When Zack Snyder parted ways with Warner Bros. over Justice League, he famously took materials from his all-star superhero team-up with him. The directors of the studio's recently-shelved Batgirl film weren't quite as lucky. In a new interview with France's SKRIPT YouTube channel, Belgian directing team Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah revealed that they don't have any footage from the film, which would have starred In the Heights scene stealer Leslie Grace as Batgirl, and also featured Michael Keaton back in his vintage 1989 Batsuit as Gotham City's Dark Knight.
"No, we have nothing," the duo told SKRIPT, with Fallah mentioning that his co-director suggested he belatedly try to record footage from the film on his smartphone. "Adil called me and said, 'Go ahead shoot some things on your mobile.' I went on the server and everything was blocked." Added El Arbi: "We were like 'F**king s***!' All the scenes with Batman in them! S**t!'"
Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav's decision to scrap Batgirl — which had a $75 million budget that grew to $90 million after COVID delays — sent shockwaves through the industry when the news first broke earlier this month. Originally intended to premiere on HBO Max, the studio decided against completing the film after it received low scores at an early test screening and a strategic shift away from producing substantially-budgeted original movies for the streaming service. (Variety also reported that shelving Batgirl allowed Warner Bros. to take a tax write-down on the production.)
El Arbi and Fallah — whose other directing credits include Bad Boys for Life and multiple episodes of Disney+'s Ms. Marvel TV series — confirm that their film was the victim of shifting priorities. "The guys from Warners told us it was not a talent problem from our part or the actress, or even the quality of the movie," El Arbi told SKRIPT. "They told us it was a strategic change. There was new management, and they wanted to save some money."
Of course, Snyder's experience provides a case study in how a dead superhero movie can eventually be resurrected. Last year, the director's four-hour cut of Justice League premiered on HBO Max following an extensive post-production process that included new visual effects and additional footage. And while the Batgirl directors would love to see their film follow a similar arc, they're also aware of the obstacles involved.
"Before it’s released one day, there would be a lot of work still to do — just like the Snyder Cut," El Arbi said. "[Batgirl] cannot be released in its current state. There’s no VFX, we still had to shoot some scenes. So if [Warners] wanted us to release the Batgirl movie they would need to give us the means to do it; to finish it properly with our vision."
For now, both are happy to have the support of the wider filmmaking community, who have largely condemned the studio's decision not to release Batgirl on HBO Max or in theaters. "Seeing all the support on Twitter, and even from big directors Edgar Wright and James Gunn, who sent us supportive messages, it was comforting," Fallah commented. "We hope, Inshallah, it will happen."