LOS ANGELES – Monday night’s glitzy Los Angeles premiere for The Flash, the most keenly anticipated superhero film in years, is packed with A-list celebrities like premier Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, as well as Oscar-winning actress Jessica Chastain.
But it is the scandal-plagued star of the movie, Ezra Miller, whom no one can tear their eyes off – and who at one point seemed radioactive from a publicity point of view, despite playing the title character in the US$220 million (S$295 million) film, which opens in Singapore cinemas on Wednesday.
This is the 30-year-old’s first public appearance since the media firestorm that erupted in recent years following a series of arrests on charges of disorderly conduct and assault filed against the American actor, who goes by they/them pronouns.
There were also allegations of robbery and inappropriate behaviour towards children.
In response, Miller issued a statement in August 2022 apologising, and spoke of contending with “complex mental health issues” and having begun “ongoing treatment”.
And, following a promotional campaign that has done all it could to shift the focus away from the performer, it surprises no one when reporters are told that the press line – where journalists usually get to ask actors and film-makers questions on the red carpet – is cancelled for this premiere.
But a beaming Miller still poses for photos, dressed in a crisp off-white blazer over a ruffle-collared shirt and black trousers, with shoulder-length locks partially braided and pulled up in a bun.
The star does a brief red carpet interview that steers clear of controversy and focuses solely on the film – which sees the title character, also known as Barry Allen, travel back in time to avert his mother’s death.
The Flash also stars Michael Shannon as the villain General Zod and Sasha Calle as Supergirl.
Michael Keaton reprises the version of Batman he played in the Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) films, while Affleck is back as his iteration of the Caped Crusader from DC movies such as Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017).
When Miller later introduces the film to guests at the premiere, the actor indirectly references the scandals in what appear to be prepared remarks.
Kicking off with a joke about the character Barry Allen’s speed – “I’ll try to make this fast. I’ll try to make that the last pun“ – the actor thanks bosses Peter Safran and James Gunn, co-chiefs of DC Studios, for “your grace and discernment and care in the context of my life”.
“I want to thank every single member of our unstoppable crew and our irresistible dream cast, and the thousands of artists and workers who made this movie, and everybody who supported us in our lives,” says Miller, who also played wizard antagonist Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts fantasy films (2016 to 2022). “And everybody who supported me in my life.”
In a red carpet interview with entertainment website TheMovieReport.com, the performer says seeing the movie finally premiere is “a beautiful moment for me”.
“It’s really wonderful to see everybody and have a moment to celebrate this movie that has been sort of a journey.”
And besides speed, Miller admires The Flash character, whom the actor previously portrayed in Justice League, for “his altruism, his moral compass, his willingness to sacrifice”.
“Some of the key details of being a hero, I think he embodies them fully.”
American actor-director Affleck and The Flash’s Argentinian director Andy Muschietti also spoke out in support of Miller.
On reprising his role as Batman, Affleck, 50, says: “It was really a cameo and I didn’t expect to do this, but I love Andy and I had such a great experience with Ezra. I was thrilled to come back and do it.”
Muschietti, who directed the It horror franchise (2017 to 2019), has spoken repeatedly of how talented and hardworking Miller is.
At a promotional event in Las Vegas in April, the 49-year-old described Miller as “one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with”.
And on stage at the Los Angeles premiere, Muschietti acknowledges the bumpy road for the film, which, in various forms, has been stuck in development hell since the 1980s.
Thanking Warner Bros and DC Studios for believing in the “vision and instincts” of himself and others responsible for The Flash, he says: “We thought this would never happen because it was a real marathon.
“It took us 3½ years to make this movie happen and many of you have been waiting for this longer than that, so I hope it was worth the wait.”
- The Flash opens in cinemas on Wednesday.