It was two days after director Adil El Arbi’s wedding in Morocco when he and his co-director Bilall Fallah got the call that their recently wrapped $70M film Batgirl would be shelved as part of a cost-saving move for Warner Bros Discovery under David Zaslav’s new regime.
“It was a traumatic experience,” Bilall told Deadline at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Monday, adding he and El Arbi went through “all the emotions.”
“At that time, it was pretty unprecedented, so it was like movie history, but in a crazy way,” said El Arbi at Deadline’s Red Sea Studio.
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The Belgian directing duo, who were both born in Morocco, were at the festival this week with their feature Rebel, a story that follows two brothers from Belgium who join ISIS.
While the Leslie Grace starrer had finished shooting, it was “not done yet – far from it,” said El Arbi, who said they had just edited one version of the film.
“There was still a lot of work to be done but they just said it was financial decisions and so that’s that and the movie can never be released,” El Arbi said.
Fallah said that they felt “really bad” for all of the actors such as Grace, JK Simmons, Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser as well as the crew, the writers and the fans. “But we got so much support from the whole industry from directors to screenwriters to studio people that really supported us through this really difficult time and that we felt that we were not alone, and that’s positive.”
Asked whether there might be any way audiences might be able to see the film at any point in the future, El Arbi said “no, not at all.”
“There’s nothing that we can do to influence them but you know when you see Brendan Fraser, who’s maybe going to win an Oscar for The Whale, it’s like maybe that’s going to help us out because he gave an Oscar-winning performance.”
He added, “Should it maybe be released, there’s still a lot of work to be done and I don’t know if they are really going to go back for that.”
Warner Bros Discovery axed the DC project in August to take advantage of a “purchase accounting” maneuver available to the conglom because the company changed hands. That opportunity expired in mid-August so the studio opted to take advantage of a situation where it would be free of carrying any losses as it looked to find $3 billion in cost-saving synergies.
Asked whether the duo would be reticent to work with Warner Bros again, they replied, “We’d love to work for a DC project in the future but the one request is that the movie comes out. That’s the only request.”
Bilall added, “We are still fans of the DC universe.”
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