‘Wonder Woman’: The Story Behind Michelle MacLaren’s Exit

wonder woman movie director
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

While Warner Bros. made a swift decision this week to hire Patty Jenkins as its new “Wonder Woman” director, industry insiders are still chattering about why original helmer Michelle MacLaren suddenly vanished from the project.

The studio is declining to elaborate on the cliched “creative differences” joint statement that was issued when the two parted ways. But, according to multiple sources close to the project, the director’s vision for the movie was vastly different from the studio’s view. MacLaren envisioned the DC Comics-based “Wonder Woman” movie as an epic origin tale in the vein of “Braveheart,” whereas Warner wanted a more character-driven story that was less heavy on action.

Warner executives, these insiders said, became increasingly concerned about MacLaren directing a large-scale, action-packed production when her experience was limited to the small screen, where she made her name directing episodes of “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.”

The studio is expected to stick with a more character-driven movie with Jenkins on board. Also an experienced TV director of shows including “The Killing,” she cut her teeth on the indie feature “Monster.”

MacLaren was also unaccustomed to the laborious development process associated with making movies. One source described that process as “tortuous” when it came to the pre-production of “Wonder Woman.” After Jason Fuchs delivered his script, the studio put as many as five other writers on the project to work up various scripts while executives simultaneously tested story concepts. “They didn’t like MacLaren’s test,” said one studio executive. MacLaren’s rep declined comment.

One of the reasons that Warner acted so quickly in picking a replacement for MacLaren was to make sure the studio stayed on track for the film’s planned fall start date and 2017 release.

The studio will now look to get Jenkins up to speed quickly and is already preparing to find the male lead and love interest for “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot. Test offers for a handful of actors are expected in the next week.

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  1. There is definately a lot to find out about this topic. I love
    all the points you’ve made.

  2. Kieran Lee says:

    Pure sexism – Alan Taylor also cut his teeth on Game of Thrones etc and got given Thor and Terminator

    • fistoflegend says:

      It does not sound like sexism to me but,rather these two groups did not get together before the film and have an agreement on the direction of the film before wasting any time.Also any time there is a disagreement with a female involved does not automatically mean there is sexism involved. You have a number of male directors that have been in conflict with movie studious.On problem that I see is that these studious are going to these first time directors instead of maybe letting them study under an director before handing them a big budget production.

  3. paul says:

    maybe the directors should first read the comics and talk to fans and even stan lee before deciding I’m going to rewrite the character. So many have been failures lone ranger was an idiot, green hornet was such a pathetic idiot I wanted to see him loose, green lantern borderline annoying, and don’t get me start on what they did to blood rayne. We want the character we know not a comedy not a love story wonder woman comes from a population of bad ass warriors she’s looking to kick butt not kiss it. Lets get the director of arrow that individual knows bad ass.

    • Alan says:

      Why the hell would DC comics talk to Stan Lee about making a freakin movie?! Hell even Marvel comics dont go to Stan Lee for advice on their movies! Stupid!

  4. Just don’t screw it up.
    Make her a hero, not a damsel. Make her badass but relate-able. And does she really have to have a love interest? *sigh*

  5. baywolfe says:

    I was never up for “Wonder Woman – Warrior Princess” anyway. Bring back the Red, Blue, and Gold and have her go out and kick some ass. Maybe, in the Justice League, first, then in her own movie.

  6. Domino Palm says:

    A cadre of female Kurdish soldiers is taking the fight to ISIS. Maybe, if the male-driven media reported more on women at war, the idea of a “brave-hearted” Wonder Woman wouldn’t seem so out-of-reach for a male-driven studio like Warner Brothers.

  7. It needs a lot of action. Thats why I watched XMen. By the Way I loved BRAVEHEART! and pssttt i’m a woman!

  8. Does Wonder Woman even need a love interest? Can’t a female character stand on her own merits without a man? Would it not be more interesting to see this movie break the mould if it has any chance of succeeding?
    Maybe, just maybe, Michelle MacLaren was on the right track and knew how to make this thing work better than Warner do.

    • Ha says:

      What’s up with this idea that WW can’t still be her own character even if she loves someone? Do women not fall in love anymore?
      Steve Trevor’s been around since the beginning and more often than *she* ends up having to carry *him* because he’s a military pilot/ARGUS agent and oh yeah SHE’S SUPERHUMAN.

      Likewise he often learns a lot from her more than she’s supposed to be learning from him.

    • charlie says:

      You do realize that ALL Male Superheroes have a love interest? That’s not sexist.

    • ukiyaseed555 says:

      But Wonder Woman has a love interest and from time to time, serves as her damsel in distress.

  9. Atomic Fury says:

    I’ve never – in my 55 years of life – had anything against a female superhero even though my boyhood favorites were mainly Batman, Thor, Iron Man and Spiderman. But I think DC/Warner Brothers is going about this all wrong no matter who holds the Director’s gig.

    What Marvel did so well was to establish the superhero genre in movies as history had done in television and comic books – with the most popular superheroes who all happen to be male. Their female counterparts have come along in mid-stride (so to say) to enhance the plot. We don’t expect a Black Widow feature, after all she was introduced in Iron Man 2. It went similarly for Bat Girl in both the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan visions of Batman.

    The beautiful and buxomy Lynda Carter made the television Wonder Woman appealing. I doubt the demographic info at that time had the female viewership outnumbering the male viewership. Like women’s professional soccer has experienced, superhero movies with a female lead just don’t sell well enough to capture the attention that Thor or Batman can.

    I wish it were otherwise. I always liked Sif as a character in support of Thor, Catwoman as a formidable adversary to Batman and similarly, Xena as the warrior princess in her television series. Despite the call for female leads in the genre, the facts point to a predictable failure for this Wonder Woman film. I hope to be proven wrong. I mean, if the trend is ever going to change, it has to happen at some point.

    • D.J.KEYS says:

      simply put…..CLUSTER F===—-K

      • paul says:

        I was a kid in the 70’s and if I had a choice between watching adam west in tights playing a pathetic batman or lynda carter kicking butt in a leotard as wonder woman it was a no brainer. Don’t know much about gal gadot, attractive but have to agree with everyone else not right for the part then again I said the same thing about micheal keaton when I heard he was batman. I do wonder what happened with their first choice adrianne palicki who I’ve got to see in action as bobbi in agents of shield.

  10. holvie says:

    lol it doesn’t matter who they get to do this; this movie will be a colossal failure no matter who you have direct it. i mean, gal gadot as wonder woman? LOL! LOL LOL LOL! a nobody who can’t act has to play this role that no one wanted to see in the first place. a female comic book film – i smell the stench of failure on it from the start! and bringing the failure that is patty jenkins – dumb move on your part, DC. marvel was smart to cut this whiny b***h loose, and you bring her on board? do you WANT your movie to fail badly? you must if you want this chick. hahaha!

  11. Steve Mahnn says:

    They lost the Director with the right vision for the movie and they keep the awful Gal Gadot.
    They fired the wrong person.

  12. DorothyParkerlite says:

    Less action for an action movie… OK, so what’s she going to do? Decide which outfit to wear on her date with Steve Trevor?! Maybe hang up the lasso and be a kindergarten teacher?! She’s a fucking warrior, born and bred. What part of that does WB not understand? Team MacLaren, all the way.

  13. I bet serious money that if MacLaren wanted a character driven story about WW and WB wanted some big spralling epic people would say MacLaren is right and WB is wrong. People would say “See WB just wants explosions and fights and nothing about character and development” Literally people complained about MOS lacking character development. LITERALLY that’s what many people complained about. You can BOOK IT. No matter what DC/WB does people will hate. Oh they’ll see the movie, but they’ll hate it regardless

    • PG says:

      Man of Steel HAD “character development”. It was just poorly done, ill-thought-through and developed the wrong aspects of s great cjaracter badly.

      I never saw that specific criticism for MoS (or Returns) – it was that the “super man” shown (in both films) WAS NOT the Superman known, loved and wanted.

  14. Matt Murdock says:

    I agree that “Wonder Woman as Braveheart” sounds at first like a cool idea, but…how would this organically apply to Wonder Woman? She comes from Amazon warrior women on an island, so for her to be leading an oppressed army of Amazons, that means there must be an oppressive, invading force that outnumbers them. So what army would invade the Amazon’s island and kick their butts? It doesn’t really logically make sense, but more importantly, there is no precedent for it in the character’s origin story from the comic book (or Greek myth, if I’m not mistaken). So you end up inventing an entirely new origin story and character construction…and we know how well that goes over with fans.

    Right? I will admit I’ve not followed the Wonder Woman comic since the “New 52” reboot in 2011 so I’m open to someone proving me dead wrong.

    • Steve Mahnn says:

      Did you watched Wonder Woman animated movie?
      It is absolutely epic, battles and more battles with Olympians Gods.
      Great movie.

    • SamLowry says:

      “Ares, the God of War and a chief opponent of the Amazons, manipulates his half brother Heracles to gather forces and attack Themyscira. Heracles subdues and ravages Hippolyta, and his forces succeed in ransacking Themyscira and making the Amazons their slaves.” — Themyscira wiki page.

      Any more questions?

  15. Since Gal Gaddot/Wonder Woman is making her debut in Superman/Batman; Dawn of Justice, then have those two (Batman & Superman) do the same in her film. It will insure high ratings!

  16. optimalskeptic says:

    I think this is a massive mistake, and frankly, underscores the whole problem of how Hollywood tries to deal with the sexism issue. They try to make a point of hiring a woman director, just so that they can have the credibility of doing so… Then refuse to let her do an action-oriented story… Which is what ALL comic book movies are!!! They claim they’re scared of trusting her to do an action-movie because she’s only directed (some of the most amazing action sequences) on TV, yet indie male directors who have NEVER directed action are given the support to make the jump to massive action movies all the time.

    The entire angle about making WW character-driven reads as a synonym for low-budget, thus dooming this to failure. When has any big studio EVER wanted a small character-driven movie rather than an action-heavy movie, especially when it’s a comic book franchise? The only reason to do this is because they don’t trust a woman to handle a big budget, even when she’s already clearly proven herself to handle amazing action and character. JJ Abrams jumped right into feature directing, without them making a stink about making a blockbuster movie more “character-driven.”

    Also, note to Warner Bros… Stop trying to decide what women want. We don’t want a character-driven movie — or at least not for a comic book movie that features a woman half-naked in a chest-baring suit. If I’m going to see that, I’m accepting that it’s a comic book movie first, and I hope it has character in it… Uhhh, kinda like a BRAVEHEART version.

    Unfortunately the writing is on the wall: The director won’t get the right budget to do this, no one will want to see a non-action character-driven comic-book movie, and when the movie fails, it’s held up as another example of how they “tried” to give a woman director a chance, and it failed.

    If the studio wants to receive credit for being a game changer, then CHANGE THE GAME by actually backing the director. I like MONSTER, but Patty Jenkins is absolutely the wrong director for this. This reads as a symbolic female hire, whereas MacLaren was actually perfect for it. And… I think audiences would have embraced a BRAVEHEART type story.

  17. Jeff says:

    Superman was oblivious to innocent people in the wake of his destruction. Green Lantern was a wincing pussy. And Batman led an army of cops in the middle of the day. WB could not mess up these characters more. WW will be no different.

  18. Spider says:

    It looks as though WB is clueless about what they really want for “Wonder Woman”, as well as, their other DC projects, in terms of creativity and budget. They seem to be throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. I thought MacLaren’s vision was pretty awesome. It’d be ironic if Marvel selects her to direct, “Captain Marvel”, assuming that Angelina Jolie passes on it.

  19. Markus says:

    So, Braveheart wasn’t character driven? And Game of Thrones doesn’t have big action scenes? From Goyer’s comments, to the casting of a stick model, to the multiple scripts (2 are still being decided on), this movie is on track for failure.

  20. Robert says:

    First off, game of thrones is not small screen. Many of its episodes are better directed than some studio films. Michelle MacLaren is one of the hottest directors out there right now and unfortunately for WB, this is a downgrade. I’m not buying that they suddenly had a concern about her abilities….

  21. Ky Johnson says:

    Epic origin tale – Awesome!
    Character driven story – Snoozefest

  22. thatbitch says:

    “MacLaren envisioned the DC Comics-based “Wonder Woman” movie as an epic origin tale in the vein of “Braveheart…”

    But…this sounds awesome :(

    • k says:

      Exactly. WB is cheap. They didn’t want to make an epic film. Screw them.

      • Tim says:

        I wouldn’t say WB is cheap – compare MOS to any Marvel movie, and you’ll see a yawning gulf in terms of production value. However, they seem incredibly unwilling to invest any effort into these films beyond the look. MOS’ script was horrendous, and they seem to be hostile to directors with a unique vision for these films.

  23. Diegoelunico says:

    I don’t understand what “character-driven story” means.

    Why can’t we have an epic battle vs Ares in Themiscyra? That would be great!

    I hope they have one big battle in that movie.

    If not, Wonder Woman would be Kira (Barbiés brunette friend) living in an island and coming to town.

  24. Joyce Tyler says:

    They WANTED a character-driven Wonder Woman without so much action? Get real. It’s all about the money. MacLaren wanted to make an epic fantasy movie with a female protagonist for a change, and she was fired because Warner Bros. didn’t trust a female director with the budget necessary for such a big action movie.

    • Steve Mahnn says:

      You don’t get it, they don’t want an action movie with womens.
      They want something soft like Twlight .

      • SamLowry says:

        Heh, funeeee, because not a single panel in any Wonder Woman comic book was anything like Twilight.

        But then WB picked an actor to play Aquaman who doesn’t look a thing like Aquaman–maybe next they’ll make a movie about Anne Frank starring Miley Cyrus.

    • KJHSWERYU says:

      So why didn’t they get a male director? Why did they hire Indie director Patty Jenkins, who has no experience with action at all? Could it be because they don’t want to blow that much money on a Wonder Woman movie? Or is it some anti-feminist conspiracy?

      • optimalskeptic says:

        Because they want the credibility of saying they hired a female director without trusting a female director to handle a big budget. By doing a “character-driven story” — aka low-budget, they can tighten the budget, then wonder why no one wants to see a low-budget comic book movie directed by a woman who has no action experience. Then, when the movie fails, it’s the same shrug, we TRIED to make give a woman a chance, etc. McLaren would have been perfect, and it’s ridiculous that her experience directing the hell out of GoT’s action sequences (which, I might add, are VERY character-driven) wouldn’t give them the confidence to let her make this movie. If James Gunn can get a massive budget off Slither, and Colin Terverrow can get Jurassic Park IV off Safety Not Guaranteed (which is great), there should be absolutely no reason why MacLaren couldn’t be trusted with a big-budget action movie. Unless, of course, they don’t trust a woman to handle a big-budget movie.

      • Probably the former. If WW does well, they may feel more comfortable spending more dough on the sequel.

  25. Isacc Alves says:

    I think Warner bros is right, and found a great replacement with Patty Jenkins, I think Patty Jenkins is better than Maclaren.

  26. Jacob Marloe says:

    I’m glad she chose not to pursue this film. I can only imagine how horribly cliche WB’s script is for WW.

  27. Lisa says:

    They’re both good directors. We’ll never know what MacLaren could have done, but ‘Monster’ was well directed, so I don’t see a problem here.
    Of course Variety contradicts itself by putting MacLaren down for being a TV director, but then applauds Jenkins for the same thing. Odd.

    • Troll Finder says:

      Not really…the difference is MacLauren’s experience is TV-centric, but Jenkins has feature film experience in Monster. Read again.

  28. Dave says:

    Sounds like the DC execs are fn everything up. Wonder Woman Braveheart sounds awesome.

  29. Stephen says:

    They are so doomed. All these WB/DC projects are rushed and panicked; it’s like five monkeys trying to make love to a football.

    • Are you a filmmaker??? WB of course wonder woman is all about, stories are about human motivations, character driven actions, they just want to assure that what wonder woman represents is in the movie. Wonder woman is not just war, she´s a representation of feminism, I assume the script lack of it, and that maclaren wanted to make a michael bay movie, thats why the change the director and choose a Director more experience in character driven films. you´ll see actionthats for sure. o tellme, do you really think batman v superman is al about fighting?? of course not, its about a superman under social pressure, and a batman afraid of what superman means. and lexluthorIm sure he will manipulate both. Thats a character movie about. Am a screenwriter.

    • Troll Finder says:

      You are a troll. LOL

      • SamLowry says:

        Agreed. Saudefh’s writing skills most definitely do not say “Screenwriter” to me.

        And to say WW’s feminism is somehow separate from war proves he has no idea of her history–her homeland was raped and pillaged by a horde of men led by Heracles and the Amazons had to fight to retake it. The post-Crisis continuity even argues that all the Amazons are the reincarnated souls of women who were killed by men!

        With all this rape and war as backstory, the commenter who said WB wants a romance like Twilight shows there’s a whole lotta delusion floating around here.

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