‘Justice League’ Snyder Cut: Why Are Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Other Stars Missing From Press Tour?

Justice League cast
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

When “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” premieres on HBO Max this Thursday, it will mark the culmination of years’ worth of grassroots campaigning by Snyder’s fans, typified by the ubiquitous hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut. In November 2019, several “Justice League” stars — including Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot — joined Snyder to tweet out the hashtag, a critical stamp of approval for the campaign that helped to convince Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich to allow Snyder to complete his original vision for the film.

Those same stars, however, have been notably absent from the campaign to promote the actual release of the movie. To be sure, Affleck, Gadot, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher have all posted trailers and posters for the Snyder cut to their respective Twitter and Instagram accounts, and Henry Cavill joined Snyder in May for the official announcement that the Snyder cut was really happening. Affleck, Gadot, Cavill, Fisher, and Ezra Miller also promoted the Snyder cut during the DC Fandome fan event in August.

But in the critical weeks leading up to the premiere of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max, none of these actors have participated in the standard methods for promoting a movie of this size: junket interviews, talk show appearances, press conferences, presenters on awards shows. Instead, Snyder and his wife and producing partner Deborah Snyder have shouldered the weight of promoting the new “Justice League” on their own.

In a larger interview with Variety about the new “Justice League,” the Snyders say they’ve been behind at least some of the promotion the actors have done for the film.

“We would supply the cast with things,” says Deborah Snyder.

“I would just go, ‘Jason [Momoa], here’s the new trailer,'” says Zack Snyder. “He’d be like, ‘Thanks, bro!’ It wasn’t like a real coordinated effort.”

Deborah Snyder adds that HBO Max also helped in distributing social media assets for the film, something sources familiar with the plans for “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” have echoed. But privately, these sources also sound a similar refrain: This movie is really Snyder’s baby, and he’s the one who deserves to be out in front of it. Beyond social media posts, these sources say, HBO Max hasn’t been pursuing a larger campaign with the cast. It would also presumably cost more money to haul out the A-list stars of the film for a new round of interviews.

Any contractual obligations to promote “Justice League” were likely fulfilled by the 2017 theatrical release. But Snyder has said HBO Max spent roughly $70 million to complete the film, and from the start, the Snyder cut was heralded as a marquee title for the still-nascent streaming service, which has to date failed to come anywhere close to the subscriber base of its main competitors, Netflix and Disney Plus. Why wouldn’t Warner Media and HBO Max actively enlist its biggest stars to help maximize attention for the movie and, hopefully, drive audiences to subscribe to the service?

One factor affecting the PR rollout for the Snyder cut, obviously, is the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of a splashy red carpet premiere, for example, Snyder is joining filmmaker Kevin Smith for a “virtual premiere” event online on Wednesday evening. But Variety has learned that HBO Max reached out last week to at least a few of the “Justice League” actors to ask if they could send in a quick video saying hello to the fans, with a final push on Monday. It’s unclear at press time whether any of the actors were able to oblige.

Several of the core “Justice League” cast members are also busy on other projects. Affleck is shooting “The Tender Bar” with director (and former Batman) George Clooney; Affleck’s also reportedly set to reprise his performance as Batman in “The Flash” with Miller and director Andy Muschietti. Miller, meanwhile, is currently finishing work on the third “Fantastic Beasts” film. And Gadot, who recently wrapped an all-stops-out campaign for the HBO Max release of “Wonder Woman 1984,” has been promoting the National Geographic docuseries “Impact,” which she’s executive producing.

Then again, if the pandemic has made anything easier, it’s doing promotional interviews. It’s much simpler for A-list talent to hop onto Zoom for a few minutes from their home (or hotel, or trailer) than carve out days or weeks from their schedules for a traditional press tour.

The only member of the core “Justice League” cast who has been aggressively promoting “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” over the past few weeks is Fisher, who’s regularly posted to Twitter and Instagram about the film, and repeatedly engaged the fanbase to drum up more excitement. Fisher, however, has also been locked in a protracted public fight with WarnerMedia over how the company handled his allegations of misconduct on the “Justice League” set in 2017, after Snyder left the project due to a family tragedy. Fisher has accused Joss Whedon, who was brought in to finish the film, of engaging in “gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable” behavior, according to a viral Tweet that he sent in July.

Gadot and Momoa have publicly supported Fisher, and Gadot even fielded questions about Fisher’s allegations while promoting “WW84.”

But in recent weeks, WarnerMedia execs have been clear they wish to move on from the dispute with Fisher — the company concluded its investigation in December, and announced that unspecified “remedial action” had been taken. Any interviews the cast do about the Snyder cut, however, would inevitably give more oxygen to the Fisher story; Snyder himself was asked about Fisher’s allegations in recent interviews. (Miller, meanwhile, has also yet to publicly address a video that emerged last April in which he appears to choke a woman outside a bar in Iceland.)

Another factor may just be the unique nature of the Snyder cut itself. More than just about any studio film of its size, the movie was created expressly to satisfy the desire of a core fanbase, who effectively willed the project into being through a sustained campaign on social media. So the fans are where the Snyders say they’ve kept their attention to promote the movie, movie stars or not.

“It was very organic for me to stay with the fans and with the movement that made it happen,” says Zack Snyder. “At some point there was a discussion about whether or not my fans had the breadth and reach to generate enough buzz. I was like, well, these are the guys that like convinced Warner Bros. to do the crazy thing that they just did.”

“We’ve marketed a lot of these movies and we’ve never done it like this before,” adds Deborah Snyder. “But I think we just want us to be true to like the grassroots of it all, and have the campaign live in social media.”

Maintaining that connection with the fans became paramount, especially after some fans also began using the campaign to fundraise for suicide prevention to honor Zack Snyder’s daughter Autumn, whose death by suicide led to his decision to leave “Justice League” — and to return to complete his vision.

“The fans and the charitable components were things that, without them, were just non-starters for us,” Deborah Snyder says. “It was important for us to be respectful to the fans, and not all of a sudden go, ‘Okay, thank you for getting us to this point, now we’re gonna do this other thing and you’re not going to be involved.'”