Zack Snyder Reveals How He Got Ben Affleck and Jared Leto Together for 'Justice League' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
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There are directors' cuts -- the now commonplace practice of shilling a supplemental release with a few superfluous deleted scenes built back into the plot -- and then there's the Snyder Cut, an entirely new film intended to restore its director's original vision.
To understand the Snyder Cut -- or Zack Snyder's Justice League, as it is officially known -- you must first understand how 2017's Justice League came to be. After helming Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder endeavored to launch an extended universe of DC characters by bringing together Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg for their own team-up flick. But facing family tragedy and irreconcilable creative differences with the studio, Snyder walked away from the project before it was completed.
In his place, Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to rewrite and edit together a theatrical cut of Justice League. (That film would go on to end the DCEU as we barely knew it.) Had the movie been well received by fans, perhaps there would never have been such a frantic call to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Now, four years later -- thanks to those fan campaigns, a $70 million budget and a new streaming platform eager for content -- a version of what Snyder always intended to put out is ready for release.
In conversation with ET's Ash Crossan, the director and his wife and producer, Debbie Snyder, spoke about the long road to releasing the Snyder Cut and the new sequence they got to add: Ben Affleck's Batman and Jared Leto's Joker onscreen together for the first (and probably last) time.
ET: Zack Snyder's Justice League is here. What are the emotions, Zack?
Zack Snyder: It's a bit of an exhale. It's been quite a road, as you can imagine. We're just drinking champagne a lot and trying to enjoy it.
Debbie, how are you feeling?
Debbie Snyder: I'm feeling really good. We just finished the last version of the movie last week. I feel like we've had our heads down trying to get the enormous amount of visual effects done [and] four hours of score with so little time, all doing it [socially] distanced during COVID. So, I think finally now, we can, like Zack said, exhale, take a deep breath and enjoy it, because it's been quite a journey.
Zack: We're also finishing our other movie, our Army of the Dead movie, at the same time. [Laughs] So, no real breaks.
Debbie: A little break!
Zack: Teeny bit, yeah.
I didn't realize how down to the wire you guys were. This is such an unprecedented opportunity for fans to truly see your vision. What was the most important thing for you to set right in Zack Snyder's Justice League?
Zack: The most important thing to get right was just the honesty of the movie and just be honest with the stuff I wanted to do and my vision for the movie. I really wanted to make it as uncompromised as I could. That was the real work we did is to get back to that January 2017 cut that I had prepared, and that now, you kind of get to see -- whatever this is, however many years later we are now.
One of the most satisfying parts of the experience for me was seeing Ray Fisher's Cyborg get the emotional, fleshed-out origin story that he deserved all along. How satisfying was it for you to bring his backstory to life?
Zack: Even from the beginning, when Chris Terrio and I talked about what Justice League would be, it was always a Cyborg movie in a lot of ways. Because we felt like he's an incredibly important DC character, and we knew we had Ray, so we knew we had a solid and amazing actor to flesh out these big, ambitious dreams we had for what Cyborg would do. We were definitely not surprised but overwhelmed by how great he is and how great the character does come out. I couldn't be happier with his arc and the completion of his story in the movie. It's really quite satisfying.
I want to get into this new Knightmare sequence with Jared Leto and Ben Affleck. You had to call them and get them to come film a new scene -- walk me through this covert operation here.
Zack: Let's just say I got it in my head that there was some trepidation from studio about whether we should do this at all. And so I thought, "You know what we'll do? Let's just do it at the house."
Debbie: And I was like, "No! No, we are not doing it at the house!"
Zack: Eli and I, my son who's here with us, we did do a couple of little shots for the movie here at the house. So, that was my idea, but it was going to be on a pretty big scale, so we were like, "OK, well maybe we shouldn't do that." And then luckily, HBO Max agreed to do it, so we got to shoot it in a real soundstage. So that was fun.
Debbie: But it was still super challenging, because we had to do it at a certain time to get the visual effects done to make it in the film, but all the actors weren't available at the same time. So, we had to shoot some of them separately and Ezra was on Fantastic Beasts in England, so Zack had to direct him over Zoom.
There are a lot of cliffhangers and a lot of setup. There's already momentum behind #RestoreTheSnyderverse, so what would it take for you both to come back and do more Snyderverse experiences like this one?
Zack: My thing is that Warner Brothers, they're the gatekeepers, and I have huge respect for their decisions that they want to-- They're on another track. This movie is three years old. Of course, we envisioned it as a bigger thing. But if this is the final version of Justice League anybody sees, we're quite happy.
Debbie: Yeah, and it's been such a journey to get to this place and it took so much hard work, from the fans to the crew, that I think right now, we just want to savor the moment of this, because it's been years in the making.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is streaming on March 18 on HBO Max.