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Something not funny happened on her path to becoming a superhero: Ezra Miller is now a toxic asset.
A promising young actor with musical skills stars in several indie films, is cast as a key character in two major franchises, and gets in trouble with the law. They face allegations of abuse, assault and harassment, are arrested twice for disorderly conduct and a terrified couple issues a restraining order against them.
Johnny Depp? nope Ezra Miller.
Miller, 29, scored rave reviews on We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower before landing the role of Credence Barebone in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and two sequels as Barry Allen/The Scarlet Speedster/The Flash, who have portrayed them (Miller uses “they/them” pronouns) in four DCEU films leading up to 14 alternate Batmans (Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck) and is currently in the post production.
Warners Bros. announced the project as part of the expanded DCEU in October 2014 with a release date of March 23, 2018. From there, it was one delay after another: multiple director departures, multiple scripts (including one by Miller), and then the pandemic that pushed filming back to 2021. Production on the film wrapped in November 2021, under the direction of It series filmmaker Andy Muschietti, with a release date of June 23, 2023.
Something not funny happened on her path to becoming a superhero: Ezra Miller is now a toxic asset. There are the ongoing struggles with the law; videos in which they attack fans; and this week’s protective order from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court regarding Tokata Iron Eyes, who is now 18 but has been close to Miller since she was 12. When Miller flew her to the set of Fantastic Beasts in 2017 when she was 14, her parents say the actor tried to sleep with her. They attempt to wrest their daughter from their influence by declaring, “Ezra uses violence, intimidation, threats of violence, fear, paranoia, delusions, and drugs to gain dominion over a young, adolescent Tokata.”
Remember when Warners had to replace Depp with Mads Mikkelsen on Fantastic Beasts? Those were the good old days. Today, the studio must contend with an unrepentant and potentially criminal movie star, one who has been granted a protection order but the court couldn’t convict him because his whereabouts are unknown. So far they’re sticking to their 2023 release date: they believe time is on their side.
When in June 2020, then-26-year-old “West Side Story” star Ansel Elgort was hit with an allegation of sexual harassment by a minor (she was 17, he was 20), Disney and Steven Spielberg simply cited the pandemic to prompt the publication to postpone date. The hope was that the story would lose its power, and it did. Disney focused its ad campaign on Elgort’s Latina co-stars, and Ariana DeBose won the Oscar. Similarly, with the luxury of an ensemble cast, Disney shifted the focus from Armie Hammer in Death on the Nile.
However, none of these films could have been titled Tony or Simon Doyle. Warners has The Flash, which stars Miller as The Flash in two different roles: one the character is 18 years old and the other the speedster is 28 years old. It’s also set in a multiverse with multiple versions of superheroes (that’s why both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck play Batman).
Back in our universe, Miller’s Instagram account was deactivated this week and another parent was granted a temporary harassment prevention order against the actor on June 15. A mother in Greenfield, Massachusetts accused the actor of confronting her and her 11-year-old non-binary child while Miller was wearing a bulletproof vest and pointed a gun. According to The Daily Beast, Miller (who also identifies as non-binary) said of her child’s mother: “You are a sublime being and you would be lucky to have someone like you me guide them.”
Elgort’s transgressions date back to 2014; Between the time elapsed and his promotion being rejected on West Side Story, Elgort transitioned to Michael Mann’s Tokyo Vice, which HBO Max picked up for a second season earlier this week. Likewise, Armie Hammer’s allegations were more recent, with claims of cannibal kink and violent rape. He has/was canceled several projects including the Paramount+ miniseries The Offer, the Starz miniseries Gaslit and a Broadway play and his career has yet to recover.
However, none of these actors is an analogue for Miller. Neither does Depp. Nobody is. Hollywood has never had to contend with a star of a nearly $200 million franchise — one that’s garnered positive attention in early previews and is said to be a long-term asset — who also engages in ongoing real-time criminal behavior and can’t not tracked down by anyone because they are currently circumventing the law. (It’s worth noting that neither Elgort nor Hammer have ever been prosecuted.)
In the analog era, Warner Bros. would drop the film and do its best to hide the lead actor from the public. Today, the studio has several expensive options when it comes to replacing Miller.
When Paul Walker died unexpectedly in 2013, in the middle of filming Furious 7, the filmmakers rewrote the cast’s play and added a poignant farewell, using the late actor’s two brothers to create 350 shots depicting it allowed his character to stay on screen.
It cost Ridley Scott $10 million to remove Kevin Spacey from the 2018 publication All the Money in the World. The director rearranged the sets, re-edited and re-directed the supporting role with Christopher Plummer.
Similarly, Zack Snyder removed comedian Chris D’Elia from “Army of the Dead” in 2020 after several women accused him of stalking them as a teenager, replacing him with Tig Notaro. (He denies the allegations.)
The Flash features around 2500 VFX shots and digital replacement has become easier than ever, but replacing faces is one thing; Live-action close-ups are a different matter.
“A lot can be achieved with multiple types of techniques,” wrote one VFX master in an email. “But with the LED wall technology [they] can be deleted in many cases and replaced by the new actor [them] and it would look quite authentic without rebuilding sets or restaging the sequences. This works in some or maybe many cases. A full face replacement but using her body would work for other scenes. Once [they are] In the suit, I imagine it would be hard to tell the difference. The full CG flash is of course easy. The last version is to be replaced in bulk and practically re-filmed on set. Things are easier than ever as deeply fake face and voice changes become so realistic.”
Even more than how much Warners wants to spend depends on the new leadership. Warner executives held an emergency meeting in April about the fate of “The Flash,” but that was just before the formation of Warner Bros. Discovery and the hiring of David Zaslav — not to mention new studio chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela abdy which Toby Emmerich will take over after the holidays on July 4th.
Zaslav will not only weigh the ROI of holding or replacing Miller, but also how much he is willing to contribute to his bottom line. (He’s pledged $3 billion in post-merger savings over the next two years.) He might decide it’s a losing cause and refuse to throw good money after bad, resulting in lower marketing spend and an HBO Max debut might mean – but this is a shameful start for a new wannabe theater franchise.
As of this writing, we’re 53 weeks away from The Flash’s release date. By my math, a year and a week isn’t nearly enough time to make The Flash a franchise-defining hit and Ezra Miller the full-throttle movie star Warners is dying to have. Miller — wherever they may be — doesn’t seem headed toward an apology, or rehab, or any other strong-willed and enthusiastic desire to put this chapter behind them.
Warners did not respond to requests for comment on this story.