It was a very select group of people who were satisfied with the Justice League movie which hit theaters in November 2017. As a Frankenstein’s monster of cinematic body parts, some derived from the original production helmed by director Zack Snyder and other scenes created whole cloth at the last minute by Joss Whedon during reshoots, the finished Justice League is a patchwork. But no one had more reason to be dissatisfied than Zack Snyder. Hence why Deborah Snyder, his wife and producing partner, as well as family friend Christopher Nolan stopped him from ever seeing it.
In previous interviews, Zack revealed he never watched the theatrical cut of Justice League which bears his name as director, and Joss Whedon’s added name as co-screenwriter. But he’s estimated around 70 to 75 percent of it was rewritten and reshot by Whedon. Now in a new profile piece with Vanity Fair, Zack and Deborah reveal the reason he’ll never be sure is that Deborah and Nolan watched the “Whedon cut” of Justice League in fall 2017, and decided to spare Zack the added pain of seeing what became of his work.
“It was just…. it’s a weird experience,” Deborah told Vanity Fair about viewing the movie. As a producer on the project, she agreed to watch it with Nolan, who was still similarly credited as an executive producer. However, neither had any creative input on the finished film.
Deborah continued, “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.”
And as Zack tells it, the fallout from that viewing experience left his wife and friend with a mission: Never let Zack find out.
Said Zack, “They came and they just said, ‘You can never see that movie.’”
His wife added, “Because I knew it would break his heart.”
To this day, Snyder refuses to watch the Whedon version and promises his four-hour “Snyder Cut,” which is about to premiere on HBO Max next month, will not use a single frame from Whedon’s reshoots. The fact we’re about to have differing, and potentially diametrically opposed, interpretations of the same superhero movie is itself a singularly Hollywood story—one which is quite different from initial reports of Snyder stepping away solely to grieve the loss of his daughter Autumn after she died by suicide during the film’s production. In the initial press statements, it was suggested Whedon was stepping in to finish the film at Snyder’s request.
Recent reports like the one in Vanity Fair, however, paint a different picture. As more detail comes out about the movie’s troubled production, the image of a director already under siege even before filming emerges. Clearly the studio’s disappointment with the critical reception and box office of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice led to a loss of confidence.
Even before Snyder stepped away, he carefully suggested to Vanity Fair that he might’ve faced constant studio pressure with executives on hand to “babysit” his production. He also revealed Whedon had already been brought on to offer notes in post-production, and it in that capacity they had their one and only conversation.
“I thought maybe [Whedon] could write some cool scenes,” Snyder said while also revealing his assistance was producer Geoff Johns’ idea. “I thought that would be fun.”
But upon learning that Whedon would also be doing some of the directing during reshoots, while the Snyders were still grieving the loss of their daughter, that the couple decided to step away.
“We just lost the will to fight that fight in a lot of ways,” Zack said. “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.”
So Zack stepped away, soon to be told by family and friends not to look back. Yet in an unusual twist for tales of troubled Hollywood productions, the exiled director has returned from the wilderness, here to complete his vision of a movie that had been long abandoned. Will it improve on what became a case study in committee filmmaking? In less than a month we’ll know the answer…
Justice League: The Snyder Cut premieres on March 18.