The fate of Warner Bros.’ The lightning hanging in the balance as actor Ezra Miller continues to make headlines for their controversial behavior and various arrests. An outright shelving of the film is not off the table, although it would be a last resort.
Warners – and its new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery – had hoped to avoid the firing line because its big-budget DC superhero tentpole isn’t scheduled to hit theaters until June 23, 2023. But the pressure is mounting by the day.
On Monday, the actor was charged with aggravated burglary, and on Wednesday Rolling stones reported that the Vermont Children’s Department is trying to locate a mother and three children who allegedly lived on Miller’s farm in the state.
A source with knowledge of the situation says the studio appears to be preparing for three possible scenarios.
First, Warners has received indications that the 29-year-old Miller, whose mother has been accompanying the actor in recent days, will seek professional help after returning home to their farm in Vermont after being away. If that help happens, Miller, who goes by they/them pronouns, could give an interview at some point explaining their erratic behavior over the past few years. The actor could then do limited press for The lightningand the film would open in theaters as scheduled.
The second scenario: Even if Miller doesn’t reach out for help, Warners can still release the film. But don’t expect Miller to play a prominent role in terms of marketing and publicity. Miller would also not be The Flash going forward, as the role would be recast in future projects.
The third case: Things go from bad to worse, where the situation with Miller worsens. This would cause Warners to kill the film outright as it could not be remade with a different actor. Miller plays several characters and is in almost every scene. Scrapping a $200 million film would be an unprecedented move.
All this comes amid change at Warners. Earlier this month, the newly minted Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Hollywood when he put on the shelf Batgirl, a $90 million movie made for HBO Max. In contrast to The lightning, there was no individual controversy involved; rather, Zaslav chose to take a tax write-off on the project and pivot away from making streaming films for DC.
Miller was cast as The Flash in 2014, the same year as Solo The lightning the film was announced. The development process has been long, with several directors coming and going over the years until That filmmaker Andy Muschietti finally got his start on the project. The film also stars Michael Keaton, back as Batman for the first time in 30 years, and Ben Affleck as a different version of Batman.
Miller began their time as The Flash with cameos in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squadboth released in 2016 before starring in Justice League a year later.
The lightning is a key film for Warners as it is expected to chart a new course for the DC Extended Universe. The film has tested well, although Miller’s legal troubles continue to mount.
Word came earlier this week that they have been charged with aggravated burglary for allegedly stealing bottles of alcohol from a Vermont home. According to a police report posted online, Vermont State Police were notified on May 1 of a potential burglary when residents on County Road in Stamford, Vermont reported that “several bottles of alcohol were taken from inside the residence while the home owners were not present .” After an investigation that included taking statements and reviewing surveillance video, police found probable cause to charge Miller.
The latest charge comes after Miller was arrested in April in Hawaii and charged with suspicion of second-degree assault, according to the Hawaii Island Police Department. The incident allegedly occurred when Miller attended a gathering at a private residence and “became angry after being asked to leave and reportedly threw a chair and struck a 26-year-old woman in the forehead,” according to police.
It came on the heels of an arrest in March on charges of disorderly conduct and harassment following an incident at a karaoke bar in Hilo, Hawaii.
At least one project has already distanced itself from Miller. On Tuesday, Salvador Dali Biopic Daliland omitted Miller from his press release announcing his debut at the Toronto Film Festival. The actor plays a young version of the artist in the project, which stars Ben Kingsley as an older version.
Despite the arrests and headlines about Miller’s alleged behavior, Warner Bros. Discovery boss Zaslav said last week that the studio is committed to theatrical releases for a number of DC films, including The lightning.
“We’ve seen them. We think they’re great, and we think we can make them even better,” Zaslav said of DC’s upcoming slate, including The lightning.
CAA, which represents Miller, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.