Zack Snyder Was Almost Fired From ‘Justice League’

Zack Snyder working on Justice League

With two disappointing weekends at the box office in the books, the drama of Justice League simply won’t go away. With the critical bashing of Batman v Superman, the underwhelming performance it had at the box office, and the substantial amount of reshoots for Justice League that were written and directed by Joss Whedon, it seems things were worse behind the scenes at WB than many fans thought. WB executives wanted to fire Snyder from the project.

Snyder seemed to have a bright future ahead of him at Warner Bros. Although 300 wasn’t his first film, it was the one that put him on the map and gave him the “visionary filmmaker” moniker. Snyder struck gold again in 2009 when he directed Watchmen, which (mostly) ended up being a page by page recreation of the graphic novel and was (mostly) well received. There has never quite been a director like Snyder, and with these two home runs, WB felt they had a gold mine.

That’s why, despite the massive flop that is Sucker Punch, he was given the keys to the DC kingdom with Man of Steel. Hand picked by Christopher Nolan himself (after he refused WB’s offer to do it in order to branch away from comic book films), they thought Snyder’s unique filmmaking style is just what the Last Son of Krypton needed to get a new life on the silver screen.

However, Man of Steel failed to live up to expectations, and despite positive word of mouth and hype from the trailers, it didn’t impress audiences or critics. Although the dark, gritty, realistic take Nolan did worked for Batman, the similar approach wasn’t as successful for Superman. Especially when everyone’s favorite boy scout was seen as moody and brooding most of the film. It wasn’t a flop by any means and isn’t without its fans, but it failed the financial outlook WB was hoping for, and seeing the massive success Marvel was having with the MCU, decided it was time to fast track a DC Films universe.

Snyder was again given the keys and was in charge of creating DC’s path to a film universe. So instead of getting a straight up sequel to Man of Steel, we got Snyder’s Batman v Superman, where he was given creative control to build the extended DC Film Universe. This lead to a dark(er), bloated film that tried to accomplish to many things in 2.5 hours (3 for the Extended Edition!) to set up a Justice League film. While BvS had a historic opening weekend for fans excited to finally see these two comic book titans clash on the silver screen, it had an equally historic drop off in its second weekend, and again disappointed WB’s financial expectations with critics bashing it and bad word of mouth.

This is when an insider at WB, per a conversation with The Wrap, said that studio executives wanted Snyder removed from Justice League. Snyder’s last two DC directed films failed to live up to expectations and his vision clearly wasn’t gelling with what audiences wanted. However, they didn’t fire him due to the weight a director has on a project and the vulnerability it would’ve shown to a massive tent pole film like Justice League.

The WB insider said this,

“They were already in deep prep on Justice League and it would have cost a fortune. There’s stickiness to a director because there’s so much cost to unstick him. Warners is a studio that almost to a fault always wants to project strength.”

Although executives wanted him gone, it was WB’s CEO Kevin Tsujihara who ultimately decided to keep the director. Traditionally a director friendly studio, they decided to intervene with Snyder’s work because they wanted a lighter tone with Justice League, similar to what Disney and Marvel were accomplishing with their MCU films. Joss Whedon was then brought on earlier this year to help with the lighter tone, after being hired to direct a solo Batgirl film.

When Snyder’s daughter tragically passed away from suicide in the spring, the WB insider says that work was gonna become a refuge for Snyder, but with the pressure from WB and Whedon’s involvement, they said “it stopped being a good situation on any level.”

Of course, that’s when Snyder stepped away from the film and Whedon stepped in to direct almost a whole summer’s worth of reshoots. The whole Henry Cavill mustache situation became a thing. This helped contribute to rushed, unfinished CGI to make their November 17th release date, which the insider says was a big misstep for WB. Instead of giving Whedon the time to make a finished product, we got this rushed Frankenstein film.

Now, as far as we know, Snyder is no longer involved with DC Films at WB. With Justice League underwhelming at the box office, who knows where DC and WB goes from here. James Wan’s Aquaman is still scheduled for next year, with Matt Reeves working on a Batman film, and Patty Jenkins working on a Wonder Woman sequel. Only time will tell.

Dark Knight News, however, had mostly positive things to say about Justice League, despite all this drama. The staff gave our thoughts on the film, and the new Dark Knight News Podcast discussed it as well, for your listening pleasure.

Do you think WB should’ve pulled on the trigger and fired Snyder? Was bringing in Whedon the right move? What were you thoughts on the Justice League film we ended up getting? Let us know!

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Chris Foti

Lifelong fan of Batman and Boston Sports