Ezra Miller's 'The Flash' hits theaters after controversial year: Why the actor didn't get 'canceled'

Ezra Miller (Illustration by Victoria Ellis for Yahoo/Photo: Getty Images)
Ezra Miller (Illustration by Victoria Ellis for Yahoo/Photo: Getty Images)

What controversy? Ezra Miller stepped out in Hollywood on Monday in support of The Flash, the actor's biggest film to date. The premiere marked Miller's first high-profile event since they've been engulfed in scandal amid misconduct allegations for the past 15 months.

Miller, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, vaguely addressed the elephant in the room. The actor, who plays the titular role in the forthcoming blockbuster, gave a short speech before the screening. They thanked Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and other studio heads for "your grace and discernment and care in the context of my life. And in bringing this moment to fruition."

The film, and specifically Miller, who plays multiple versions of the speedy superhero, have received positive reviews thus far. Tom Cruise even called director Andy Muschietti and praised the film. The actor's co-stars stand by them. It's been more than five years since the #MeToo movement swept through Hollywood, resulting in the cancellation of many actors in the industry. Yet, Miller seems to have come out unscathed.

"Miller has had a rough couple of years in the public eye, but yes, with the release of The Flash it seems like Hollywood has largely been willing to keep them around, and the public's excitement for the film seems to imply that they're willing to forgive and forget in favor of seeing their favorite characters hit the screen again," Juda Engelmayer, president of HeraldPR, a crisis communications firm based in New York, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "That said, there's an argument to be made that the studio has too much invested in this film and the DC Universe to let this one fall."

With Miller sidelined due to off-screen issues, much of the promotion for 'The Flash' has focused around Michael Keaton returning as Batman and Sasha Calle's introduction as Supergirl. (Photo: Alon Ami/Warner Bros.)
With Miller sidelined due to off-screen issues, much of the promotion for The Flash has focused around Michael Keaton returning as Batman and Sasha Calle's introduction as Supergirl. (Photo: Alon Ami/Warner Bros.)

Miller first found themself in trouble in 2020, when a video appeared to show them choking a woman outside of a bar in Iceland. Last year, the 30-year-old actor was arrested twice in Hawaii, once for disorderly conduct and harassment and another for assault. In 2022, the Fantastics Beasts star pleaded guilty in their burglary case. Many of the troubling accusations that came out the past year centered around their treatment of minors. They've been accused of "cult-like" behavior and grooming young people on at least two separate occasions. They reportedly housed a woman and her three young kids at their farm where guns and weed were rampant. Despite the controversy, Warner Bros. moved forward with the theatrical release of The Flash, and by proxy, stood by its star.

Ronn Torossian, chairman and founder of 5WPR, believes Miller hasn't been treated differently "in the court of public opinion," but "has received different treatment within their industry." He notes how Warner Bros. recast Johnny Depp, Miller's co-star, in Fantastic Beasts. Muschietti has said that, as of now, Miller will not be recast should there be any sequels to The Flash.

"I don't think there's anyone that can play that character as well as they did," the director said on The Discourse podcast.

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The studio determined early on that reshooting the film with an actor other than Miller was not an option. Production had largely wrapped when Miller's behavior made headlines last year. Engelmayer, whose past clients include Harvey Weinstein and Anna Delvey, thinks that could have played a role in public perception as the decision to shelve The Flash could have been "seen as a badge of incrimination." 

"But since that didn't happen, and Miller apologized, and said they were working on their mental health issues, the public doesn't perceive anything that Miller did as bad enough to warrant being fired," he explains. "Miller has also been very quiet the last couple of months, which has definitely helped them."

In August, after police claimed they burglarized the home of a friend in Vermont, Miller issued their first statement after months of disturbing allegations.

“Having recently gone through a time of intense crisis, I now understand that I am suffering complex mental health issues and have begun ongoing treatment," Miller stated. "I want to apologize to everyone that I have alarmed and upset with my past behavior. I am committed to doing the necessary work to get back to a healthy, safe and productive stage in my life."

Torossian, whose speciality includes crisis communication, thinks the statement was enough for the studio to stick by the actor as long as they remained out of the spotlight. "Removing themselves from the public eye and continuing to work on themselves seems to be the right move," he says.

"Mental health is complex and needs to be addressed in a unique matter and at different intensity levels for everyone. Sharing that Miller is dealing with complex mental health issues is an umbrella answer. Many will accept it for now knowing how complex these issues can be, however, if they plan to continue a career in the spotlight, more specific answers will be sought out by the public over time," he adds.

It also helped Miller's case that the public did not hear directly from any alleged victims.

"Ezra won't face the full consequences of their actions until their alleged victims are the ones to bring a case against them, until then it is a bit of 'innocent until proven guilty,'" Torossian shares. "While it is a pass, it shouldn't be overlooked that every allegation is damaging no matter who it comes from and that their reputation may never recover fully."

Ezra Miller arrives at the premiere of
Ezra Miller arrives at the premiere of The Flash on June 12, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Although Miller attended the world premiere earlier this week, the actor has not been included in the studio's press tour. The studio has focused much attention on Michael Keaton suiting up again as Batman and the introduction of Sasha Calle as Supergirl, while Calle and Muschietti have done the heavy-lifting on the interview circuit. So, will Miller be the studio's scapegoat should The Flash disappoint at the box office?

"With Michael Keaton's return as Batman, it's hard to imagine the film being anything but a success," Engelmayer shares. "As to whether Miller will be included is hard to say at the moment. I would imagine the studio will be very calculated in how they handle future appearances — weighing the potential for future erratic behavior against the promise of financial success."

Engelmayer continues, "Historically, these studios seem to handle flops by just doing the same thing over again with new actors. I wouldn't imagine that this would be any exception, though we might see studio execs blame Miller if things go south. But even that, I think, is unlikely."