Zack Snyder is stepping away from WB’s JUSTICE LEAGUE to deal with a family tragedy, and Joss Whedon will be finishing the film in his absence. The comic book movie is still slated to open on Nov. 17.
Autumn Snyder, the director’s daughter from his first marriage, committed suicide in March, and her death had been kept private until Snyder gave a heartbreaking interview to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday.
Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher star in Justice League, which was put on a two-week break while the Snyders grieved for their daughter — something that only a small group of people knew about. Ever the professional, Snyder tried to go back to work, but understandably, it wasn’t meant to be.
“In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,” an emotional Snyder told THR as his wife Deborah sat by his side in his office on the Warner Bros. lot. “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.”
Snyder is also part of the Warner Bros. family, and studio president Toby Emmerich offered both his sympathy and his support. “What they are going through is unimaginable, and my heart — our hearts — go out to them,” Emmerich told THR.
At first, Warner Bros. executives considered delaying the release of the movie, but the Snyders wanted to forge ahead and keep everything on track for this fall. Snyder tapped Whedon to write some additional scenes after screening a rough cut of Justice League for some friends and fellow filmmakers, but in the end, he didn’t feel up to directing them, which would’ve meant leaving his family behind during a difficult time for everyone. Thus, Whedon, who directed Marvel’s The Avengers and is developing the DCEU’s Batgirl movie at Warners, came on to direct the additional scenes and oversee the post-production process.
Warner Bros. is no stranger to tragedy when it comes to comic book movies featuring Batman, as Heath Ledger died shortly after wrapping The Dark Knight. They handled that tragedy as well as could be expected, and the studio is now showing its strength as it rallies behind Snyder and his film, which was designed as the crown jewel of the DCEU.
“I still believe that despite this tragedy, we’ll still end up with a great movie,” Emmerich told THR.
Snyder echoed that belief, but the death of his daughter has given him a new perspective on all things Hollywood.
“I want the movie to be amazing and I’m a fan, but that all pales pretty quickly in comparison,” he said. “I know the fans are going to be worried about the movie but there are seven other kids that need me. In the end, it’s just a movie. It’s a great movie. But it’s just a movie.”
Fans would be wise to keep this in mind, as now is not the time to tweet your thoughts about Snyder’s directing prowess. He’s not just a filmmaker, he’s a husband, a father, and like everyone reading this story, he’s a human being. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his whole family during this difficult time.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief