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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.PreviousNext
Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.