There must have been a time when Warner Bros thought Ezra Miller was the answer to their PR prayers. The leading lady of her upcoming comic book blockbuster, The Flash, wasn’t an off-the-shelf Marvel pin-up, but a carefree indie darling whose appeal to Gen Z seemed watertight. After coming out as non-binary in 2018, Miller was hailed on Time magazine’s first Next list by celebrities who “create the future” and enthusiastically spoke about favorite pronouns – she/them, it/her, and ze/zir , to ask for the last time – in magazine interviews.
However, this very modern movie star has become a whole new breed of headache. In the past three months, Miller has been arrested twice, once for second-degree assault on a 26-year-old woman, and has also been the subject of three separate court orders, two of which related to her alleged inappropriate behavior with underage girls. One of those girls, now 18 and believed to be dating Miller, has since defended the actor on Instagram, calling the order, which was filed by her parents, “transphobic.” Miller’s own response, meanwhile, was limited to a few cryptic and possibly police-baiting posts on a verified but now deactivated Instagram account.
On one level, this type of behavior is a grim industry staple. Once the films opened, they were almost scuttled by a series of high-profile scandals, including the Fatty Arbuckle affair, which saw the silent comedy icon stand trial three times for raping and manslaughtering 26-year-old aspiring actress Virginia Rappe. But back then, studios were often able to absorb the misdeeds of their high-profile employees. For fixers like the notorious Eddie Mannix, whose four decades as the shadowy “general manager” of MGM became the stuff of noir legends, paying call girls, covering up crimes and disappearing victims were all part of the job.
But as studios are now discovering, a new generation of stars — armed with smartphones and an unassailable sense of entitlement — is essentially unstoppable. And thanks to social media’s long memory and never-ending appetite for retaliatory justice, all it takes is a crazy 2 am tweet or an incriminating video going viral to jeopardize the fate of a $200 million blockbuster.
Take Letitia Wright, the gifted 28-year-old aspiring English actress who was star-chosen by Marvel in 2016. Wright’s scintillating performance as the sister of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa in the billionaire Black Panther made her character, Shuri, a fan favorite: After Boseman’s death from cancer in 2020, her character was widely expected to take on the role of Black Panther. However, a few months before filming on the sequel began, Wright shared a video on Twitter speculating that coronavirus vaccines could induce the growth of extra limbs, and then defended the post by saying it was important “to ask questions “. The reputational damage was so severe that Wright separated from her US management.
Wright also recently appeared in Disney’s adaptation of Death on the Nile, whose cast appeared to be vying to outdo each other in the two-year gap between filming and release, prolonged by Covid. Wright’s views have been eclipsed by those of Russell Brand, who resurrected himself as a YouTube conspirator during the pandemic. Then there was Armie Hammer, who faced a rape lawsuit in early 2021 — though no lawsuit or charges were ever filed. Despite this, Hammer was sufficiently depraved to be all but erased from the film’s promotional campaign.
In their fight against this new strain of acting toxicity, reshoots are the best strategy the studios have come up with: look at Warner Bros’ decision (poor things again) to watch Johnny Depp two months after Mads Mikkelsen began filming Fantastic Beasts replace 3, following the former’s disastrous libel trial in the High Court.
The procedure was introduced by Ridley Scott in 2017 after his thriller All the Money in the World was unpublished due to the downfall of Kevin Spacey. Scott simply cut Spacey’s scenes, recast Christopher Plummer, and filled in the missing footage. Similarly, the BBC cut Ed Westwick from an Agatha Christie adaptation in 2018 following allegations of rape and sexual assault. He vehemently denied the allegations and the charges were later dropped.
Of course, such procedures are beyond the budget. In the blockbuster realm, such costs could be catastrophic. It is also said that Warner Bros implied that The Flash was unrotatable since Miller plays two versions of the titular character in scenes that have already been stitched together with very expensive visual effects.
Then there’s the problem that Miller’s whereabouts are currently unknown – and the studio is probably praying it stays that way until the film comes out, they hope.