The tumultuous production of 2017's Justice League has been well-documented in the past years, but this was further amplified due to the recent comments of Cyborg actor Ray Fisher against Joss Whedon.
Fisher previously called out Whedon regarding his "abusive and toxic" behavior from the reshoots of Justice League several years ago. From that point on, Fisher hasn't stopped providing more evidence about the contentious topic, bringing more evidence to support his claims while also releasing scathing remarks towards former DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns.
Warner Bros. stepped in by providing a statement about the incident, with the studio revealing that Fisher was "uncooperative" during the incident. However, the DCEU actor fired back by calling out the studio's statement, describing it as a "desperate and scattershot" attempt to discredit him. Ever since the statement from Warner Bros., other DCEU actors such as Jason Momoa and Kiersey Clemons have shown their support for Fisher.
Now, an in-depth look at how it all came together was shared by Fisher in a recent interview.
While speaking with Forbes, Cyborg actor Ray Fisher once again opened up about the abusive set environment of 2017's Justice League under the helm of Joss Whedon. Fisher began by explaining his earlier decision of retracting his praise of Whedon:
“For one thing, the cast and crew were told that Zack had handpicked Joss to finish the film for him. I didn’t find out until after the reshoots that that was a complete lie. I heard whispers and rumblings of things being off behind the scenes, but nothing concrete until much later. They had us go out to San Diego Comic-Con in 2017 and say Zack picked Joss and that Joss was a great guy. I still have the email with those talking points..”
Then, Fisher explained what prompted him to take a public stand, with him sharing a moment where Whedon changed the complexion of an actor of color during post-production:
“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. Man, with everything 2020’s been, that was the tipping point for me.”
The DCEU actor reflected on Zack's decision to step away from Justice League, admitting that they "wanted to give him space" while also mentioning that the two of them didn't speak "for about a year after he left:"
“You’ve got to understand, Zack stepped away to be with his family, and we wanted to give him space to do that. He and I didn’t speak for about a year after he left.”
Fisher went into detail on how abusive and unprofessional the atmosphere was during the reshoots of Justice League under Whedon:
“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. Decision-makers that participated in those racist conversations were Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, and current Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich. 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. A lot of what these guys were doing was in an effort to prevent themselves from being fired during AT&T’s merger with Time Warner. I plan getting much more specific about each of these guys after the investigation is over—this interview is just the abridged version."
The actor admitted that he didn't become aware of the aforementioned racist conversations "until after he started speaking out." In addition, Fisher firmly stated that he reported everything to Warner Bros. back in July:
“These conversations were reported to me by people in the room. And I wasn’t made aware until AFTER I had already spoken out about Joss Whedon. None of what I’m sharing in this interview is news to Warner Bros. HR, nor should it be news to WarnerMedia. I reported almost everything to them back in July—including Emmerich’s involvement. The fact that I’m having to advocate for myself in this way is equal parts freeing and frustrating.”
It was also pointed out in the report that multiple actors of color were "completely removed or heavily-reduced" in Justice League, with the likes of Zheng Kai (Ryan Choi), Kiersey Clemons (Iris West), Karen Byson (Cyborg's mother Ellinore) all being cut from the theatrical version of the film.
Due to the changes, Fisher "suspected that race" served as the "determining factor" for the way that things went down:
“I always suspected that race was a determining factor for the way that things went down, but it wasn’t until this past summer that I was able to prove it."
Fisher expressed his disappointment about the abusive and unprofessional atmosphere during the reshoots, using the words "coercion" and "unsafe" while describing work conditions under Whedon:
“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."
In conjunction with that, Fisher shared more details about the role of both Geoff Johns and Whedon in the abusive environment that transpired on set:
“Geoff Johns made a veiled threat to my career during the LA reshoots of Justice League. Multiple sources have informed me, that Joss threatened the career of another person associated with the production. Toby was made aware and tried to cover for Whedon rather than deal with the abuse. That situation had to be escalated to Tsujihara to get any results.”
Lastly, Fisher assured everyone that his claims are credible, and the issues mentioned are not just from him, but from "many people across various departments" of Warner Bros:
“These things affected many people across various departments. Warner Bros. Pictures has tried to make it seem as if these issues are mine and mine alone. I’ve brought them a number of witnesses that have been avoided and in some cases ghosted during the investigation process. Warner Bros. knows full well my claims are credible. They’re just scrambling.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
While Zack Snyder's Justice League is already gearing up for its own set of reshoots, it appears that the other side of that coin in the form of the issue surrounding 2017's Justice League is still far from over. At this point, the back and forth between Fisher and Warner Bros. is pretty much known by many, but this detailed account of how the working environment was during reshoots adds further intrigue to the already-messy situation.
Fisher served as a key part of the discussion surrounding the much-talked-about reshoots of Justice League, and his latest explanation should provide more clues about what happened. Fisher's claim about Whedon's action of changing the complexion of an actor of color during post-production is perhaps the biggest takeaway from his latest accusation. Many would agree that this is a shocking reveal, and it wouldn't be surprising that this was the "tipping point" for Fisher to finally make a public stand.
At face value, Fisher's claim about the situation has been consistent, even garnering support not just from DCEU actors but as well as the majority of the general public. Fisher even openly stated that the interview is just the "abridged version," seemingly hinting that he still has a lot of cards to bring out to further support his claims.
In a way, this is a good thing, and it ultimately worked by leading Warner Bros. to make a statement from the issue instead of being ignored. The actor did state that he reported everything to them back in July, but it seems that no concrete action from the studio further prompted Fisher to take his concern into social media.
Whether or not Fisher's claims are true, it's still concerning that there are still unjust instances of racial discrimination as well as threats confined within a major production. This effectively paints a picture of an unsafe work condition that could have a lasting effect on the cast and crew.
It may take a while for this issue to be resolved, but this back and forth could potentially serve as a beacon for those who are scared to speak up about toxic working environments. In Fisher's own words, accountability must be the utmost priority on top of the entertainment that blockbuster movies are giving to the general audience.