“Batgirl” co-director Adil El Arbi revealed on Instagram that several high-profile Hollywood names have reached out to him and fellow “Batgirl” director Bilall Fallah in the aftermath of Warner Bros. shelving their comic book movie. The studio announced Aug. 2 that the $90 million “Batgirl” film would not be released in theaters or on HBO Max despite already being shot. Arbi shared an email that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige sent him and Fallah in the aftermath of the film’s cancellation. The “Batgirl” directors helmed two episodes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe series “Ms. Marvel.”
“My friends, I had to reach out and let you know we are all thinking about you both,” Feige wrote. “Because of the wonderful news about the wedding (congratulations!) and the disappointing news about ‘Batgirl.’ Very proud of you guys and all the amazing work you do and particularly ‘Ms. Marvel of course! Can’t wait to see what’s next for you. Hope to see you soon.”
In addition to “Ms. Marvel,” the two filmmakers also made a name for themselves in Hollywood as the directors of “Bad Boys for Life,” the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-starring action movie that out-earned the first two “Bad Boys” movies with $206 million at the US box office and $426 million worldwide. Feige was hardly the only A-list name who reached out to the filmmakers.
“Thanks for all the messages of support all over the world,” Arbi wrote on Instagram. “Shoutout directors Edgar Wright and James Gunn, your kind words and experience mean a lot and help us through this difficult period.”
Wright has experience getting a comic book tentpole stripped away from him, as he developed “Ant-Man” at Marvel for years before exiting the project before filming due to creative differences. Gunn, meanwhile, has worked for both Warner Bros./DC (“The Suicide Squad” and “Peacemaker”) and Disney/Marvel (three “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies), which is the same line Arbi and Fallah were set to cross by going from “Ms. Marvel” to “Batgirl.”
The filmmakers issued their own statement on the film’s shelving a day after the news hit, writing they were “saddened and shocked.” The duo added, “We still can’t believe it. As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah.”
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has defended the decision. The studio is taking a write down on “Batgirl” by not releasing it after it was decided the movie was not big enough for a theatrical release and simply too expensive for streaming. The movie was originally conceived for HBO Max, but the new brass at Warner Bros. Discover is only interested in superhero movies for theaters.
“We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said during the company’s Q2 earnings call when asked directly about “Batgirl” getting the axe. “We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.”
Zaslav then cited his previously-reported goal of putting together a team with a “10-year plan focusing just on DC,” similar to the approach Disney has taken with Marvel Studios, as run by Feige. But he did not announce who would be heading that team.
“These are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” he said of the DC characters. “And as part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. DC is something that we think we could make better and we’re focused on it now.”