking into the AMC right in Times Square. And I got the call from Zack and he was saying that he had to deal with stuff with the fam and he was having to step away. I had a trillion questions. My heart sank.”

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 **** it was.”

Justice League opened on November 17, 2017, and cratered. Because Cavill had been making Mission: Impossible Fallout during the reshoots, Whedon’s team had to digitally erase his mustache in Justice League, which led to a bizarre warping of his face. The jokes fell flat. And behind the scenes, some of the cast had revolted.

Fisher has publicly claimed Whedon was abusive on set, and that Warner Bros. executives “enabled” his actions. Gadot told the Los Angeles Times that she also had a negative experience with Whedon, which she reported to higher-ups. After concluding its investigation, Warner Bros. announced that “remedial action” had been taken, though the studio didn’t offer specifics. Days before that announcement, HBO, a division of WarnerMedia, parted ways with Whedon on the sci-fi series The Nevers. Fisher continues to clash with the studio and has expressed dismay at the outcome of its investigation.

“[The cast] were very loyal to Zack, and they were hurting for him,” says Nelson, the former DC president. “It would have been a difficult environment for any new director to walk into—I have no doubt about that. But then how Joss chose to handle that is Joss’s to live with.”

In the aftermath of Whedon’s version, a new narrative arose on social media: #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Snyder gradually began to encourage the movement, but it was hardly the first thing on his mind.

“From the time we left,” says Snyder, “it was not a great year, but we did a lot of stuff with family. It was really important. An important year.”

That year together became two. After grieving Autumn and starting to heal with his family, he began work on Army of the Dead, a visceral, funny, and exceedingly dark smash-and-grab story about an elite strike team that goes into a zombie-overrun Las Vegas to retrieve a hidden fortune before the hot zone is nuked. (The zombie virus emerges from Area 51, so aliens may be involved too.) During a day-long interview, Snyder giddily scans through concept art for an accompanying animated series, approving vehicles, otherworldly weapons, and supernatural beings. He makes suggestions for changes to his team of artists, all working remotely via Zoom. Behind him on the wall-length bookshelf, there is a frame with two photos: Autumn and Eli in their bathing suits as toddlers, beaming with the same smiles as their dad as he assesses his monsters.

The Army of the Dead movie is a lot to tackle, and the related prequel and animated series even more all-consuming. Scott Stuber, head of original films at Netflix, says it’s a chance to build a world with a filmmaker who’s hungry to return: “Zack went through something very difficult, and I think he probably realized, like we all do, it’s okay to be vulnerable. For those of us lucky enough to know him and Deborah, he’s a very soulful, kind, thoughtful human being. He’s got this façade of big action movies and all these bravado things, but there’s a sweet kindness to him.”
Snyders new Netflix franchise Army of the Dead.
Snyder’s new Netflix franchise, Army of the Dead.CLAY ENOS/NETFLIX © 2021.
Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters in Army of the Dead.
Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters in Army of the Dead.By Zack Snyder.

At a time of stories of abusive creators, Snyder is an anomaly. Even executives who were sometimes at odds with him agree that he’s genuinely nice. “I’d be stronger than that,” says Silverman. “He’s a wonderful guy and fostered a wonderful working environment on his sets. He really valued the crew. He valued his cast.”
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Snyder’s movies tend to be about strength and what it means to wield it. Maybe it was inevitable that he’d eventually not only join the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut bandwagon, but begin driving it.

When Snyder left Warner Bros., he took his laptop, which was emblazoned with a Justice League sticker. On the hard drive was his original, nearly four-hour version. It was devoid of visual effects, music, and all the fine-tuning that make a movie a movie. It was also in black and white. To him, it was a memento. He thought, “We would just show it to random people who stopped by, like our friends or whatever.”

Rather than fade away, the demand for the Snyder cut gained momentum over the years. Groups paid to have single-engine airplanes fly a “Release the Snyder Cut” banner around both the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank and the annual Comic-Con gathering in San Diego. Last year, fans pooled resources to buy a Times Square billboard.

A noxious contingent of followers, though, didn’t just advocate for the movie, but also used social media to attack people who were critical of Snyder or their cause. Maybe they hoped to silence dissenters, or maybe they were just trolls being trolls. In any case, film journalists with negative takes reported getting swarmed with insults and even threats. “Unfortunately, I think a lot of online fandom and fandom culture is headed in this very toxic direction,” says Kayleigh Donaldson, who writes for Pajiba.com. It is especially strong from Snyder cut acolytes, she adds, perhaps because they respond misguidedly to the director’s tales of loner heroes in a hostile world. “I don’t get this from the Birds of Prey fans or the Shazam fans,” says Donaldson. “I got a little bit from Joker fans but nowhere near the same level.” Nonetheless, she’s looking forward to Snyder’s movie: “I think 300 is great fun. I think the first 10 minutes of Watchmen are some of the best things any superhero movie has ever done.” Even if she doesn’t end up liking the Snyder cut, she says, “I would rather watch one person’s chaos than a committee’s snooze-fest.”

Drea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist who explores superhero archetypes on the Arkham Sessions podcast, notes that fans get especially aggressive on social media when they feel they’ve been denied something. “What I have observed is an enduring false sense of ownership, which can manifest as abuse, threats, and strong, intense reactions when a story doesn’t go their way,” she says. Fighting for the unseen cut of the film became a cause. In some quarters, the worst behavior metastasized. “They’re shouting, and people are listening to them. Even if it’s negative comments, they’re getting positive reinforcement to continue down that path.”

The trolls may have actually held back the movement, like looters at an otherwise peaceful demonstration. Snyder cringes at descriptions of the abusive tactics. “I 100 percent think it’s wrong,” he says. “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.”

November 2019 brought a sustained hashtag push on Twitter, which Snyder promoted. Gadot and Affleck were now calling for his cut to be released, too. A few days later, Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Picture Group, called Snyder with an offer: Let’s try again. “A lot of the people at the company, myself included, always felt badly that Zack didn’t get to finish his vision of this film because of the circumstances,” says Emmerich. “And so if there was a way to make it logistically and financially possible, which HBO Max did, and Zack had a willingness to do it, it seemed like a win for everybody.”
Snyder shooting the cast of Justice League.
Snyder shooting the cast of Justice League.By CLAY ENOS.

Initially, says Snyder, Warner Bros. just wanted to release the raw footage on his laptop. “I was like, ‘That’s a no, that’s a hard no,’” he says. “And they’re like, ‘But why? You can just put up the rough cut.’” Snyder didn’t trust their motivations. “I go, ‘Here’s why. Three reasons: One, you get the internet off your back, which is probably your main reason for wanting to do this. Two, you get to feel vindicated for making things right, I guess, on some level. And then three, you get a shitty version of the movie that you can point at and go, ‘See? It’s not that good anyway. So maybe I was right.’ I was like, No chance. I would rather just have the Snyder cut be a mythical unicorn for all time.”

Snyder estimates that it cost around $70 million to undo Whedon’s redo. For that, HBO Max gets four hours of hotly anticipated programming—and the Hollywood comeback story of a lifetime. Snyder himself gets nothing. “I’m not getting paid,” he says. He was paid the first time, of course. This time, he wants creative control, and forgoing a fee helped. “I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, and it allowed me to keep my negotiating powers with these people pretty strong.”
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Fisher, for one, was eager to return. “There’s not a day that’s gone by over the last three years, I haven’t thought about this movie, that I have not sat up at night thinking, What if there was a world wherein this thing actually does get released?” says the actor, sitting on set in his gray scale motion capture suit. “I probably should have let it go. But there was so much that we left behind in this version of the film. It’s a completely different movie.”

As for the fan base, the Snyder movement has contributed half a million dollars to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through donations, sales of merchandise, and auctions of props. “People have been saying, ‘Oh, they attack people,’” says Deborah Snyder, her eyes tearing. “But this fan base has saved lives. As much as they wanted something for themselves, they’ve come together for this amazing cause. You feel so helpless trying to help someone, and you don’t know what to do. It’s literally life or death. And I felt like we didn’t really know where to turn.”

Rebuilding the story he had always envisioned is what invigorates Snyder most. He can go as deep and dark as he likes. He can say to hell with DC’s official time line for the characters and let this alt version of the Justice League story wind up wherever he pleases. He has put Superman in a sleek black suit instead of the iconic blue and red. He’s added the Joker (Jared Leto). He has reshot the ending with a hero cameo that will blow hard-core fans’ minds. In what may be a divisive move, he’s also presenting the movie in the boxy 4:3 format rather than wide-screen so that one day it can be watched on IMAX screens. Some may be irritated by seeing Justice League on HBO Max with black bars on either side. Snyder isn’t troubled by that.

The director is also layering in some deeply personal elements. The movie closes with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” performed by Allison Crowe, a friend who also sang it at Autumn’s funeral. It was Autumn’s favorite song. Now it’s an elegy to her. Justice League, however anyone else feels about it, is made of the things—and people—Snyder loves, too. “When you think about the catharsis of it, if I was a potter, I would’ve made some pottery to look for some way through this,” he says. “But I’m a filmmaker, so you get this giant movie.” He wants people to love it. If some don’t? He’s all right with that, with all of it. Whatever comes, he’s okay.

What is my worth? What am I supposed to do? What am I about?

Zack Snyder is answering Autumn’s questions for himself.


https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/02/the-true-story-of-justice-league-snyder-cut?utm_source=pocket-newtab
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