NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Batman V Superman
Building on the foundation laid by Man of Steel, Batman V Superman could be one of the most divisive comic book movies of all time - as both critics and fans appear to be split on how, exactly, they feel about the film. However, rewind to the months before the film released and fans were working overtime trying to line the movie's numerous well-known actors up with potential big screen counterparts. While Jena Malone was cut from the film, industry reports had pegged her as Barbara Gordon and, with the film now in theaters, we also know the identity of Joe Morton - who portrays Silas Stone (father to Cyborg aka Victor Stone).
Another familiar face, Scoot McNairy, was previously rumored to play the part of Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen (or possibly The Flash); though, for anyone who has seen the movie, we now know that McNairy actually portrays a disgruntled Wayne Enterprises employee who was maimed in the Battle of Metropolis and is used by Lex Luthor in his plot against Superman. So, where was Jimmy Olsen in Batman V Superman? Zack Snyder addressed the question while on the Dawn of Justice press tour - and fans aren’t likely to be happy about the answer.
According to EW, who spoke with Snyder directly, Jimmy Olsen is in the film - and will have a larger part in the R-Rated Ultimate Cut that will be included in the home media release. So, who is Jimmy Olsen in the film?
Brace for bad news: He's the CIA operative posing as a photographer on Lois Lane's mission to interview an African war criminal - the CIA operative (played by Michael Cassidy) that is summarily executed onscreen.
Speaking about the character, Snyder elaborated on the revelation by claiming there wasn't a place for Olsen in the grand DC shared universe storyline that Warner Bros is building:
"We just did it as this little aside because we had been tracking where we thought the movies were gonna go, and we don’t have room for Jimmy Olsen in our big pantheon of characters, but we can have fun with him, right?”
As for how the character was identified in the original film cut and what audiences will get to see in the R-Rated director's cut, Snyder described Olsen's introductory scene:
“He comes up to her and he goes, ‘Lois Lane, I’m Jimmy Olsen, photographer, obviously … You know, I’ve been assigned to you for this mission.’ But it turns out that Jimmy Olsen is a spook for the CIA.”
In order to misdirect his audience, Snyder planned to cast a major actor - to lead viewers into assuming Jimmy would be part of the DCEU longterm (and make his death all the more shocking). Who did Snyder originally have in mind? We've covered that news before - but now it makes even more sense: Snyder originally intended Jesse Eisenberg to play Olsen (and be killed-off in the desert); though, the director eventually changed his mind - and cast Eisenberg as Lex instead:
“I thought, if it were Jesse Eisenberg and he got out and he goes, ‘I’m Jimmy Olsen,’ you’d be like, oh my God, we’re gonna have Jimmy Olsen in the whole movie, right? And then if he got shot, you’d just be like, ‘What!? You can’t do that.’”
Snyder met with Eisenberg about the misdirect but ultimately cast the actor as his main villain - in an effort to deliver a unique take on Lex (rather than riff on well-loved versions). The choice was and still is a controversial one - just like killing-off Jimmy Olsen seconds after he's introduced (permanently removing him from the DCEU entirely).
While Olsen isn't essential to the larger Justice League universe that's being built, it's hard to know exactly why Snyder wouldn't want the character around as part of The Daily Planet background. Jimmy isn't a dark and gritty character, with superhuman abilities or cool gadgets, but in many Superman stories he is a stand-in for the audience - an average guy who is regularly pulled into crazy adventures and, in the process, becomes good friends with one of the most powerful people in the world.
Jenny (the character portrayed by Rebecca Buller) was thought to be a potential reimagining of Jimmy when she first was cast in Man of Steel; yet, while the Jenny character has been used in a few off-handed moments of humor, she doesn't appear to be a stand-in for Clark Kent's friend and Lois Lane's go-to photographer, Jimmy. As a result, the choice to remove Jimmy altogether might be somewhat of a missed opportunity - especially since this version of Clark Kent isn't all that different from Superman. It's not that Jimmy is a goofy comedic sidekick but, in a version of Superman that is regularly criticized for being too grim, Snyder might eventually regret removing characters that could help lighten the mood from time to time.
That all said, given that the 2.5 hour cut of Batman V Superman is already packed with new characters, cameos, and Justice League universe setup, it's understandable that Snyder cut his planned misdirect and relegated Olsen to a non-named part who is quickly, and unceremoniously, killed in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Still, it leaves Snyder in a strange position - now, since Olsen's identity was removed from the full film, the character isn't even sacrificed for a cool misdirect. He's just a character, played by a relatively unknown actor, that is murdered onscreen to sell the danger of Lois Lane's situation - never to appear again in this corner of the DCEU.
Given that, Snyder must be confident in his long term plan - since he could have easily just renamed Cassidy's CIA character and save the possibility of Jimmy appearing in the Justice League movie universe somewhere down the line. Instead, most moviegoers will never know that Jimmy even existed in this Superman universe and, at best, those who wait until the R-Rated blu-ray cut to watch Batman V Superman will be the only ones to experience Snyder's original twist. Thankfully, Jimmy Olsen fans can still check the character out in other parts of the DCEU - most notably as a key player in Supergirl on CBS.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.