The cycle of gasp-worthy news coming from newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) continues this week.
This time, it involves the highly anticipated and now controversial production of the superhero film "The Flash." Thanks to the erratic behavior of the film's star Ezra Miller, the company is reportedly taking a pause from its regularly scheduled upheaval to consider what to do with the mess it has on its hands.
Last year AT&T announced its intentions to merge Warner Bros. and Discovery into one unit. The following spring when the deal was settled, the company's new CEO David Zaslav began laying out a plan for his vision for WBD's future.
One of the company's most recent launches, CNN+, was cancelled, and its content was folded into new HBO Max offerings alongside content from TBS, Cartoon Network, TCM, and more.
After the $43 billion merger between the companies was finalized, Zaslav pledged to find $3 billion worth of savings, which at the moment has included canceling TV shows from across the Warner Bros. Discovery line, including "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" and the Adult Swim favorite “Joe Pera Talks With You,”
But the biggest shock was the outright cancelation of the HBO Max feature film, DC comic's Batgirl. With roughly $90 million spent on an almost-complete film, the choice to cancel the studio's first Afro-Latina-led film reportedly came down to a tax write-down, as well as a change in content strategy, as Zaslav wants to reverse the approach of making expensive films just for HBO Max, and instead wants to begin reprioritizing the in-person theatrical experience.
As soon as the cancellation was announced, the internet was reeling. And it did not go unnoticed that Batgirl was being cancelled while a much more problematic production was moving full-steam ahead.
Warner Bros. Discovery Has An Ezra Miller Problem
In 2014, Miller was cast as The Flash, a longtime DC superhero with super speed powers. They have featured the character in three films, most prominently in 2017’s “Justice League.”
In the time since the release of that film, Miller’s public behavior has become erratic and violent. In 2020, video surfaced of Miller apparently choking a woman and throwing her to the ground at a bar in Reykjavik, Iceland. In June of this year, a mother and her twelve-year-old child were granted a temporary harassment prevention order against Miller in Massachusetts after Miller allegedly threatened the woman's family, at one point showing up to their house and brandishing a gun.
In April, Miller was arrested in Hawaii after attending a party and beginning to act violently and being asked to leave. The previous month, Miller was arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment while at a Hawaiian karaoke bar.
Now, the actor, who uses they/them pronouns, has been charged with felony burglary. According to Vermont State Police reports, residents in Vermont reported “several bottles of alcohol were taken from within the residence while the homeowners were not present.” After reviewing surveillance materials, Miller was charged.
Can 'The Flash' Outrun Its Miller Problem?
So what will be done about the upcoming Flash movie and its wayward star, Ezra Miller? According to a source for The Hollywood Reporter, WBD is now looking at real solutions to addressing the super-powered speedster in the room.
The first option, according to the publication, is a best-case scenario. If Miller is prepared to return home to Vermont and seek professional help, WBD would eventually facilitate an interview with Miller, who would have the opportunity to explain their puzzling actions. Miller would then participate in limited press for "The Flash" before the film's theatrical release.
The second option, in the event that Miller is not prepared to obtain help, WBD could still still release the film while allowing Miller playing little to no role in press. The character of the Flash would be recast moving forward, though it's unclear narratively how that will occur.
The third option identified involves axing the film altogether. This is a $200M film centered around Miller, and this will take place if or when the film has passed the point of no return in terms of reshoots.
So what will Warner Bros. Discovery do? Last week Zaslav said the film would be going forward and would be released in theaters next year, and he had complete confidence in it. It might seem that executives hope if they ignore this problem, it will go away, but that doesn't seem to be the case. But they clearly need to make a decision soon.
"I believe that the most logical solution right now would be to release the film on HBO Max, with a total reshoot of Ezra Miller's character being the second option," says David Triana of Otter Public Relations.
"With The Flash slated for release on June 23, 2023, they've got some breathing room to make the decision about a possible release theatrically, or on streaming, but the window to reshoot is quickly closing. While not similar regarding the circumstances and how much they shot of the film, it's not out of the realm of possibility if they decided to re-shoot the role.
"A similar thing happened with "Back to the Future" with Eric Stoltz being replaced with Michael J. Fox after 6-weeks of principal photography, and had to reshoot those scenes entirely. Again, not the same circumstances or time constraints, but if it needs to be done, it needs to be done now."
'The Flash' On A Ledge
"The Flash," was said to revolve around time travel and multiple timelines, and would see appearances from two different actors who have played Bruce Wayne and Batman: Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton. The speculation has been that the film would serve as a soft-reboot of the DCU universe, which is seen as much more erratic in quality compared to Disney's (DIS) more focused Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With the potential for the "Flash" movie to dissolve, Warner Bros. Discovery may end up with egg on its face after backing the wrong proverbial horse. One thing's for certain -- WBD is running out of time to find a solution to its Flash problem. And the longer it takes to find a solution, the higher the risk that there won't be one.