The untold truth of the Justice League movie

Long before there was a DC film universe, Warner Bros. execs dreamed of a Justice League movie. In fact, plans to bring the original super friends to a theater near you have been in various stages of development for more than a decade—and the project has taken far more than its share of twists and turns along the way. From a derailed production to problematic facial hair, here's the untold story of Justice League.

Ben Affleck could've directed

For a brief window of time, Ben Affleck was among the frontrunners for directing the Justice League movie we now know as a Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon production. Had this come to fruition, one can only imagine how drastically different the movie might have turned out—Affleck's history of award-winning films like Gone Baby GoneThe Town, and Argo serve as perfect examples of his ability to write, direct, and star in acclaimed hits. Given the bumpy road the DCEU has faced with critics thus far, it isn't hard to understand why the idea of an Affleck-helmed Justice League might be appealing, but it just wasn't to be.

Zack Snyder chose Joss Whedon to take over

Just as he'd done with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder was supposed to direct Justice League. But when a personal tragedy forced him to step away from the project, one friend was ready to step in and save the day: Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon. With a little convincing from his buddy Zack, Whedon took the reins and saddled up to handle his third massive superhero team-up flick within the past five years. Bringing his flair for blockbuster filmmaking to the set of Justice League, Whedon set forth to finish what Snyder started—putting himself in competition with Marvel, where the original Avengers helped make him a household name. It seems Whedon has no allegiance to either DC or Marvel—he just wants to make great films for every comic book fan.

Joss Whedon has a writer's credit

When Joss Whedon locked himself in as director numero deux, he didn't take the job lightly. Originally his role description was reportedly just to come in and make some light changes, handle some small pick-up shots, and maybe add one or two jokes. Eventually, however, the truth came out: Whedon went to town on Snyder's cut, so much so that he earned himself a writer's credit on the film. It takes a 33-percent-plus contribution to a screenplay to gain a writing credit, which means that at the very least, over one-third of the movie is now Whedon's creation.

Reshoots put the movie over budget

With great rewrites come great responsibility—and a bigger budget. After reshoots that were scheduled to accommodate the studio's notes and Whedon's retooled script, the end result was a $25 million addition to Justice League's already supersized budget. This included all the actors carving out an extra two months on the set.

While all of this will hopefully lead to a better movie, one can't help but do a double take. On one hand, it definitely suggests the studio might have had a lack of faith in the previous cut. But on the other, it proves that Warner Bros. really isn't kidding around when it comes to making this the best movie it can be—and something that's hopefully better received than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Flight of the super-mustache

Speaking of big money and big time being used on reshoots, a lot of those resources were spent on CGI to erase the mustache Henry Cavill had to grow for his role in Mission: Impossible 6. When Justice League called the cast back for reshoots, he was already in the midst of M:I6, and although producers managed to finagle a blockbuster timesharing deal, there was one thing they couldn't get around—the facial hair Cavill's character had to have on his upper lip. It was a super silly situation that spawned a thousand comedic memes, but no matter how much fans might have liked to have seen Superman sporting a 'stache that Ben Affleck jokingly compared to a porn actor's, the Man of Steel had to stay clean-shaven, no matter the cost.

Justice League's humor is due to Batman v Superman's reception

Those who've complained about the dark tone of DC's movies can take heart—Justice League is reportedly taking a pronounced comedy slant, a change in direction that started after Batman v Superman took a critical pounding. As Zack Snyder put it, "because of what fans have said and how the movie was received by some … we have put the screws to what we thought the tone would be." 

Whatever comedic tone Snyder introduced during his time on the project, it seems likely that it only grew more pronounced once Whedon stepped in—as fans of his Marvel work are well aware, Whedon's superhero scripts tend to feature almost as many one-liners as set pieces. Evidence of the change is visible in the Justice League trailers, which feature numerous jokes—a far cry from Batman v Superman's grim tone.

George Miller had a different Justice League movie ready to go

George Miller, the mastermind behind the Mad Max franchise, had a Justice League movie ready to go long before Whedon or Snyder came along. With Armie Hammer set to play Batman and DJ Cotrona ready to don Superman's spandex, the film would've sported a very different look than Warner Bros.' current take on the Justice League. The script, which had already been completed, was receiving internal praise from studio execs for being a fun, breezy read, and if it had made its 2009 release date, it would have beaten Marvel's Avengers to theaters by several years, potentially leveling the MCU-dominated playing field.

Unfortunately, things were neither fun nor breezy for the project in real life. Titled Justice League Mortal, the film was beset by a slew of problems at the worst moments—first, a writer's strike prevented rewrites on the script, forcing a delay, and then budget woes caused an argument over where production would be located, with Miller eager to film in Australia but the studio unwilling to stay after the loss of a hefty tax credit. Ultimately, Warners pulled the plug and went back to the drawing board, opting to launch their DC cinematic universe with 2013's Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill as Superman.

Zack Snyder already left the Justice League project once before

For a guy who directs his movies with such a serious, gritty slant, one might be surprised to find out just how good Zack Snyder's sense of humor is. After Batman v Superman's release, Warner Bros. started gearing up for pre-production on Justice League in April 2016—and the studio issued a fake statement publicly handing over directorial duties to George Miller, the man previously slated to handle their superhero team-up flick almost a decade prior. That stunt was then followed up by some (now deleted) tweets which saw Snyder lashing out at fans and quitting the Justice League project. All of this was, of course, a killer April Fool's Day joke—yet a year later, around the same time of the year, Snyder really did leave the project, under far less humorous circumstances. In retrospect, it's super eerie.

Justice League was going to be a two-parter

When Warner Bros. initially unveiled its massive slate of DC movies, there were two Justice League movies on the docket—one slated for 2017, and a sequel already lined up for two years later. As the DC Extended Universe has endured its growing pains, however, with various projects suffering creative turnover and release delays, the studio has changed its approach, opting instead to take it movie by movie. Will we still end up getting a Justice League sequel? It certainly seems likely, but if it happens, it looks like it'll happen the old-fashioned way—with an announcement issued after the studio counts its cash.

It might be Ben Affleck's last go around as Batman

He's denied it repeatedly, but Ben Affleck has persistently been rumored to be looking to jump ship from the DCEU. Despite his protests, it isn't hard to see why he might want out—Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice took a critical drubbing, Justice League has had a pretty bumpy road to theaters, and then there's his solo Batman movie, which he was slated to write, direct, and star in before ultimately vacating the director's chair. Though he's still on board to play the Dark Knight in The Batman, there's no release date on the project, and the rumors suggesting he's trying to exit his contract have only intensified.

Will Affleck pull off a Batman-style disappearing act in real life, creeping into the shadows never to be seen again by the execs at WB? Only time will tell. For now, he claims he's happy to play the caped crusader. We'll see how long that lasts.