Zack and Deborah Snyder on the 'Cathartic Journey' of Releasing Their Justice League Cut After Daughter's Death
On Thursday, powerhouse Hollywood duo Zack and Deborah Snyder finally see their passion project, Zack Snyder's Justice League, willed into existence on HBO Max.
The massively hyped director's cut came about after legions of the filmmaker's fans urged Warner Bros. to release Snyder's version of the film, which he abandoned in 2017 after the death of his daughter, Autumn, by suicide at age 20.
The Avengers director Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the 2017 release, which disappointed DC fans and fared poorly at the box office. Now, Zack and his producing partner and wife Deborah, are back with their four-hour vision that reunites beloved DC superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman for an epic tale that's taken on new resonance in the years since the death of Autumn, his daughter with ex-wife Denise Weber. (In addition to Autumn, he and Deborah have been raising seven kids and step-kids.)
Not only is the film dedicated to her, but it features Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Autumn's favorite song, performed by Allison Crowe, a friend who sang it at her funeral.
As they prepare for the film's anticipated launch, the Snyders continue to raise suicide prevention awareness through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Below, Zack and Deborah thank their fans for their support over the years, reveal the secret to their successful marriage and working relationship, and reflect on honoring their daughter.
How much do your fans mean to you?
Zack Snyder: Well, it's been an interesting journey with the fans. I think that Batman v Superman really was a big turning point, especially in that it was so polarizing with the critics and with the fans themselves, it divided them into camps. I think that the Snyder fans ended up on one side, but then over the course, that movie has turned into probably one of the biggest tent-pole cult movies now —especially the special edition, the director's cut. If you saw it, you would realize that it was better.
That I think created a perfect storm. So the best news is that what they thought was right was right. That journey became a really cathartic journey for us, and I think for the fans, we healed each other on that road. And they got behind our charity and they were able to raise over $500,000 so far for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. And I think that combined with this big space opera that I made called Justice League, they have a place to go, they have a community of like-minded people. It's meant the world to us because the movie wouldn't have gotten made without them. So, I thank them always because really there's no movie without them.
Deborah Snyder: And it's quite historic too that actually, a big corporation would listen to what they had to say. It was interesting for us too to see them grow. And as every activation, it started with bus stops at Comic-Con, and then it was airplanes over Warner Bros, and then it was big, giant billboards and jumbotrons in Times Square. They just kept upping the ante and they wouldn't take no for an answer.
Has it been cathartic being so open with your fans about the loss you suffered, and honoring your daughter in the film?
Zack Snyder: [In the pandemic] people have lost loved ones, people have gone through a ton. And I think that there's a lot of vulnerable cats out there that need the support. Debbie and I, we felt like one of the best ways we could help is by just sharing our story, and maybe that inspires someone, if they're in a dark place, to seek help or, if they can, just get involved. We felt like if we didn't put ourselves out there, no one would know. Anytime, even if one person makes the call or does something to change something, then that's worth it.
Deborah Snyder: Yeah, there's still such a stigma. I think a lot of people don't want to talk about it. And it was hard because initially it was in close proximity to Autumn's death, so it was super raw and it was difficult to talk about, but we felt we were in a position to actually shed light on a situation that sometimes is very often in the dark. And I think there were times where we felt like we didn't know where there were resources or who we could reach out to. It's a really scary place to be. So maybe in some small way, it could help someone and make a difference.
Is there a Justice League hero that you each identify with most?
Zack Snyder: I wonder who Debbie's is. [Laughs]
Deborah Snyder: Well, you know it's Wonder Woman. I mean listen, for me, I didn't grow up with comics, but I grew up with Wonder Woman. And for so long, she just wasn't there, she wasn't present on the big screen. Yes, she was present in pop culture, but to be able to bring her to the screen for the first time in Batman v Superman was just such an important part that it meant so much to me. But it also means a lot that my kids, my daughter and my son, know that she's in the world right now. I think that to me, she's important in so many ways.
Zack Snyder: And I think for me, I think Ray Fisher's Cyborg, when Chris [Terrio] and I started writing the script, we knew that the heart of the movie was going to be Cyborg. I think he's a super important DC character, certainly deserving of his own films, and in a lot of ways we dedicated this to him. We were like, "A solo movie, your solo movie is Justice League, so we're here." I really connected with his journey and with the message that he's learning, the lessons.
What is the secret to your working relationship?
Deborah Snyder: We're just figuring it out! No, honestly, I think to be there to support each other, and there are so many challenges that life throws you and that this industry throws you, and to have a common goal. To be trying to achieve that goal together is something that I think is really important. It's a job where you're traveling a lot, and we're able to just be together and move the whole family. And even our crew has become our extended family. It's like we're a traveling circus and we go around with everybody. I'm just eternally grateful that we have that because a lot of people don't, and they have to be separated, or their spouse comes and you're working 14 hours a day but you're not with them, and you have this other movie set family.
Zack Snyder: Yeah. I mean the truth is we are pretty much 24/7 with work. When we're at dinner eating, I'm saying, "What if we did this in that scene instead?" or when we're driving in the car, she's reading the script out loud. We share a hobby, basically. If we golfed together, it'd probably be a similar thing.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is available to stream on HBO Max on Thursday.
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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