Why Ezra Miller isn’t being replaced in DC’s The Flash


Why Ezra Miller isn't being replaced in DC's The Flash

Warner Bros. has high hopes for The Flash.

The upcoming comic-book adventure, which wrapped up production in 2021 and is set to hit theaters in 2023, was exceptionally well-received in early test screenings, according to sources close to the film. Given DC Films’ conflicting track record of marketing hit commercials, the initial assumption that The Flash could be a crowd-pleaser is not just a relief, but a necessity for box-office success.

And at a time when superhero adaptations are populated largely by straight actors, nonbinary and queer starring Ezra Miller, who stars in The Flash, feels like a refreshingly progressive choice to make a big summer movie for all viewers to direct.

There’s just one glaring problem: Miller can’t seem to stay out of trouble. In the past few months, the actor has been arrested or taken into custody several times for harassment, disorderly conduct and a traffic violation. Around the same time, two Hawaii residents filed a restraining order against Miller after they allegedly broke into the couple’s bedroom and attempted to steal their passports and wallets. Although the restraining order was later lifted, her continued behavior has raised serious concerns about the people who put her at risk, as well as about Miller’s own health and well-being. These incidents came almost two years after footage surfaced of Miller appearing to choke a woman outside a bar in Iceland. It’s hardly the kind of attention a studio would want for the star of a $200 million budget.

These eyebrow-raising events have fueled speculation about Warner Bros. Plans for the blockbuster hopeful that will serve as the first solo film for Barry Allen aka Scarlet Speedster aka Flash. Would the studio actually replace Miller with another actor? Will it throw the film to HBO Max to limit potentially negative fanfare that might accompany a theatrical release? Or will Warner Bros. keep the film in theaters as planned on June 23, 2023?

Barring any unforeseen developments, sources say Warners is racing ahead with intent on giving the superhero film the full blockbuster treatment. The Flash just cost too much money to scrap the project entirely, and it likely won’t generate the revenue needed to turn a profit without playing in theaters. For option three to materialize without triggering a huge backlash, Miller would need to be at his best. And that’s a big question, because so far Miller has been dogged by controversy after controversy, leaving staff concerned for the actor’s well-being.

To make matters worse, news broke Wednesday that veteran film executives Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy are replacing Toby Emmerich as chairs of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group. Every change of leadership in a studio shakes the previous regime’s slate; With Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslov keeping a firm grip on the company’s cost controls, marketing spend for a movie as big as The Flash remains an issue.

“Warner Bros. could go a myriad of directions,” says Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “Making the right choice is paramount to DC’s future.”

With the controversy involving Miller and not the film itself, some DC fans wondered if Grant Gustin, who plays the title character in the ongoing and unrelated CW series The Flash, would be recast in the theatrical version. It’s a rare practice, seen in the past with Christopher Plummer (replacing Kevin Spacey) in 2017’s All The Money In The World and Mads Mikkelsen (who played Johnny Depp as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in All The Money In The World). 2022, applied sparingly (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore). However, in the case of All The Money In The World, Spacey only had a supporting role, and in Fantastic Beasts 3 Depp had only shot one sequence, so Mikkelsen didn’t have to replicate much material.

As for The Flash, insiders say it wouldn’t be possible to replace Miller without reshooting the entire film. They’re found in almost every scene, and there’s not enough digital technology to configure that magic without going back from the start. And rebooting the entire film isn’t a realistic proposition for any film — let alone one that wrapped production months ago and has already cost hundreds of millions.

In the past, actors who found themselves in hot water but didn’t get scratched off the call log were effectively hidden on press trips in hopes the general public wouldn’t notice their absence. Recently, Ansel Elgort, who played Tony in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake, took that path after a 2020 sexual assault charge was filed against the actor in “The Nile” and faced allegations after filming wrapped convicted of sexual abuse. For West Side Story, Elgort’s co-stars Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno successfully steered the film’s press tour. With Death on the Nile, it felt like Hammer (who didn’t do any press for the ensemble-heavy film) wasn’t well known enough to let people know about the allegations.

Sources close to The Flash believe Miller is similarly under the radar, despite credits like the film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League and three “Fantastic Beasts” sequels. Miller’s arrest streak had already forced Warner Bros. to downplay the actor’s involvement in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which hit theaters in April.

But much like Hammer did in Death on the Nile, Miller played one of several main characters in the Harry Potter spinoff, meaning the promotional efforts didn’t land squarely on her shoulders. The same cannot be said about The Flash. Sure, the film also features big names like Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton. But a studio can’t effectively promote a big-budget blockbuster without the star of the film.

However, analysts have pointed out that when it comes to comic book heroes, the character itself is often a bigger star than the actor wearing the Lycra suit.

“The thing about superheroes is…it doesn’t matter who’s under the mask,” says Bock. “You can plug different actors into those roles and play them.” Though Miller’s take on the character has appeared in several DC mashups like Justice League, Bock argues that they’re not “the face of The Flash” just yet. In other words, “Ezra isn’t Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.”

Even before Miller made headlines for the wrong reasons, “The Flash” was plagued by a long pregnancy and multiple starts and stops. Since Miller was cast in 2014, several directors including Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Famuyiwa and the duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have been involved with the production and then left the production due to creative differences. “It” filmmaker Andy Muschietti came on board in 2019 and completed the job.

This behind-the-scenes headache, as well as the pandemic, led to several delays in release dates. But the studio can’t delay “The Flash” indefinitely. The new mid-2023 calendar slot should theoretically give Warner Bros. enough time to determine the best course of action.

From the studio’s perspective, The Flash is more than your average superhero origin story. The film, which begins with Barry Allen going back in time to prevent his mother’s murder, opens up the DC Multiverse and paves the way for alternate reality Batmans (namely, Keaton and Affleck) to team up with Miller’s spandex -overlapping clothed hero. Just think of the potential sequels, spin-offs and team-ups that could inspire you.

The Flash gives Warners another viable contender in its quest to keep pace with Disney’s commercially unrivaled Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC has several items planned for 2022 and beyond, including Shazam: Fury of the Gods, Aquaman 2, and DC League of Super-Pets. But crossover events like The Flash have become particularly exciting for fans, particularly after 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse successfully introduced the concept of the multiverse to mainstream audiences – and blockbuster ticket sales for Spider -Man” from 2021 : No Way Home” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” from 2022 confirmed that moviegoers really, Yes, really like the concept.

There’s a timeline where Miller actually pulls their acts together and “The Flash” can begin seamlessly while charming critics and fans alike. While Miller’s behavior could certainly compel Warners to make The Flash a one-off project, it’s not meant to be a one-off adventure. Despite all of this, Warner Bros. remains excited about The Flash and believes the film is one of DC’s strongest theatrical achievements.

Meanwhile, the actor tasked with bringing Flash to life on the big screen could jeopardize the franchise’s future and the studio’s willingness to jump into the Ezra Miller deal. But there’s reason to believe the Flash can keep running even if Miller has to hang up his shoes.

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