Actor Ezra Miller arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros.’ ‘Justice League’. Pictures at the Dolby Theater on November 13, 2017 in Hollywood, California.
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Ezra Miller’s apology could be the first step in a potential redemption story, but there’s no guarantee it’ll have a satisfying ending.
On Monday, the actor publicly addressed the ongoing controversy surrounding his recent arrests and allegations of disturbing behavior. Miller, who directs “The Flash” from Warner Bros. Discovery, which hits theaters in June 2023, said they had “recently gone through a period of intense crisis” and had begun treatment for “complex mental health issues”.
The statement came a week after Miller was charged with burglary in Stamford, Vermont, just the latest criminal offense on the actor’s call sheet, and about two weeks after Warner Bros. Discovery has removed its “Batgirl” direct-to-streaming movie and said it was considering a reboot of its DC Comics Cinematic Universe.
The newly merged company has remained silent about Miller in recent months as damning new reports circulated of disturbing behavior ranging from disorderly conduct and harassment to allegations of child grooming and running a cannabis farm. without license. Miller did not specifically address any of these claims.
Many have speculated that Warner Bros. Discovery would still release “The Flash” in theaters, but wondered if it would cut ties with its lead in order to save face.
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Sources told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Miller’s public statement that there was various results to which Warner Bros. Discovery was preparing. The first was that Miller would seek professional help, give an interview about their erratic behavior, and do limited press for the film before its scheduled theatrical release.
There have been indications that Warner Bros. was ready to sever ties with Miller following the release of “The Flash,” which reportedly had a budget of around $200 million. The company reportedly held meetings in April to discuss Miller’s slew of controversies and how the studio would proceed going forward. At that time, it was determined that the film would stay on the slate, but Warner Bros. would put future projects involving the actor on hold.
The company did not immediately return a request for comment.
Now that an apology has been made, the question becomes: Can Miller stage a comeback?
“Is it possible for a buyout? Yes,” said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor and pop culture expert. “You point out Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. They were much simpler situations. As long as you’re not behind bars, I think there are opportunities to manage careers.”
Downey revived his career after a very public fall from grace that included numerous arrests in the late 1990s on drug-related charges. He spent several stints in prison between 1997 and 2000 and entered drug rehabilitation in 2001. Downey slowly rebuilt his reputation, and then came “Iron Man,” a 2008 hit that would spark the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He played the character for over a decade before hanging up the metal suit in 2019.
Ryder’s downfall was a bit less severe. She was arrested for shoplifting in 2001, but it was no less damaging. The actress was nearly uninsurable after the arrest, leading to a nearly five-year hiatus. She landed supporting roles over the next decade in movies like “Star Trek” and “Black Swan,” but her big comeback was 2016’s “Stranger Things.”
The charges against Miller are more serious than those Downey and Ryder have faced. If the allegations of impropriety with minors are true, the actor may not be able to resurrect his career although Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and Woody Allen have managed to work after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Miller’s future isn’t the only factor. In addition to the potential impact on the victims and their families, Miller’s actions also had a direct impact on the reputation of Warner Bros. Discovery, and at a particularly vulnerable time for the company. After all, new CEO David Zaslav has a very different strategy for running the company, especially its streaming business.
“The news that Ezra Miller is seeking help is the best possible outcome for Warner Bros. in what is clearly a horribly difficult situation,” said Tony Freinberg, president of Edendale Strategies, a crisis management firm and of strategic communications.
“It seems odd to think that a movie studio would be thrilled to hear the star of one of its flagship franchises admit to having serious mental health issues,” he added. “But I suspect that’s exactly how studio executives feel.”
Apologies are not a silver bullet, however, Freinberg said.
“It’s really important for everyone to remember that it’s not just about stealing a few bottles of booze or having a fight in a bar,” he said. “There are very serious sexual allegations about Ezra Miller. And anytime you hear words like grooming, trafficking, or suggestions of impropriety with minors, the stakes are incredibly, incredibly high.”
Freinberg said he suspects Miller’s statement was made partly because the actor accepted some of their challenges and partly because of pressure from the studio following their felony accusation.
“It’s not a get out of jail card,” he said.
For Warner Bros., the path to releasing “The Flash” just got easier, industry experts tell CNBC.
Paul Hardart, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at NYU Stern School of Business, said early reports of Miller were unlikely to significantly hinder box office success. However, with Miller’s apology, Warner Bros. can adapt its strategy.
“There’s a story of redemption,” he said, noting the studio has until June to figure out how best to market the film and time to see how Miller’s legal and personal battles unfold. .
“And I think from a Warner Bros. perspective, they’ve clearly said, ‘This movie has value for us,'” he said. “They could write it off, they have the timing advantage of purchase accounting. They could write it off and choose not to.”
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