The Real Story Behind Why Zack Snyder Left Justice League In 2017

Why is there a “Snyder Cut” of Justice League? Didn’t that movie come out in 2017, showcasing Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and the members of DC Comics’ core team? If you are casual fans of comic-book movies, you might be wondering this exact thing as you hear buzz around a version of Justice League that’s coming to HBO Max in March. Is it the same movie, just longer? What movies in the DC Extended Universe does it connect to, if any? Why did Zack Snyder leave Justice League in the first place, leading to the existence of a Snyder Cut of the movie?

The story of the Release the Snyder Cut movement is unlike anything I have ever seen in my 20+ years as a film journalist. It’s rare that you see a filmmaker replaced on a blockbuster in the middle of post-production, particularly on as highly of an anticipated film as Warner Bros.’ Justice League was… and continues to be. On March 1, a book that I wrote called Release the Snyder Cut will drop in stores and online from Applause Books. (Preorder a copy of the book right here.) The book explains in detail what happened to Zack Snyder behind the scenes on Justice League back in 2017, while also following the three-year effort spent by Snyder’s most-dedicated fans to get Warner Bros. to finally release his original cut of the doomed Justice League movie. What you saw in theaters in 2017 was NOT the version Snyder intended to show. That cut is coming to HBO Max soon, and the book reveals how that happened.

But now that we are getting closer to the release date of the book, Release the Snyder Cut, I wanted to share a few of the things that I learned while piecing this unprecedented story together. For one, I want to help casual fans understand the importance of the Justice League coming to HBO Max. But I also want to pull back the curtain that hangs over facts that the RTSC movement knows, but might not fully understand.

The reason that Zack Snyder gave for leaving Justice League had to do with a tragedy in the Snyder family. Zack’s daughter Autumn died by suicide, and the director felt like he had to walk away from the production to be at home with his family. No one could ever fault him for that decision. During an exclusive interview with Zack Snyder for the Release the Snyder Cut book that took place in June 2020, however, I asked the director if there was ever a scenario where the studio offered to delay the original film’s November 17, 2017 release date, giving Snyder proper time to grieve with his family but also having the ability to return to post-production and finish his work. In answering, Snyder dug deeper into the real reason that he left Justice League in 2017, clarifying:

I just was kind of done with it. I was in this place of [knowing] my family needs me more than this bullshit, and I just need to honor them and do the best I can to heal that world. I had no energy to fight [the studio], and fight for [the movie]. Literally, zero energy for that. I really think that’s the main thing. I think there’s a different world where I stayed and kind of tried. And I’m sure I could have . . . because every movie is a fight, right? I was used to that. But I just did not have the [energy]. There was no fight in me. I had been beaten by what was going on in my life and I just didn’t want to, I didn’t care to . . . that was kind of where I was.

Even as someone who has tracked every step of the Snyder Cut journey, it caught me off guard to hear Zack Snyder admit that he was fighting with the studio, and was fighting over his version of Justice League, when Autumn died. And that for a moment, Snyder envisioned a world where he DID continue to fight, because as he says, these creative arguments between executives and storytellers happen on every film. But the incessant fights over Justice League, and likely over Snyder’s total vision for the DCEU, had totally drained Snyder of his ability to keep scrapping. He said he had “zero energy” for it. They wore him down, and all he could do was walk away.

What’s special about Zack Snyder, and the Release the Snyder Cut movement, is that he walked away from Justice League but didn’t allow himself to drift too far. His fanbase took up the cause and dedicated their efforts to restore Snyder’s vision, and he chimed in whenever he could to fuel their collective fire and keep the movement focused on the ultimate prize: Zack Snyder’s Justice League. And they finally prevailed, when HBO Max announced on May 20, 2020 that the Snyder Cut was coming. And now it’s almost here.

You know what else is almost here? My book, Release the Snyder Cut, which is kind of insane to realize. This is my first book, and while it’s aimed at people who love Zack Snyder and the work that he was doing in the DC universe, the book also digs deep into the power of fandom, the strength that pop-culture fans can find in unity, and the sheer lengths that this particular fanbase did to protect artistic integrity, raise funds for suicide prevention, and ensure that Zack Snyder got to finally release the true cut of Justice League. If you are interested at all in that story, pre-order a copy of Release the Snyder Cut here, or wherever books are sold.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.