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Joss Whedon has finally addressed those Justice League allegations leveled against him by Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg) and Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman). In May of last year, Gadot had claimed Whedon "threatened" her career, which the filmmaker has now unequivocally disputed in a wide-ranging conversation with New York Magazine.
“I don’t threaten people. Who does that?,” he said, chalking up the offense to a language barrier between himself and Gadot (a native of Israel). "English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech."
The two had purportedly been arguing over a scene that the actress wanted to cut from the final print. Whedon asserted that he responded with a harmless joke: if Gadot wanted the scene cut, she'd have to tie him to a railroad track and do it over his dead body. “Then I was told that I had said something about her dead body and tying her to the railroad track," he explained.
Gadot, who responded to New York Magazine via email, reportedly rejected this recollection of the events, writing: "I understood perfectly."
The creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and writer-director of the first two Avengers films in the MCU had been hired to finish up the 2017 DC team-up movie following Zack Snyder's departure from the production over a family tragedy. Justice League's theatrical version was a critical and financial mess, leading many fans to lobby Warner Bros. for the release of Snyder's original cinematic vision. The movement was ultimately successful, culminating in a four-hour director's cut that premiered on HBO Max last March to relatively wide acclaim.
In the summer of 2020, Fisher began to call out a number of key Warner Bros. and DC Films personnel on social media — including Whedon, Geoff Johns, Toby Emmerich, Jon Berg, and Walter Hamada — accusing them of "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" behavior on the set of Justice League reshoots. During an interview with Forbes that has since been edited, the young actor alleged that there was a corporate conspiracy, whose purpose was "the erasure of people of color" in Whedon's 2017 cut, which significantly reduced Cyborg's role (despite Snyder viewing Victor as "the heart of the movie" in his original plan for the story).
Whedon, however, refuted this, claiming the decision to reduce the character's screen-time was not racially motivated, but born out of the conclusion that the original storyline "logically made no sense." Per an insider close to the matter, early test screenings at the time supposedly yielded comments along the same train of thought, claiming Cyborg as "the worst of all the characters in the film." Interestingly, Fisher's performance and the Cyborg plot in Snyder's extended cut that eventually debuted on HBO Max was praised by many fans and critics alike.
While Fisher characterized his attempts to speak with Whedon about Cyborg as dismissive, rude, and full of gaslighting, the director recalled these conversations as nothing but amicable. Moreover, he claimed none of Fisher's public comments were "either true or merited discussing." He continued: “We’re talking about a malevolent force. We’re talking about a bad actor in both senses.”
Fisher clapped back at these comments Monday (see below): "Looks like Joss Whedon got to direct an endgame after all… Rather than address all of the lies and buffoonery today — I will be celebrating the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow the work continues." He closed out with his usual "A>E" postscript, which stands for "accountability over entertainment."
The entire controversy led to an internal investigation by Warner Bros., which wrapped up in December of 2020, with the studio taking unspecified "remedial action." Not satisfied with the results of the investigation, Fisher, who had received support from Justice League co-star and Aquaman actor Jason Momoa, tweeted that he would not work with DC Films again, so long as Walter Hamada remained in charge.
As a result, Fisher was not asked to reprise the role of Cyborg for this year's solo Flash movie (out in early November), in which Ben Affleck, Gadot, and Momoa are expected to appear.
The full Whedon profile is well worth a read if you're interested in the deeper ins and outs of his story, going into his affairs with actresses and staff while running hit shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse and the impact it had on him and those affected. For fans, it makes for another chapter digging into Whedon's legacy, and how the revelations of the past few years have deeply changed it.