A heart-wrenching tragedy for director Zack Snyder and his family has forced him to step away from finishing Warner Brothers’ superhero blockbuster Justice League. As a result, Joss Whedon will complete the remaining work on the film.
Snyder’s 20-year-old daughter, Autumn, committed suicide in March. The family kept the news private and it likely would have remained that way. But with scheduled reshoots for Justice League about to get underway, Snyder decided that he couldn’t take time away from his family. Yet he also didn’t want to delay post-production on the film, though Warner Brothers was willing to push back the Nov. 17 release date to allow Snyder time to deal with this tragedy.
As Snyder explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit, he thought going back to work after a two-week break would help him cope. But as the schedule moved closer to reshoots that would require his full attention, Snyder realized he couldn’t make that kind of commitment right now.
“In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was the way through it,” said an emotional Snyder in an interview Monday in his office on the Warner Bros. lot, with Deborah sitting by his side. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all-consuming. And in the last two months, I’ve come to the realization … I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”
According to Kit’s report, Snyder and his wife, producer Deborah Snyder, screened the film recently and decided afterwards that he wanted additional scenes. Snyder then hired Joss Whedon to write that added material. (Had this news not become public, is it possible that Whedon’s work would have been uncredited? That sort of thing happens with movies, especially big-budget productions, all the time.)
Upon deciding that he couldn’t leave his family for the reshoots, Whedon added directing duties to those additional scenes and he’ll put the finishing touches on Justice League. But Warner Brothers president Toby Emmerich made it clear that Whedon’s work won’t be any sort of drastic overhaul of the film (which is surely what some fans immediately thought if they saw a misleading headline of “Joss Whedon replaces Zack Snyder on Justice League“).
“The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set,” says Emmerich. “We’re not introducing any new characters. It’s the same characters in some new scenes. He’s handing the baton to Joss, but the course has really been set by Zack. I still believe that despite this tragedy, we’ll still end up with a great movie.”
The idea of Whedon, who did an outstanding job writing and directing two Avengers films for Marvel, taking over Justice League from Snyder and adding his signature touch to another superhero ensemble would have been a fanboy dream under regular circumstances, something you could almost chalk up to a goofy comment or message board posting. But not like this. These are obviously far from regular circumstances, a tragedy no family should have to deal with.
Ideally, Snyder and his family would have kept this news private, per their original wishes. But calling attention to his daughter’s suicide and his intentions to eventually honor her memory may help the grieving and coping processes. And explaining what is happening with production will get out in front of whatever rumors and speculation may have developed if news of Whedon doing reshoots had leaked. Many movie and pop culture sites are all too willing to feed into the “DC movies are doomed” narrative. (Just last week, ridiculous, unfounded rumors that most of Justice League had been reshot were circulating. What are the chances that such gossip spun out of what was really the case?)
(In case you weren’t aware, by the way, reshoots are something that’s almost standard procedure on big-time blockbusters. Marvel Studios, for instance, plans for them in budget and scheduling. Directors realize new scenes are necessary for clarity and pace. Maybe a sequence didn’t turn out as expected. Additional dialogue scenes can help story or character details — or in the case of a comic book film, tie together a cinematic universe.)
With Joss Whedon’s help, Justice League will hit theaters on Nov. 17.