After playing the DC superhero Cyborg in Batman v Superman and Justice League, Ray Fisher has spoken several times about trouble behind the scenes—particularly involving director Joss Whedon. Back in July, he accused Whedon of “gross” and “abusive” behavior during reshoots, and he’s commented in more general terms about racist discrimination in Hollywood. Now Warner Bros. has launched an investigation into Whedon’s conduct, but Fisher says the studio is trying to discredit him “to continue protecting those in power.”
Over the years, there have been various reports and rumors about Whedon’s behavior, including his ex-wife alleging psychological abuse and affairs with young actresses on Whedon’s TV shows, along with Whedon’s mistreatment of actress Charisma Carpenter when she was pregnant and starring on Angel. Actor James Marsters also spoke about a physical altercation where Whedon was angered by the popularity of Marsters’ character Spike in Buffy. And two of Buffy’s lead stunt performers/coordinators recently described Whedon as an “egomaniac,” saying they left the show due to personal tensions. However, Fisher is the first person to publicly lodge a formal complaint connected to one of Whedon’s high-profile projects.
Fisher also accused producers Jon Berg and Geoff Johns (a pair of powerful DC/Warner Bros. insiders) of enabling Whedon’s alleged misconduct, saying Johns made a “thinly veiled threat” to his career when Fisher tried to report Whedon through official channels. This would have been three or four years ago, when Justice League was still filming. Fisher also tweeted last week that DC Films president Walter Hamada was trying to “throw Whedon and Berg under the bus” to protect Johns, one of the top creators/executives behind the DC franchise. Johns co-wrote the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 and produced numerous DC adaptations alongside Berg.
In response to this tweet, Warner Bros. released a statement saying Fisher had failed to cooperate with the investigation: “At no time did Mr. Hamada ever ‘throw anyone under the bus,’ as Mr. Fisher has falsely claimed, or render any judgments about the Justice League production, in which Mr. Hamada had no involvement since filming occurred.” The studio also said that Fisher “declined to speak to the investigator.” Overall, the full statement paints a picture of Hamada patiently listening to an overly demanding actor with little experience in the studio filmmaking process.
Fisher then responded, tweeting that Warner Bros. was trying to discredit him and that he had spoken to the misconduct investigator … until he realized there was a second, un-announced person on the line. He shared a screencap of what he says was an email to his team, requesting a representative to join him on the next call with the investigator. This would be a perfectly reasonable request for an actor involved in a legal investigation at a powerful Hollywood studio.
Since then, Fisher also tweeted that he wanted “a fair and protected process for all witnesses,” and retweeted a comment about former Warner Bros. chairman Kevin Tsujihara, who was recently involved in a scandal where he offered roles to a young actress in exchange for sex.
The Fisher/Warner Bros. dispute is unusual for a number of reasons. First, it’s very public. Fisher—not necessarily a famous actor—is using social media for leverage in a disagreement that’s probably already harmed his career. Warner Bros. first announced him in the role of Cyborg in 2014, followed by a cameo in 2016’s Batman v Superman and a lead role in Justice League (2017). But his role in Justice League was forgettable for casual viewers and widely criticized by fans, partly for Cyborg’s tokenistic depiction as the only Black hero on the Justice League team. A lot of his scenes were cut by Whedon, although Cyborg will receive a much bigger role in Zack Snyder’s cut next year. Following these two movies (which came with the usual blockbuster obligations of bulking up for filming and going on an extensive press tour), Fisher was contracted to star in a Cyborg spinoff. But this film was subsequently canceled during Warner Bros.’ reshuffle of the DC franchise. Since then he’s only booked one other role: a supporting part in season 2 of True Detective.
Meanwhile, Justice League‘s other stars all have their own spinoffs already and/or thriving Hollywood careers. None of them have spoken out about the Whedon/Fisher dispute, which is currently a matter of Fisher’s word against the studio.
Whedon and Johns haven’t commented publicly about the allegations, while Jon Berg issued a blanket denial of any misconduct, saying he only recalled Fisher complaining about his character having to say “Booyah,” Cyborg’s catchphrase. This itself is a complicated issue, because while that is Cyborg’s catchphrase, it also played into some people’s reception of the character as a shallow token role. Zack Snyder says he won’t include the line in his new cut of the movie.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fisher is currently “deep in negotiations” to play Cyborg in Ezra Miller’s upcoming Flash movie, further complicating this whole scenario.
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