George Miller is having a huge career renaissance. The legendary Australian filmmaker is nominated for an Academy Award for his blockbuster action epic Mad Max: Fury Road, a smash-hit that has rekindled interest in his earlier work and restored his name to that of one of the industry’s leading action directors. But there was a stretch of time not too long ago when Miller’s most ambitious projects continuously fell apart, and one of the most famous was his proposed Justice League: Mortal feature for Warner Bros. in 2007.
In a recent interview, Miller opened up about his experience working to bring DC Comics’ most iconic characters to life nearly a decade before the current DC Extended Universe was set to take off with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Rumors have persisted for years about what eventually brought down the planned film, which had assembled a cast and a large amount of production and pre-production work from Weta FX before shutting down production. Most versions of the story place the blame on a shift in Austalian tax policy and/or the then-ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike. Asked to clarify for /Film, Miller explained:
“I really was attracted to it. But there was a writers strike looming. We had to cast it very quickly, which we did with Warner’s casting people. And we cast it really quickly and we mounted it very quickly. And it depended on a start date and it depended on some basic rebate legislation that had just got through a new Australian government. But it was just too big a decision for them to make in the time. And that fell through and the whole film fell through. We almost got there. And it wasn’t to be. But that happens a lot, where films line up and the stars look like they’re aligning and they didn’t.”
The feature, which was at one point rumored to have been titled Justice League: Mortal, was inspired in part by the Justice League animated series and drew portions of its storyline from the Tower of Babel and OMAC Project DC Comics stories. Mortal would have seen Earth’s superheroes join forces for the first time when Talia Al Ghul and Maxwell Lord steal Batman’s secret cache of weapons and data on how to destroy his super-powered colleagues. The plot would have included the death of at least one major character, with a flash-forward to their funeral serving as the bookends of the film.
The cast was made up of mainly younger actors, who would’ve portrayed new versions of the classic heroes in their 20s and 30s. D.J. Cotrona was set for Superman, Armie Hammer for Batman, Megan Gale (also in Fury Road) for Wonder Woman, and Adam Brody as The Flash. At the time, many fans were skeptical of the film if not outright hostile over resentments about Batman being played by anyone other than Christian Bale from the then-current Dark Knight films. Opinions on the feature have shifted dramatically in recent years, as more information about the project has come out and a fuller picture has formed. A documentary on the troubled production’s history is awaiting approval from Warner Bros.
The screenplay, concepts, and pre-production material are all still property of Warner Bros. — though there is no telling if any of it has been repurposed for Zack Snyder’s upcoming take on the material set for 2017. Miller’s take on the subject was said to be lighter and more similar to the original comics in many respects, which would have made sense coming from a filmmaker at the time best known for the Babe and Happy Feet movies.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, which is followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and then Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.