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Earlier this year, WarnerMedia launched an investigation into the conduct of several key figures behind the 2017 superhero film Justice League after one of the film's stars, Ray Fisher, accused filmmakers including replacement director Joss Whedon of "abusive" conduct behind the scenes. Now, as that investigation enters a new phase, Fisher is shedding new light on why he came forward, what he witnessed, and what's at stake.
In a lengthy new interview with Forbes about the investigation and the accusations he first made public back in July, Fisher claimed that "The erasure of people of color from the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League was neither an accident nor coincidence,” and revealed what spurred him to come forward in the first place. Later in the interview, Fisher claims he learned earlier this year that Whedon, who stepped in to replace original director Zack Snyder after Snyder stepped away due to a family tragedy, deliberately changed the skin tone of a character in post-production on the film to make it appear lighter.
“What set my soul on fire and forced me to speak out about Joss Whedon this summer was my becoming informed that Joss had ordered that the complexion of an actor of color be changed in post-production because he didn’t like the color of their skin tone,” Fisher said. “Man, with everything 2020’s been, that was the tipping point for me.”
Fisher went on to claim that, after he went public with accusations against Whedon, he learned from "people in the room" about behind-the-scenes conversations between the makers of Justice League that he calls "blatantly racist." Though he did not go into specific detail in this interview, Fisher also noted he wants to be "much more specific" after the ongoing investigation is complete.
“Prior to Justice League’s reshoot process, blatantly racist conversations were had and entertained—on multiple occasions—by former and current top level executives at Warner Bros. Pictures,” Fisher said. “Decision-makers that participated in those racist conversations were Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, and current Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich."
He added: “I realized that the notes I ended up getting from Johns during reshoots were just a coded version of the racist things he was saying with behind closed doors with the other execs."
Though Fisher said racism was a major factor behind his desire to go public with the Justice League allegations, he also clarified that it was not the only factor, and that many of the issues "affected many people across various departments."
“Race was just one of the issues with the reshoot process. There were massive blowups, threats, coercion, taunting, unsafe work conditions, belittling, and gaslighting like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
In August, weeks after he went public with accusations against Whedon, Johns, and Berg, Fisher announced that WarnerMedia had opened an investigation into his allegations. In September, Warner Bros. released a statement claiming that Fisher was not cooperating with their investigation, to which Fisher responded that he'd always intended to vet the third-party investigator himself, raised concerns about the investigator's practices, and called Warner Bros.' statement a "scattershot attempt to discredit me."
Now, Fisher says a new third-party investigator has been hired to continue the work.
“My team and I have been informed that the third-party firm that was originally brought on to investigate Justice League has withdrawn from the case,” Fisher said.
“WarnerMedia has since informed me and my team that the old investigator purposely lied to us about the investigation. We’ve asked WarnerMedia to relay this information to the public and to retract Warner Bros.’ September 4th hit piece on me so we can clear the air and get the investigation back on track. They’ve refused to do so...so here we are...”
He then added, “I’ve got a lot of witnesses that are willing to be interviewed, they’re just waiting on my go-ahead that it’s safe to do so."
According to Fisher, his priorities now are protecting the people who've agreed to be witnesses on his behalf as part of the investigation "at any cost," ensuring the investigation does not result in "people being allowed to dog-pile and scapegoat easy targets" and, in the end, significant changes.
“My goal is to have these people not be decision makers for the content that influences our world,” Fisher said. “These guys have been in Hollywood a long time. Their problematic behavior didn’t start with the AT&T merger, but I’ll be dammed if it doesn’t end with it.”
Fisher is set to return as Cyborg for reshoots on Zack Snyder's expanded Justice League cut, which will arrive on HBO Max next year.
WarnerMedia, Whedon, and Johns have not yet commented on the interview. For more on Fisher's claims and his thoughts on the ongoing investigation, check out the full interview with Forbes.