Hollywood Versus Joss Whedon

A timeline of the ongoing saga

This month, some Justice League fans will finally get to see what they’ve always dreamed of: The famed Snyder Cut. When Warner Brothers released Justice League, many fans were angry at pinch-hitter director Joss Whedon for removing most of the vision of original director Zack Snyder. The road to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has been long and fraught with controversy, but Whedon and Justice League cast member Ray Fisher have made most of the headlines surrounding the film’s lengthy post-production saga. 

Here’s how it happened:

March 10, 1997

Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on the WB. It goes on to become a flagship series for the network, bringing in anywhere from four to six million viewers on original airings. The world praises both Whedon and the show for their feminist ideals.

Whedon
The kids of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ a Joss Whedon production.

May 4, 2012

The Avengers premieres. Marvel chooses Whedon to write and direct the sixth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of his success with Buffy and the cult hit show Firefly. It goes on to earn $1.5 billion worldwide.

April 20, 2012

Whedon separates from Kai Cole, his wife of 16 years, citing irreconcilable differences, according to reports.

June 14, 2013

Man of Steel premieres. The first Superman movie in the DC Extended Universe is DC’s answer to the MCU. Zack Snyder directs and Christopher Nolan is one of the producers. Warner Bros. plans to make the DCEU as big as the MCU. It becomes the highest-grossing solo Superman film ever, but critics and the public meet it with mixed reviews.

May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres. Whedon again writes and directs.

March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres. Snyder again directs. It does well on its opening weekend, but drops precipitously in the following weeks. It does even worse with critics. 

July 1, 2016 

Whedon and Cole finalized their divorce.

May 22, 2017

Justice League director Snyder steps away from post-production on the film following his daughter’s death by suicide in March of that year. Warner Brothers selected Whedon  to replace Snyder as director.

Oct. 5, 2017

The New York Times publishes its investigations into the sexual harassment accusations against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, kicking off the #MeToo movement of women speaking up about the sexual harassment and assult they have experienced.

Nov. 17, 2017

Justice League premieres. Whedon has rewritten and reshot something like 75 percent of Snyder’s original film, depending on who you ask. The film underperforms at the box office and receives mixed reviews.

Snyder fans, angry at Whedon for altering the original version of the film, start the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, imploring Warner Bros. to release Snyder’s cut of Justice League.

Some fans think that then-current head of DC Geoff Johns is also to blame for the film’s underperformance. Others claim Johns rewrote the plot for some characters, including Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, AKA Victor Stone. 

Nov. 22, 2017

Film website The Wrap publishes a guest blog from Cole. In it, she calls ex-husband Whedon a hypocritical feminist who doesn’t practice what he preaches and claims he “hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends,” starting with an affair on the set of Buffy. Whedon’s camp said the blog post “includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family.”

March 2019

Snyder confirms the existence of a Snyder Cut of Justice League.

May 2020

Snyder and HBO Max announce that the Snyder Cut of Justice League will premiere on the streaming service in 2021.

June 29, 2020

Fisher tweets a clip of him heaping praise onto Whedon, but says he’d “like to take a moment to forcefully retract every bit of this statement.”

July 2020

Whedon
Ray Fisher as Cyborg in the Joss Whedon cut of ‘Justice League’.

Fisher claims Whedon’s on-set behavior while shooting Justice League was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” Fisher said Whedon was enabled by Johns and producer Jon Berg.

Berg says it was “categorically untrue that we enabled any unprofessional behavior.”

Whedon never comments, and has not to this day.

August 20, 2020

WarnerMedia launches an investigation into the set of Justice League. Fisher says the AT&T/WarnerMedia merger while the film was in production provided cover for the alleged on-set behavior and said “others” in power “grossly abused their power.”

Sept. 2020

In an Instagram post, Justice League and Aquaman star Jason Momoa supports Fisher, saying “#IStandWithRayFisher” and “THIS SHIT HAS TO STOP AND NEEDS TO BE LOOKED AT @ray8fisher AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO EXPERIENCED WHAT HAPPEN UNDER THE WATCH OF @wbpictures NEEDS PROPER INVESTIGATION.”

Other members of the Justice League, like Gal Gadot, would also go on to support Fisher.

Fisher tweets Sept. 14: “The “independent” firm hired by @wbpictures has conveniently avoided contacting key witnesses who gave damning statements to WB HR.”

Nov. 2020

Whedon steps away from his new HBO show “The Nevers,” citing “the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic” as the reason for his departure. 

Dec. 2020

WarnerMedia concludes its Justice League investigation. “Remedial action has been taken,” the company says in a statement. No details are given on what that specific remedial action is.

“There are still conversations that need to be had and resolutions that need to be found. Thank you all for your support and encouragement on this journey,” Fisher tweets.

On Dec. 30, retweeting a New York Times profile of DC Films president Walter Hamada, Fisher calls Hamada “the most dangerous kind of enabler” and vows to never work with him again.

Jan. 2021

Fisher is removed from Warner Bros. upcoming The Flash movie.

“I strongly disagree with their decision, but it’s one that is unsurprising,” Fisher says in a statement. “While I do mourn the lost opportunity to bring Victor Stone back to the screen, bringing awareness to the actions of Walter Hamada will prove to be a much more important contribution to our world.”

Feb. 10, 2021

Buffy and Angel star Charisma Carpenter says in an Instagram post that Whedon “abused his power on numerous occasions” while on set and said Whedon “has a history of being casually cruel.” Among other things, she says the Buffy showrunner tried to discourage her from carrying a pregnancy to term and fired her from Angel after she gave birth. She says she posted the statement in solidarity with Fisher.

Carpenter’s statement leads to numerous others from Whedon show alums, including Buffy herself.

“While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon,” Sarah Michelle Gellar wrote in an Instagram post.

Other Buffy actresses like Eliza Dushku and Michelle Trachtenberg, who was 15 when she started filming Buffy, shared similar stories.

Feb. 27, 2021

Variety publishes a deep-dive into the work culture on set for Buffy and Angel. Among other things, it claims Gellar and Whedon “had a severed relationship” starting sometime a few seasons into the show.

“Many people who spoke with Variety described the set as operating like high school, with Whedon making everyone aware of who was in and who was out,” the article reads.

“As the executive producer and showrunner, Whedon was the boss, including of the women with whom he engaged in relationships. The alleged behavior contributed to a toxic workplace and heightened competition on set, blurring the lines between personal and professional demeanor for the cast — dynamics that continued long after Whedon’s purported affairs ended.”

Later that day, news breaks that Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing a new Superman movie for DC in which the superhero is Black. Fisher tweets:

“Do ya’ll remember that time Walter Hamada and @wbpictures tried to destroy a Black man’s credibility, and publicly delegitimize a very serious investigation, with lies in the press?

“But hey, Black Superman…”

DC responds:

“Once again there are false statements being made about our executives and our company surrounding the recent Justice League investigation,” 

Fisher responds:

“As I’ve said from the start: Walter Hamada ATTEMPTED to interfere with the JL investigation. He was unsuccessful in doing so because I did not allow him to. Having the investigator make a statement claiming there was no interference is purposely misleading and desperate.”

March 2, 2021

Fisher tweets new information about the Justice League set, saying studio execs encouraged him to “play Cyborg like Quasimodo” and forced a scene to be reshot in order to focus on the existence of Cyborg’s penis.

He also said Geoff Johns said “We can’t have an angry Black man at the center of the movie.”

March 18, 2021

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is set to premiere on HBO Max. Fisher is supposed to have more of a role in it than in Whedon’s version.

April 11, 2021

The Nevers is set to premiere on HBO, owned by Warner Media. It lists Joss Whedon as the sole creator.

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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