Set Visit: Ben Affleck & Zack Snyder on Justice League, plus scene details!
When we visited the Leavesden set of JUSTICE LEAGUE, director Zack Snyder and company were on day 31 of an over 110 day shooting schedule. As such, it was a very busy set, and while were were invited to watch as scenes were being shot, for awhile it looked like talent interviews would be a no-no. Luckily, that wasn’t at all the case.
JUSTICE LEAGUE SCENE DESCRIPTION
At one point, along with a few other journos, I was watching Snyder shoot what turned out to be J.K Simmons’s first scene, where as Commissioner Gordon, he’s summoned Batman with the Batsignal, only to have the Caped Crusader show-up with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) in tow. In the scene we saw, Gordon tells Batman that eight scientists have gone missing. “Nine” interrupts a voice from the shadows, who turns out to be Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who adds “a Star Labs scientist was taken tonight,” likely referring to Joe Morton’s Silas Stone, Cyborg’s dad. Cyborg is greeted by a knowing, almost seductive look from Wonder Woman. When told who took them, Batman, in confusion asks, “winged monkeys?” “Para-Demons,” Clarifies Wonder Woman, “there must be a nest nearby.”
When shown the coordinates the Para-Demons headed towards, Batman deduces that they’re gathering an an old, subterranean tunnel linking Metropolis and Gotham City that was abandoned, unfinished, in the twenties. “If he’s coming (referring to Cyborg) we’re not all gonna fit into the car,” says The Flash. “I have something bigger” says Batman, referring to a new vehicle we saw called The Nightcrawler, which figures into a massive set-piece that follows this briefing. As Gordon’s back is turned, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg all sneak away. When he turns around, only The Flash remains. “Oh, so they all just left?” says The Flash. “That’s rude” he adds, while gingerly stepping away.
When they called cut, I turned my back for a second, only to hear a voice from behind me saying, “hello.” I turned around and saw it was none other than Ben Affleck, in his full Batsuit, minus the cowl (he still had black makeup around his eyes) who came to say hello to me and the other journos. Soon, we started asking him questions and when he started giving very friendly, interesting, in-depth answers, we all turned on our tape records and got ourselves an impromptu, twenty minute interview.
BEN AFFLECK INTERVIEW
On the fights scenes in BvS and whether that style will be used in JUSTICE LEAGUE.
"We have the same guys who choreographed – who came up with those. I’d like to say it was my idea but I just do what they tell me. The same guys from visual fx to practical stunts. They come up with really creative, cool ideas – this is gonna be the same way I'll approach it when I'm directing, which is to say find a great stunt coordinator, great effect guys and stunt guys who can execute this stuff and put you in their hands and let them do it – it's like getting a great composer, it's almost a separate thing. It it works it feels like it's flawlessly integrated. How could STAR WARS exist without that music.”
On being an executive producer on JUSTICE LEAGUE.
"Well, why I'm an executive producer is because I'm directing another one – so there's some cross pollination and story and characters. I don't want to give any of that stuff away , but it just basically means there might be some stuff in my Batman that are effected... It's a creative way DC came up with both as being a filmmaker driven company and entity and also making sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and there's collaboration and supervision so that somebody doesn't go sailing off and creating problems with your movie. I get to weigh in on stuff that effects Batman."
On Geoff Johns
"He's a brilliant guy. There's nobody one that knows more about comic books, and has great taste and is really super smart and super nice. And Jon Berg has a big role but really this is Zack's movie and we’re executing Zack's vision."
On Batman being a detective.
"The whole detective aspect of Batman is more present in this story than in the last one and would probably be expanded upon further in a Batman movie that I would direct. All Batman movies at their heart are detective stories they feel a little bit like noir movies in a way.. somehow feels like THE MALTESE FALCON, at their heart detective stories. And the detective story here is the how do I find these people and bring them together aspect..."
How do you bring Batman back from the edge?
"(on BVS) That was very heavily influenced by Dark Knight Returns, This has other influences I don't want to name because then it will give away story elements and stuff like that. Working with Terrio and Geoff Johns and obviously Zack, we steal the best stuff we can from all the great material out there. But you know, one of the things is this is now not the guy at the end of his rope but in a way a guy at the beginning, starting over, finding hope. The thing that he is hoping for and hanging on to is this group and that starts him off and that's his mission here. Obviously that's something different.This is not a guy that's nihilistic. He believes that something needs to happen and he's in the awkward position of being the guy out there with the cup in his hand trying to say, 'listen – believe in this!'"
Biggest change from BvS
"There's definitely room for more humor. It's not going to be...DC movies are I think by the nature still a little bit more Gothic or mythic then some comic book movies are. But that movie was a really dark, heavy movie that was rooted in Dark Knight Returns, which was a heavy, dark book and this is not that. This an an evolution from that, bringing together these characters who's had their origins and it's about hope and working together and the kind of conflicts you have with working together. It's this world with all these other superheroes, So there's comedy that goes into that, trying to work with other people, and the idea of people working together to accomplish the same goal is the root of all comedy in my view, so there's definitely an opening for some fun it it, but it's still recognizably these characters..."
With all the mother-boxes, parademons – is there a notion Batman is “too old for this shit”?
"It's not so much, 'I'm too old for this shit' but rather I NEED HELP, this guy is way out of his league, it's definitely stepping up to that level from the comic books where there are things from other planets, all these super-villains that are way more powerful that the average human who had a batarang and a grappling hook can deal with. So we explore what these other heroes can do. You want to be able to use the powers of Flash, and Wonder Woman and Cyborg, where you have to have bad guys that are, ya know, give them to opportunity to get their cars out on the track and hit the accelerator a little bit.”
On Batman being the leader...
"Aquaman is a very strong character played by a very strong actor with a very strong personality, so he's not a guy who has anytime in his life to take orders from people. He's got a kind of strong, stubborn, powerful energy, so it's not like any of these characters show up and immediately go like, 'yes, sir – what should I do Mr. Wayne?' It's about getting very disparate people who are used to being powerful to try and work together and it's about how hard that is. There are some characters who really hit it off with each other and some that don't and almost come to blows, and it's about trying to tame that kind of energy."
On Batman being violent or deadly.
"Yeah, definitely in the last movie Batman went to a very dark place that was rooted in trauma that occurred to people that he loved and worked with and what he saw. This really is not about that issue for him so much anymore, he's no longer sort of extreme in that way, he's kind of, from the experiences of the last movie, hes sort of learned some things, I think and is now... I'm trying to say without giving any spoilers... but he's wanting to redeem himself and he's wanting mankind to be redeemed, and he's wanting to make the world better, having learned lessons that were important in the last movie."
A time-frame for his solo movie...
"I think they have a date for it, but I don't know that I'd be able to make that date as I don't have a script that's ready yet. That's my timetable, that I'm not going to make a movie where the script is not good. I've been on the end of things when you make a movie where the script is not good, and it doesn't pan out. I have a script, we're still working on it but I'm not happy enough with it to go out and make a Batman movie for which I haven't had the highest of standards. It would have to pass a very high bar for me. It can't be like, 'oh this might be fun, let's go bang this out.'"
Shortly before being led to the set, we also got a chance to see Gal Gadot, in all her Wonder Woman glory. Before being called back to the set, she shared a few thoughts on the evolution of her character.
She’s kind of bipolar, the Wonder Woman we see in the Justice League is similar to the Wonder Woman we saw in BvS. The Wonder Woman we’re seeing in the solo movie, she’s different, it’s the coming-of-age story, it’s her becoming an adult and understanding the complexities of life.
At the end of the day, Zack Snyder treated us all to cocktails and give us an impromptu twenty minute interview of his own. But first, he showed us a semi-finished version of The Flash, aka Barry Allen’s (Ezra Miller) introduction.
THE FLASH INTRODUCTION SCENE
The setup of the scene that we were shown on-set is Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) returning to his apartment that is filled with technology that is all patched together. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is already there sitting in his Lazy Boy chair waiting for him. Bruce has the convenience store security camera footage in his possession which we saw originally in “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
BARRY ALLEN: “You must be looking for a person who looks exactly like me but is definitely not me. Somebody…I don’t know…hippie…long hair. A very attractive Jewish boy.”
Bruce shows him the camera footage which has Barry grabbing milk in the store.
BARRY ALLEN: “Well he drinks milk and I don’t drink milk.”
BRUCE WAYNE: “I know you have abilities; I just don’t know what they are.”
BARRY ALLEN: “My special skills include viola, web design, fluent in sign-language, gorilla sign-language…”
BRUCE WAYNE: “Silicon-based sand coarse fabric. Abrasion-resistant. Heat-resistant.
BARRY ALLEN: “Uh yeah I do competitive ice dancing.”
BRUCE WAYNE: “This is used on the space shuttle to prevent it from burning up upon re-entry.”
BARRY ALLEN: “I ummm do…very competitive ice dancing. Look man I don’t know who you are but whoever you’re looking for, it’s not me.”
Bruce then quickly throws a Batarang at Barry as the environment goes into slo-motion except for him who easily catches the Batarang and makes the revelation that Bruce is Batman.
BARRY ALLEN: “You’re the Batman?”
BRUCE WAYNE: “So you’re fast.”
BARRY ALLEN: “That feels like an over-simplification.”
BRUCE WAYNE: “I’m putting together a team of people with special abilities. You see I think enemies are coming…”
BARRY ALLEN: “STOP! Right there. I’m in.”
BRUCE WAYNE: “You are. Just like that?”
BARRY ALLEN: “Yeah. Umm…I need friends.”
BRUCE WAYNE: “Great.”
BARRY ALLEN: *looking at the Batarang* “Can I keep this?”
ZACK SNYDER INTERVIEW
So that was a really funny scene. Is that part of why you showed it?
"Well also because it was one of the first scenes we have done. *laughs* So I thought it would be cool to show. Also I think that it shows you know a little bit about the movie. Batman is Batman and Bruce Wayne has this kind of ‘Batman’ humor as he plays the straight guy. It’s what he’s good at. But when I saw the scene, I thought this is fun. It’s an interesting way of understanding how the films have progressed. By no means is this the whole movie cause there’s parts of the movie of course where they face enemies and have to get their stuff together. They’re going to be called into conflict. You guys know I’m a fan of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ or team-making movies so it’s fun for me to finally get to this point now where we’re building a team or “building the Justice League” of course. ‘Batman V Superman’ I think to me was always inherently, conceptually from the beginning was getting Batman into the movie. We’ve talked about how we get Batman into the story and who is Superman gonna fight? Will he fight Zod? That’s pretty much an alien. Who does he fight next? I was with Chris Nolan and this idea came up where we thought let’s see Kryptonite being delivered to Bruce Wayne’s house at the end of the first movie. We thought that was cool and progressed from there till the point where we said he’s going to fight Batman. Then it’s hard to go back, once you say Batman out loud that’s it, it’s going to be Batman."
CHRIS BUMBRAY: I haven’t seen anything so far with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in this so far. Is there any chance of his return or is there at least a presence at all?
"Well that’s a bit of a spoiler but I think Jesse is hilarious and fun. But Lex is in prison and comic-book world prisons are not the most secure places. Very porous."
When you started ‘Batman V Superman’, you knew ‘Justice League’ was coming. You had this whole other slate of movies that were coming. So there’s a vision you need to have but also try to pay attention to the reactions are. How has the audience and critical reaction affected the progression of the films?
"If it’s about putting more fun in the movie or embracing something the fans love. There’s this larger than life aspect with big fun stuff when it comes to ‘Justice League’ characters. You’ve got Flash and Jason Momoa as Aquaman who brings his own fun persona since I’ve worked with him. He’s using his 'Jason-ness.''
More tidbits from Snyder:
- Superman was on his way in Zack’s vision to having a reason to be Superman in his story. A reason to feel the way he felt about humanity. His moral compass. He had to go through something to be that. Zack jokingly laughs when he says “And I’m not saying that he’s in ‘Justice League’ by the way."
- He discusses the dynamic of Batman and Superman fighting eachother and how they had to dig down deep to find that reason as to why they would fight one another. In ‘Justice League’, they’re (Batman at least) now free of those shackles because it’s about uniting the team against a common enemy.
- Zack says that they’ve had “almost” all Justice League team members together at one time so far on-set. He refers to it at the “making the plan” scene.
- We asked about how ‘Justice League’ will end and that his current film is a “complete movie” on its own, meaning no real cliffhanger, although it obviously leads the door way open for multiple sequels.
- When asked about the current corporate pressure for the movie(s) to perform, he talks about the misconceptions out there and how he is a true dear fan of the comics and how Warner Bros. didn’t push them around on it. ‘Batman V Superman’ was created as a great starting vehicle and not something just to sell tickets. He says the studio has been amazing and they love making personal movies.
- Working on ‘Justice League’ is now giving Zack the opportunity to blow the doors off the scale of the movies including the bad guys, locations, etc.
- Zack is obsessed with tone in his movies and tries to change it up as this trilogy goes on.
- Given Bruce’s newfound faith in humanity and trying to balance that with building the new team and fight this dangerous force, it’s a Batman unlike any we’ve ever seen before. He was always the loner hero which is no longer the case.
- Zack would speak with Ben during ‘Batman V Superman’ to make Batman less one-note even before Ben takes on his own solo film.
- Geoff Johns becomes the topic of conversation as Zack shows his admiration for his work and comic-book world knowledge. Zack also mentions an upcoming project that they’ll be working on but wasn’t allowed to discuss further with us.
- Zack decided to drop that deleted scene of Steppenwolf’s reveal in ‘Batman V Superman’ online after it was decided that it wouldn’t work as an after-credits scene.
- I asked how Superman's hair would be upon his return, while discussing his evolution from BVS. Snyder laughed, saying: "Well, it would be perfect; a little longer, I guess. That's what the myths are. If he does appear, I think that would be a big part of the story; how you get him back."
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