Having a project bomb is never easy for a filmmaker, but having the project flat-out shelved before anyone could judge it seems like the lowest blow.
Actress Leslie Grace recently went through that as Warner Bros. Discovery canceled her Batgirl film. The film came from directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, and it was set to have Brendan Fraser appear as the main villain. As DC Films and WBD went through a rough transitional period late last year, one of the causalities was this project, which many in the industry called awful upon test screenings.
In her first interview, since this happened, Grace opened up to Variety about what happened and the aftermath of losing out on playing Batgirl. She calls getting removed from the film deflating and frustrating.
What makes it worse is Grace wasn’t even given the courtesy of a call beforehand, as the actress reveals to Variety she got the news when fans did. “I found out like the rest of you,” she says. “And then my phone just started blowing up.”
She goes on to describe the feeling of getting the news. Grace says, “It was like deflating a balloon. On that day, I was very much just taking it all in, but also so sure of the magic that happened — in my experience and what I saw in my cast, in our team — that I was like, ‘This must be some crazy thing that we have no control over.’ I tend to be a very optimistic and positive person in these types of circumstances, and I just really leaned on the beauty of the idea that I got to have this experience in my life. Even though I would’ve loved to share that with the rest of the world, nothing can take that experience away from us.”
What added more salt to the wound was recently when DC Studios head Peter Safran called the movie “not releasable,” adding to the original comments about how the film could damage the DC Studios brand. Grace said she spoke to higher-ups at Warner Bros., and it all still seems murky.
“I had my own meetings with Warner Bros. Film Group CEOs Pam Abdy and Mike De Luca, and they explained to me, on a granular level, what they felt about the project, things that were out of their hands, plans, and budgets that were set in place before they were even part of the team. There are a lot of things that I learned through the experience about moviemaking that, as an actress, you have no control over. They weren’t really specific on anything creative in terms of what they felt about the film and how it would’ve hurt DC creatively,” says Grace.
She adds, “But I’m a human being, and people have perceptions, and people read things. And when words are expressed very lightly about work that people really dedicated a lot of time to — not just myself but the whole crew — I can understand how it could be frustrating.
Variety goes on to ask if she felt the issues that kept the film from releasing while filming, and she remained vague. “I’m not going to lie to you. In every film, there are obstacles, and our film was nothing short of that. Half of the shoot was night shoots in Scotland, where it never stops raining. So there were obstacles, but at the end of the day, because of the incredible crew, nothing that ever got in the way of us delivering what we knew we wanted to deliver for this film. At least from what I was able to see.”
But upon seeing the footage and a rough cut of the film, Grace felt it could’ve worked, going on to call what she saw as incredible. The actress says, “That’s the one thing I asked for. I got to see the film as far as it got to; the film wasn’t complete by the time that it was tested. There were a bunch of scenes that weren’t even in there. They were at the beginning of the editing process, and they were cut off because of everything going on at the company. But the film that I got to see — the scenes that were there — was incredible. There was definitely potential for a good film, in my opinion. Maybe we’ll get to see clips of it later on.”
The future of Leslie Grace as Batgirl is unclear at present, but the actress remains optimistic: “We’ve definitely had conversations about Batgirl’s future and how Batgirl can make a resurgence. I think fans are looking forward to seeing that. We’ll just see where that takes us; I can’t say one way or the other if that is a reality at this point.”
Grace is featured in How to Win Friends and Disappear People, a new comedy-thriller podcast series from QCode. The podcast series follows a computer scientist (Soni Bringas) in New York City who discovers her neighbor, played by Grace, is a vampire.