We’re just over three weeks away from finally getting our hands on Zack Snyder’s Justice League. With the announcement that international territories, including the UK, will be receiving the 4-hour film on the same day as the US (March 18th) excitement has escalated.
To add to the intense excitement, Vanity Fair not only gave us some brand new images, but they also got us close and personal with the director himself, Zack Snyder. For people who aren’t really that familiar with the amazing history of the Snyder Cut movement, this piece by Vanity Fair is incredibly illuminating. But for the fans that have been there since the beginning, it was a heartfelt and touching dive into the struggles that Snyder faced during the production of Justice League. It acted as a reminder. Fans will never forget that they made this possible.
Of course, an interview such as this came with some surprises that really add to the journey. So today we’re going to breakdown what we learnt. Strap in and get ready to learn the story behind the Snyder Cut.
It has been three years since the theatrical cut of Justice League was released. Most people know that Zack Snyder has not seen this edited cut of his film. However, what you may not know is that Deborah Snyder and Christopher Nolan actually sat and watched it. After the credits finished and the lights brightened, it seems as though Deborah and Nolan were left in awe. According to Zack, they approached him and said, “You can never see that movie,”. His wife added that seeing it would definitely “break his heart,”.
Jared Leto as the Joker.
The primary reason that the Snyders walked away from Justice League was due to the tragic death of their daughter Autumn. After a long battle with depression, Autumn took her own life. Realizing that their attention needed to be centered on their family, Zack and Deborah stepped away.
Zack confessed that Autumn is the reason they decided to fight back. ““Without her, this absolutely would not have happened.” As a tribute, fans can expect the words “For Autumn” to appear once the movie has finished. It’s hard to imagine how the parents feel, but it looks as though Justice League will be a fitting tribute to their daughter. Not only has this long journey helped restore Zack’s film, but it has also raised awareness. Mental health is incredibly important but sometimes it’s a battle that people feel they can’t win.
On the back of the epic movement #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, it’s important to note that fans have raised an insane amount of money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Afsp). In September last year, fans helped raised over $250,000 for the charity. It is also important to note, not to diminish the incredible support but to highlight modes of fandom, that the movement had the tendency to turn hostile and toxic. Of course, this is a trait shared with every fandom, but it would be wrong to suggest that the entirety of the movement was peaceful.
As someone who has been heavily involved, most of the interactions I engaged with were full of hope, heart and love. Deborah correctly points out, “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.” Whether it was donating or tweeting, you all helped in some way.
We all got together to get a vision realised and to raise awareness. I have never seen anything quite like this and I doubt any of us will see it again. But it is important to recognize the negatives. Zack even acknowledges the negative aspects of this worldwide movement. “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.” But don’t despair. The fan base has done amazing work and that should never ever be forgotten.
Ray Fisher and Cyborg, the heart of the film.
When discussing his daughter, Snyder gave us an insight into their relationship, as well as her hopes and dreams. Autumn was adopted by Zack and Deborah when she was “A little over one.” While Zack’s son Eli expressed an interesting in filmmaking, Autumn followed her father in regards to his enthusiasm towards mythology, gods, monsters, aliens, and superheroes. According to Zack, she attended Sarah Lawrence to become of writer.
Autumn had been in therapy and on medication in an attempt to keep her depression at bay. Anyone who has battled depression knows that it isn’t an easy fight. “She was always wondering about her worth. ‘What is my worth? What am I supposed to do? What am I about?’” Snyder said. “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.’”
Using her feelings to fuel her writing, Autumn would often create stories of her own. “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.”
After Autumn’s death, the Snyder’s tried to keep going for two months in hopes of finishing Justice League. However, by then the situation with Warner Bros had reached its max. The official story was that Zack and Deborah were stepping down due to a family tragedy, and that Zack had selected Joss Whedon to complete the movie. Only half of that was true. When Joss stepped in, a large majority of the film was discarded and they proceeded with extensive rewrites and rushed reshoots. Of course, Whedon’s name was left out except for a writing credit with Chris Terrio. Anyone watching the film on the day of its release were under the impression that Whedon stepped in to round off any remaining filming.
Ben Affleck as Batman in the Knightmare reality.
After Batman v Superman received harsh reviews from critics and fans, Warner Bros.’ confidence in Snyder vanished. Production Head Greg Silverman even expressed his concern, “When Batman v Superman came out and we did get a negative reaction from the fans, it was disheartening for all of us,”
The triumphant reign of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was also a cause for concern. While they told stories about relatable characters that often incorporated a brighter aesthetic and jokes, Snyder’s universe went down a different route. The director focused more on gods and immortals and the tragic stories behind wielding phenomenal powers. Soon, Warner Bros. began to fear that the iconic heroes were becoming dark and gloomy.
Diane Nelson, who was the president of DC Entertainment, says that she admired Zack’s vision. “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.”
As principal photography for Justice League began, rumors started to circulate claiming that Zack had been fired. That didn’t happen, but Warner Bros did assign watchdogs to keep an eye on the production. “You could say babysit,” Snyder says. Geoff Johns and Jon Berg were hired to be present on set every day.
Amber Heard as Mera.
Berg had this to say about his new role on the set of Justice League: “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.”
Of course, there were some decisions that didn’t make it into Zack’s version. Originally, Snyder wanted to add a brief romance between Affleck’s Batman and Adam’s Lois Lane. “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.”
One of the other mandates from Warner Bros., specifically Kevin Tsujihara, was that the movie had to be two hours long. This resulted in many elements being cut from the film such as a romantic subplot between Ezra Miller’s Flash and Kiersey Clemons’s Iris. In Whedon’s cut, Iris was completely left out. Fans and Snyder saw a much larger problem with this rather paradoxical 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,” referring to Whedon’s version. “But I didn’t see it.”
After Whedon was brought in, it became clear that he was being gifted with more power. Considering that Whedon had a Batgirl film in the works, it was probably a test to see how he could cope with directing in the DC universe. Snyder revealed that he only had one conversation with Whedon about the studio’s notes. “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.”
The Justice League united.
From what Snyder can gather, Whedon rewrote and reshot roughly three quarters of Justice League. Of course, the extensive reshoots didn’t really save the film the way Warner Bros. had originally hoped. “When we got to see what Joss actually did, it was stupefying,” says a studio executive. “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 s**t it was.”
Harsh words. On top of that we also have to remember the infamous mustache incident. Actually, we’re going to move on.
Things began to implode behind the scenes when some of the cast rebelled. Ray Fisher claimed that Whedon was abusive on set and that Warner Bros. executives “enabled” his behavior. In addition to that, Gal Gadot also revealed that she had her own problems with Joss Whedon. While “remedial action” had been taken, resulting in WarnerMedia parting ways with Whedon on his series The Nevers, Fisher continues to fight with the studio.
When Zack left Warner Bros., he took to opportunity to take his laptop which had the original rough cut of his 4 hour film. Most of the footage was there but the film lacked completed visuals and music. It was also in black and white. “We would just show it to random people who stopped by, like our friends or whatever.”
November 2019 was a crazy month for the SnyderCut movement, the hashtag began to trend online with celebrities getting involved and fans from all over the world contributing. Subway even chipped in. It was impossible to ignore all of the attention it was getting. Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Picture Group, called Snyder up with an offer to 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.”
Originally, Warner Bros. just wanted to release the raw footage that Snyder had 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 obviously fought back. “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.”
According to the director, it cost the studio roughly $70 million to complete his version and undo the work Whedon had done. Snyder did mention that he wasn’t getting anything for this. “I’m not getting paid,” In order to keep creative control, Snyder refused a fee. “I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, and it allowed me to keep my negotiating powers with these people pretty strong.”
As the film ends with a message to Autumn, a familiar song will begin to play. The movie closes with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This version will be performed by Allison Crowe, a friend of the Snyder’s who also sang at Autumn’s funeral. It was Autumn’s favourite song which just adds a heartbreaking layer to its inclusion. “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.”
Like many fans, we can’t wait to see Snyder’s version. I’ve been personally involved since the beginning so this has been a long journey. To see it finally coming to the surface after years of hoping and doubting is incredibly overwhelming. Snyder wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t give fans a little tease. According to the article, Snyder has reshot the ending with a secret cameo that will blow hard-core fans’ minds. We’re not sure who it is so let the speculation begin.
Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Joining them are Jason Mamoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg, and Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash.
The film premieres on HBO Max in North America on March 18, 2021. It will be distributed nationwide in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures.