It’s no secret that the DC Extended Universe has a major casting problem. But the ongoing saga involving The Flash star Ezra Miller and the series of abuse and harassment allegations they’ve accrued over the past year—most recently, grooming—might be the biggest moral conundrum the film franchise has yet to face.
Back in April, an insider at DC Films told Rolling Stone that the studio held an emergency meeting about Miller’s behavior after they were charged with disorderly conduct and harassment in Hawaii for an incident involving patrons at a karaoke bar. (The actor was also hit with a restraining order by a couple who claimed Miller threatened them that’s since been dropped). While DC Films has yet to release an official statement on the matter, the source in the Rolling Stone article claimed that Miller’s upcoming projects, which include The Flash—set for 2023—and a planned sequel, were put on the pause.
But according to a source in Variety, Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics, is “barreling ahead” with The Flash and plans on giving the superhero film the “full blockbuster treatment,” despite the most recent allegations made by Chase Iron Eyes and Sara Jumping Eagle that Miller has been grooming their 18-year-old daughter, environmental activist Tokata Iron Eyes, since the age of 12 (when Miller was 23).
Last week, Iron Eyes’ parents requested a protective order for their daughter from the Standing Rock Sioux tribal court, accusing Miller of using drugs, violence, and intimidation to control and manipulate her. (Iron Eyes disputed her parents’ claims on Instagram). Among other accusations, they claimed that Miller befriended their daughter in 2016 while visiting the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and later flew her and other members of the tribe to London to visit the filming location of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2017, where Miller attempted to share a bed with Iron Eyes, who was 14 at the time. A judge has since approved the order, but law enforcement has not been able to locate Miller to serve them documents.
A hearing for the case is scheduled for July 12.
Despite these disturbing new claims against Miller, Warner Bros. is apparently counting on the possibility that Miller will avoid legal consequences and stay out of trouble leading up to The Flash’s release, according to Variety. The source added that it would “cost too much money to completely scrap the project entirely.” Even with the option to more quietly release the film exclusively on Warner Bros.’ streaming platform HBO Max, they claim that the movie would require a theatrical release to “turn a profit” for the studio.
This alleged move by DC is particularly defiant, given that fans on social media have been urging studio executives to replace Miller with Grant Gustin, the star of The CW’s The Flash, ever since they went viral at the start of the pandemic for choking a woman in a video—another the incident the studio failed to formally respond to.
In 2017, the rise of #MeToo in Hollywood introduced the option of recasting and reshooting film sequences featuring actors facing abuse allegations. Most notably, the late Christopher Plummer reshot all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes in the film All the Money in the World over the course of 10 days after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct toward a minor. Mads Mikkelsen took over Johnny Depp’s role as Gellert Grindelwald after he started filming the third Fantastic Beasts film (also a Warner Bros. franchise), but was given a $16 million payout to leave the franchise amid domestic violence allegations by ex-wife Amber Heard.
“However, both theories fail to justify the studio potentially letting Heard go while expressing no public concern over Miller being a well-documented public menace.”
Speaking of Heard, DC’s lax handling of Miller thus far is especially eyebrow-raising given recent claims from the actress’ legal team that she was almost fired from her role as Mera in the DC film Aquaman 2 and barred from renegotiating her contract when she eventually signed onto the sequel due to the public scrutiny she was receiving during legal proceedings with Depp (her role has reportedly been downsized in the sequel). DC Films president Walter Hamada rebutted that the studio considered letting Heard go because of a lack of chemistry between her and her co-star Jason Momoa. However, both theories fail to justify the studio potentially letting Heard go while expressing no public concern over Miller being a well-documented public menace.
As if the DCEU hasn’t dealt with enough problems, the franchise already has another dilemma on their hands regarding their image and The Flash’s potential revenue no matter how they handle the Miller situation. Ostensibly, reshooting Miller’s scenes in the film would be a large, costly undertaking, assuming they have a substantial amount of screen time as the main star and the number of pricey set pieces in modern superhero films. However, the option is certainly there. And for a big Hollywood corporation, the choice appears more inconvenient than impossible.