Celebrities

Joss Whedon Sheepishly Exits Batgirl: “Is There a Sexier Word for ‘Failed?’”

Nearly one year after officially joining the project, Joss Whedon has announced that he will no longer direct a Batgirl movie for Warner Bros. He released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, sharing that he ultimately was unable to come up with a story fit to carry the film.

“Batgirl is such an exciting project, and Warners/D.C. such collaborative and supportive partners, that it took me months to realize I really didn’t have a story,” Whedon said. He then thanked DC president Geoff Johns and Warner Bros. Picture Group president Toby Emmerich. “I’m grateful to Geoff and Toby and everyone who was so welcoming when I arrived, and so understanding when I . . . uh, is there a sexier word for ‘failed?’”

Whedon was originally slated to write, direct, and produce the film—an announcement that was met with much fanfare, considering his success with key Marvel movies The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron (not to mention seven seasons of steering the female superhero known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He was a welcome entry to the fold of Marvel’s chief rival; his light and quippy style seemed destined to lift the tone of D.C.E.U.’s somber oeuvre, established by a slew of critically panned films (although Whedon wasn’t quite able to salvage his first D.C. project, Justice League). Fans were also excited for another stand-alone movie revolving around a female superhero, something that could follow up DC’s only superheroine film this far, Wonder Woman.

However, the announcement also drew complaints from those who believed Whedon might not be the right person to helm Batgirl’s story. A purported script for his version of a Wonder Woman movie, written in the mid-aughts, leaked last June and was instantly slammed for its sexist portrayal of the Amazonian legend. The script looked especially so in comparison to Patty Jenkins’s empowering version of Wonder Woman, which became a blockbuster hit upon its release last June.

Now the question is this: who, if anyone, will DC tap to replace Whedon? Much ink has already been spilled over the troubling lack of female directors in the D.C.E.U.; it’s an exclusive club thus far that only includes . . . Jenkins, who will also helm the Wonder Woman sequel. The studio is due for more behind-the-scenes inclusion; perhaps starting with the writer and director of Batgirl would launch the project on the right note.

Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:From Emma Stone to Janelle Monáe: See Hollywood’s Wonder Women Photographed by Annie Leibovitz

Emma Stone
24 films, including La La Land (2016) and Battle of the Sexes (2017).

Acting chops matter most, but adorability never hurts, and this Emma Stone has in tidy supply. A natural blonde, Stone has registered her greatest impact on-screen as a scorchy redhead, first in Superbad, later setting the high-school halls abuzz in Easy A, finding romance in the inexplicably titled Crazy, Stupid, Love, and co-starring in a pair of Woodys (charming Colin Firth in Magic in the Moonlight and jostling Joaquin Phoenix’s moody moods in Irrational Man). Restored to blondeness, Stone played the uncharacteristically abrasive part of the wounded, resentful daughter in Birdman, a small volcanic eruption that earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Stone finds herself in the Oscar steeplechase again this year after winning the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical for her swirly, ardent luminance in La La Land, a valentine to Hollywood musicals and the Los Angeles dusk directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), which re-teams her with Crazy, Stupid, Love manwich Ryan Gosling. A sensation at the Venice Film Festival, La La Land was named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, that finicky tribe of cannibals.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Natalie Portman     37 films, including *Jackie* (2016); one Academy Award.

Natalie Portman
37 films, including Jackie (2016); one Academy Award.

A super-concentrated packet whose features have the precision of an X-Acto knife, Natalie Portman literally and figuratively blasted out of the box as a pubescent punkette assassin in The Professional (1994) and hasn’t taken a breather since, working with the top stratum of directors in a carousel of genres ranging from costume drama (The Other Boleyn Girl) to space opera (the Star Wars prequel trilogy), to mirror-splintering psychodrama (Black Swan, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role). And now, dominating the camera frame while scarcely moving a facial muscle (Garbo-esque close-ups galore), is her command performance as Jackie Kennedy in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, a master class in how to use deportment, etiquette, feathery enunciation, and impeccable fashion taste to ward off chaos and the howling wolves of grief. From Jackie’s blood-spattered pink Chanel-styled suit to her widow’s black veil and mourning dress as she staggers through the milky-white mist of Arlington National Cemetery, the film is iconography in sleepwalk motion, history as a trance state.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Janelle Monáe     3 films, including *Moonlight* and *Hidden Figures* (2016).

Janelle Monáe
3 films, including Moonlight and Hidden Figures (2016).

The Afro-futurist musical artist Janelle Monáe, whose 2010 album, The ArchAndroid, established her pro-android aesthetic and politique (“The ‘android’ represents the new ‘other,’ ” she explained), enjoyed a rookie year as an actress in 2016 that would be the envy of any humanbot. In the haunting triptych of fragility and identity Moonlight, she is Teresa, the drug dealer’s girlfriend with a consoling heart and keen emotional radar; in Hidden Figures, she’s Mary, the youngest member of a trio of unsung female African-American mathematicians working behind the scenes at NASA to keep John Glenn’s Mercury capsule from collapsing like a soda can on launch and re-entry. Equally at ease with Moonlight’s elliptical pauses and Hidden Figures’ expository prose, Monáe showed she could handle anything thrown at her and bat it over the wall.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Dakota Johnson     16 films, including *Fifty Shades Darker* (2017).

Dakota Johnson
16 films, including Fifty Shades Darker (2017).

Daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, granddaughter of the chillest, most unattainable Hitchcock blonde of them all, Tippi Hedren, Dakota Johnson has pasted her own star into this Hollywood constellation. Early twinkles in Crazy in Alabama and The Social Network were the prelude to her breakout casting as the demure literary ingénue Anastasia Steele (yowza) in the screen adaptation of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, the fiction sensation that got women worldwide thrumming. Following Fifty Shades of Grey is the forthcoming Fifty Shades Darker, and, if civilization prevails, Fifty Shades: The Wrath of Khan. It is outside the pallor and dolor of Fifty Shades that Johnson gets to strut a fuller stride, as Rebel Wilson’s avid sidekick in How to Be Single and as the sun-streaked temptress in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash. For her next daredevil mission, Johnson will be en pointe in Guadagnino’s remake of the horror cult classic Suspiria, as a ballerina who joins a mysterioso dance academy presided over by her sub-lunar co-star from A Bigger Splash, Tilda Swinton—it doesn’t get more ooga-booga than that.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Lupita Nyong’o     6 films, including *Queen of Katwe* (2016); one Academy Award.

Lupita Nyong’o
6 films, including Queen of Katwe (2016); one Academy Award.

Lupita Nyong’o is a message amplifier: only a small handful of major screen credits to her name but what a solid thump they’ve made. She seemed to burst out of parts unknown in her feature-film debut as the sadistically mistreated Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, for which she won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Fortitude also forms the mortar of her performance in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe as Nakku Harriet, the Mother Courage of a family of hungry, unschooled children in a teeming, poor, ramshackle township in Uganda where skyscrapers stand in the hazy distance like the Emerald City of Oz. Elsewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, Nyong’o is a member of the revivified Star Wars mod squad, playing the goggle-eyed pirate Maz Kanata in J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its next billion-dollar chapter. As if that weren’t pop pantheon enough, she is also cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s forthcoming Black Panther movie, making her a dual dignitary at any Comic-Con.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Amy Adams     36 films, including *Nocturnal Animals* and *Arrival* (2016).

Amy Adams
36 films, including Nocturnal Animals and Arrival (2016).

An air of expectancy is what Amy Adams has brought to the movies ever since her breakthrough, in Junebug (2005), an avid acceptance of come-what-may that made her exiled princess in Enchanted such a piquant charmer. The most un-showy of actresses, a smooth canvas each time out, Adams buoys nearly every movie she’s in, her ready calm establishing an oasis amid the testosterone sweatbox of The Fighter and the hurly-burly of American Hustle (both directed by David O. Russell), keeping the multi-narrative crisscrosses of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals on track, and elevating her performance in the critical and box-office hit Arrival—Denis Villeneuve’s Jungian science-fiction meditation, in which the aliens communicate through enso ink circles, as if blowing Zen smoke rings—to a state of grace. She’s been nominated five times for an Oscar: perhaps this will be the year—finally!—that she gets to lug one home.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.hollywood coverPhoto: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.PreviousNext

Emma Stone<br> 24 films, including <em>La La Land</em> (2016) and <em>Battle of the Sexes</em> (2017).

Emma Stone
24 films, including La La Land (2016) and Battle of the Sexes (2017).

Acting chops matter most, but adorability never hurts, and this Emma Stone has in tidy supply. A natural blonde, Stone has registered her greatest impact on-screen as a scorchy redhead, first in Superbad, later setting the high-school halls abuzz in Easy A, finding romance in the inexplicably titled Crazy, Stupid, Love, and co-starring in a pair of Woodys (charming Colin Firth in Magic in the Moonlight and jostling Joaquin Phoenix’s moody moods in Irrational Man). Restored to blondeness, Stone played the uncharacteristically abrasive part of the wounded, resentful daughter in Birdman, a small volcanic eruption that earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Stone finds herself in the Oscar steeplechase again this year after winning the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical for her swirly, ardent luminance in La La Land, a valentine to Hollywood musicals and the Los Angeles dusk directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), which re-teams her with Crazy, Stupid, Love manwich Ryan Gosling. A sensation at the Venice Film Festival, La La Land was named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, that finicky tribe of cannibals.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Natalie Portman<br> 37 films, including <em>Jackie</em> (2016); one Academy Award.

Natalie Portman
37 films, including Jackie (2016); one Academy Award.

A super-concentrated packet whose features have the precision of an X-Acto knife, Natalie Portman literally and figuratively blasted out of the box as a pubescent punkette assassin in The Professional (1994) and hasn’t taken a breather since, working with the top stratum of directors in a carousel of genres ranging from costume drama (The Other Boleyn Girl) to space opera (the Star Wars prequel trilogy), to mirror-splintering psychodrama (Black Swan, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role). And now, dominating the camera frame while scarcely moving a facial muscle (Garbo-esque close-ups galore), is her command performance as Jackie Kennedy in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, a master class in how to use deportment, etiquette, feathery enunciation, and impeccable fashion taste to ward off chaos and the howling wolves of grief. From Jackie’s blood-spattered pink Chanel-styled suit to her widow’s black veil and mourning dress as she staggers through the milky-white mist of Arlington National Cemetery, the film is iconography in sleepwalk motion, history as a trance state.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Janelle Monáe<br> 3 films, including <em>Moonlight</em> and <em>Hidden Figures</em> (2016).

Janelle Monáe
3 films, including Moonlight and Hidden Figures (2016).

The Afro-futurist musical artist Janelle Monáe, whose 2010 album, The ArchAndroid, established her pro-android aesthetic and politique (“The ‘android’ represents the new ‘other,’ ” she explained), enjoyed a rookie year as an actress in 2016 that would be the envy of any humanbot. In the haunting triptych of fragility and identity Moonlight, she is Teresa, the drug dealer’s girlfriend with a consoling heart and keen emotional radar; in Hidden Figures, she’s Mary, the youngest member of a trio of unsung female African-American mathematicians working behind the scenes at NASA to keep John Glenn’s Mercury capsule from collapsing like a soda can on launch and re-entry. Equally at ease with Moonlight’s elliptical pauses and Hidden Figures’ expository prose, Monáe showed she could handle anything thrown at her and bat it over the wall.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Dakota Johnson<br> 16 films, including <em>Fifty Shades Darker</em> (2017).

Dakota Johnson
16 films, including Fifty Shades Darker (2017).

Daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, granddaughter of the chillest, most unattainable Hitchcock blonde of them all, Tippi Hedren, Dakota Johnson has pasted her own star into this Hollywood constellation. Early twinkles in Crazy in Alabama and The Social Network were the prelude to her breakout casting as the demure literary ingénue Anastasia Steele (yowza) in the screen adaptation of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, the fiction sensation that got women worldwide thrumming. Following Fifty Shades of Grey is the forthcoming Fifty Shades Darker, and, if civilization prevails, Fifty Shades: The Wrath of Khan. It is outside the pallor and dolor of Fifty Shades that Johnson gets to strut a fuller stride, as Rebel Wilson’s avid sidekick in How to Be Single and as the sun-streaked temptress in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash. For her next daredevil mission, Johnson will be en pointe in Guadagnino’s remake of the horror cult classic Suspiria, as a ballerina who joins a mysterioso dance academy presided over by her sub-lunar co-star from A Bigger Splash, Tilda Swinton—it doesn’t get more ooga-booga than that.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Elle Fanning<br> 32 films, including <em>20th Century Women</em> and <em>Live by Night</em> (2016).

Elle Fanning
32 films, including 20th Century Women and Live by Night (2016).

Elle Fanning first toddled on-screen playing younger versions of her older sister, Dakota, in I Am Sam and again in Taken, the Syfy mini-series produced by Steven Spielberg about alien abduction and hybrid breeding. Instrumental roles in Maleficent, as Princess Aurora, and as the exasperated daughter in Trumbo didn’t quite prep viewers for the one-two whammo of 2016’s The Neon Demon and 20th Century Women. In The Neon Demon, another one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s phantasmagoric orgies, Fanning plays an under-age model sucked up the coke straw of L.A. decadence who cuts a bloody swath to ace the competition. In 20th Century Women, a far easier session on the optic nerves, Fanning plays a lustrous, restless, teenage sunflower in Santa Barbara who moves like a pop tune through air, teaches a young lad the proper dude way to smoke and swagger, and mimics the whimpering moans of male lust with fond disdain. In store for Fanning in 2017 is Sofia Coppola’s remake of Don Siegel’s macabre Civil War fable, The Beguiled, where the dewy magnolias of Confederate girlhood turn into Venus flytraps.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Dakota Fanning<br> 37 films, including <em>American Pastoral</em> (2016).

Dakota Fanning
37 films, including American Pastoral (2016).

“Precocious” doesn’t begin to cover it when it comes to Dakota Fanning. Born in 1994, she stacked up TV credits for ER, Ally McBeal, CSI, and Spin City before the age of seven and at that grand old age won a Critics’ Choice Award for her performance in I Am Sam. A key role in Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction series Taken led to a part in Spielberg’s adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, and she etherealized in a number of the Twilight sparkling-vampire movies, a rite of passage for so many millennial stars and a curse for some. Like her younger sister, Elle, Dakota looks dreamily evocative of days past, a convincing sojourner in the punk 70s (as Cherie Currie in The Runaways), the stuffily repressed Victorian era (Effie Gray), and the revolutionary 60s (Ewan McGregor’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral). Fanning will step into the time machine once again to star in The Bell Jar, directed by Kirsten Dunst and based on the Sylvia Plath novel that became the bible for a depressed generation. If anybody can dispel the cobwebs and vapors that have collected in the Plath sacristy, Dakota and Dunst can (fingers crossed).Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Ruth Negga<br> 13 films, including <em>Loving</em> (2016).

Ruth Negga
13 films, including Loving (2016).

The Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga has eyes intentful enough to shift objects around on-screen—a near-telekinetic focus that can shove aside anyone crowding her path (as evidenced by her brash Tulip O’Hare in AMC’s Preacher). What makes her performance in Jeff Nichols’s Loving so quietly capturing is how long her character’s direct gaze is kept warily under wraps, deflecting scrutiny, biding its time. For good reason: in the real-life 1960s South, where the film is set, a direct look from a black person at a white man in authority was considered an affront—it could get you killed. Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an inter-racial couple whose marriage was treated as a crime in their home state of Virginia, and as a victory when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, in 1967. It is Richard (Joel Edgerton, chiseled and hunkered-in) who is insistent at first on setting things right, then Mildred who proves the persistent one, seizing the baton when he starts to hang back, and whose eyes, no longer averted, are on the prize.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Aja Naomi King<br> 6 films, including <em>The Birth of a Nation</em> (2016).

Aja Naomi King
6 films, including The Birth of a Nation (2016).

Aja Naomi King’s movie ascendancy as the slave girl Cherry in Nate Parker’s blazing battle cry, The Birth of a Nation (based on the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831), is a complete boomerang from the role that made her television rep. After an assortment of credits in film (“Positive Polly” in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and Rosa in the underseen comedy The Rewrite) and in prime-time series such as Emily Owens, M.D. and The Blacklist, King was whisked aboard the mother ship of Shondaland’s How to Get Away with Murder, starring the inviolable Viola Davis. Shondaland TV is not so much a place as a quantum state in which dialogue, events, character reversals, and shocking twists occur at speeds unknown to mundane humankind. King’s Michaela Pratt has been in the mad thick of it for three seasons, and the part of Cherry required a rapid deceleration and divestment of contemporary traits to fit seamlessly into the time, place, and tragic situation of southern slavery. This King did so artfully that you don’t see the art, only an eloquent act of being.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Greta Gerwig<br> 14 films, including <em>Jackie</em> and <em>20th Century Women</em> (2016).

Greta Gerwig
14 films, including Jackie and 20th Century Women (2016).

A screwball heroine with a lot of topspin, Greta Gerwig is at her best playing agitators and instigators—taking Lola Kirke under her erratic wing in Mistress America, creating a junior-miss version of Miss Jean Brodie in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, hatching a scheme to unload her pretentious married boyfriend back onto his wife in Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, and driving Al Pacino out of what’s left of his woolly mind in The Humbling. Her gyrating and instigating are beautifully fused in Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women, in which she plays Abbie, a soul-hungry Woody Woodpecker punkhead in a Lou Reed T-shirt who spazzes out to Talking Heads and the Clash, takes her teenage roomie to the nearest mosh pit, and conducts a blunt tutorial on menstruation at a dinner party presided over by a squinty and supremely unamused Annette Bening (never greater). Gerwig can also be seen in the recently released Jackie, consoling and advising the grief-stricken First Lady, a guardian angel in a brunette bouffant.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Greta Gerwig<br> 14 films, including <em>Jackie</em> and <em>20th Century Women</em> (2016).

Greta Gerwig
14 films, including Jackie and 20th Century Women (2016).

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Lupita Nyong’o<br> 6 films, including <em>Queen of Katwe</em> (2016); one Academy Award.

Lupita Nyong’o
6 films, including Queen of Katwe (2016); one Academy Award.

Lupita Nyong’o is a message amplifier: only a small handful of major screen credits to her name but what a solid thump they’ve made. She seemed to burst out of parts unknown in her feature-film debut as the sadistically mistreated Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, for which she won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Fortitude also forms the mortar of her performance in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe as Nakku Harriet, the Mother Courage of a family of hungry, unschooled children in a teeming, poor, ramshackle township in Uganda where skyscrapers stand in the hazy distance like the Emerald City of Oz. Elsewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, Nyong’o is a member of the revivified Star Wars mod squad, playing the goggle-eyed pirate Maz Kanata in J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its next billion-dollar chapter. As if that weren’t pop pantheon enough, she is also cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s forthcoming Black Panther movie, making her a dual dignitary at any Comic-Con.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Amy Adams<br> 36 films, including <em>Nocturnal Animals</em> and <em>Arrival</em> (2016).

Amy Adams
36 films, including Nocturnal Animals and Arrival (2016).

An air of expectancy is what Amy Adams has brought to the movies ever since her breakthrough, in Junebug (2005), an avid acceptance of come-what-may that made her exiled princess in Enchanted such a piquant charmer. The most un-showy of actresses, a smooth canvas each time out, Adams buoys nearly every movie she’s in, her ready calm establishing an oasis amid the testosterone sweatbox of The Fighter and the hurly-burly of American Hustle (both directed by David O. Russell), keeping the multi-narrative crisscrosses of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals on track, and elevating her performance in the critical and box-office hit Arrival—Denis Villeneuve’s Jungian science-fiction meditation, in which the aliens communicate through enso ink circles, as if blowing Zen smoke rings—to a state of grace. She’s been nominated five times for an Oscar: perhaps this will be the year—finally!—that she gets to lug one home.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.

[contf] [contfnew]

Vanity Fair

[contfnewc] [contfnewc]

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button