“We live in a society.” It’s the line spoken by Jared Leto’s Joker that lit social media ablaze on Feb. 14 when a new trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuted. The line, a nod to a popular Joker-related meme, was filmed for a new scene that takes place in an apocalyptic future and shows Leto’s Joker speaking to Ben Affleck’s Batman for the first time.
“We went back and forth a bit, and I’ll give Jared credit for that little ad-lib there, because it was really, really beautiful,” Snyder tells The Hollywood Reporter of the line.
The scene is the most substantial new piece shot for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the four-hour cut that hits HBO Max on Thursday. Snyder wrote the scene during quarantine at his home.
“It was based on a bunch of ideas that I had had over the years. I had been planting a bunch of Easter eggs in the other movies that I thought it was time to harvest into this scene,” says Zack Snyder.
After writing the scene, he had to get buy-in from Leto. It took a little time securing the Oscar-winning actor, who appeared in 2016’s Suicide Squad and had not played the character since.
“Zack and Jared talked for a while,” says producer Deborah Snyder. “Before we approached the studio, he wanted to make sure that they would be interested. At first, it was like ‘No,’ and then it was like, ‘Well, maybe,’ and then Zack was like, ‘Do you want to see the scene that I worked on?'”
In the end, Affleck and Leto ended up shooting separately due to scheduling issues, with the scene completed over three days late last year.
Snyder has been open about grand plans for the Justice League sequels he wanted to make before leaving the movie in 2017. One sequel would have taken place entirely in the post-apocalyptic world, and so it was important for the director to tease that in his cut, and to show the Joker and Batman together.
“Zack wanted to homage what David [Ayer] had done, but also make it his own,” says Deborah Snyder. “And it was post-apocalyptic, so we tried lots of different looks and everything. It was a couple of day process after doing drawings [of Joker].”
For other characters, such as Batman and Amber Heard’s Mera, the production pulled costumes out of storage, and some of them were worse for the wear.
“Luckily it was post-apocalyptic, because we went through the three cowls that were in good shape,” says Deborah Snyder. “At one point, all of a sudden Ben put it on, and it just ripped. Because everything was disintegrating. Our costume people were like, trying to tape it up.”
Adds Zack Snyder: “The costumes were definitely falling apart. But we held them together with some duct tape and baling wire and we muscled through. “
The “We live in a society” line was just one of many moments that took social media by storm in the lead-up to the Snyder Cut’s release.
On Feb. 22, there was speculation that Ryan Reynolds would appear in the new version, reprising his role from 2011’s Green Lantern, after Vanity Fair reported there would be a mind-blowing cameo in the film. Reynolds himself even addressed the speculation, confirming he was not in the movie.
What fans didn’t know at the time was that Snyder did indeed daydream about including Reynolds in the movie, though it does not seem like those dreams went very far.
“There was another idea I had for the Green Lantern that wasn’t Ryan, and so I thought that if we had gone down this path of Green Lantern, I would have had to have Ryan as the additional Lantern,” says Zack Snyder. “Filling out the Lantern Corps a little bit more than, say, just one Green Lantern.”
Over the years, the Snyders have taken encouragement from fans as well as friends and collaborators such as Christopher Nolan, an executive producer on Justice League. When THR spoke to the Snyders last week, Nolan had not yet seen the cut, but they were planning on showing him soon.
Says Deborah Snyder: “I’m excited for the world to see it. Who thought anyone was going to get to see this version of the film?”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuts on HBO Max on March 18.