It’s time for Warner Bros. Discovery talk about Ezra Miller, according to crisis management experts.
The actor, who plays the superhero The Flash in the studio’s DC Extended Universe, including an upcoming big-budget film, has come under scrutiny in recent months for a pattern of disturbing behavior and allegations of misconduct.
Miller, 29, made headlines in 2020 after a video appeared showing they appeared to violently suffocate a fan. However, incidents of impropriety increased in 2022 when they were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and harassment at a karaoke bar in Hawaii.
Hours before his April court appearance on these charges, Miller was arrested again after an altercation in which they were accused of throwing a chair and injuring a woman.
Now, two protective orders have been granted, one for a 12-year-old boy in Massachusetts and one for Gibson Iron Eyes, an 18-year-old Standing Rock activist, who was allegedly groomed by Miller, according to Chase Iron Eyes’ parents. and Sara Jumping Eagle. Authorities were unable to locate Miller to comply with these orders. Gibson is believed to be traveling with Miller.
Miller notably deleted his Instagram account earlier this week after posting cryptic photos and messages that appeared to insult the police.
The allegations against Miller come nearly a year before Warner Bros. released “The Flash,” a $100 million film that forms part of the studio’s DC franchise.
“When you start to have a number of things, that’s a worrying pattern,” said Tony Freinberg, president of Edendale Strategies, a crisis management and strategic communications firm. “It’s worrying about what it says about someone’s well-being and what it says about someone’s suitability to be the face of a big Warner Bros franchise.”
“Anything can be a misunderstanding,” he added. “But when you start getting into four, five, six things, you’re starting to get into worrying territory.”
Miller’s talent agent and legal representatives did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
“Silence is not an option,” said Evan Nierman, author of “Crisis Averted” and CEO of public relations firm Red Banyan. “At any given moment, by choosing not to say anything, you are communicating a message.”
Warner Bros. remained quiet during Miller’s assault arrests earlier this year, but sources within the company said emergency meetings were held in April to discuss their recent controversies and how the studio would proceed going forward. At that time, it was determined that the film would remain on the slate, but Warner Bros. would pause future projects involving the actor.
The studio even teased “The Flash” during its CinemaCon presentation in late April, hinting that it still planned to go ahead with the film’s release next year.
Miller has been associated with the DCEU since the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2016 and has been a key part of the “Fantastic Beasts” film series produced by Warner Bros., which still has two films to shoot.
“If they expect this to go away or people to forget about it, I think they’re wrong,” Nierman said.
Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The studio is in a difficult situation. On social media, DCEU fans are clamoring for Miller’s recast. But doing that and reshooting a movie is incredibly expensive, and the studio may not be able to make enough profit at the box office to make up for its investment.
It’s also not as simple as shelving the movie and writing off the multimillion budget. Freinberg noted that Warner Bros. is likely evaluating all contracts associated with the film to determine what it can legally do going forward.
If actors or producers have movie profits built into their contracts, Warner Bros. may be legally obligated to release the film, regardless of whether Miller is violating any morality clauses within his own contract.
“I think Warner Bros. is in a horrible position,” Freinberg said. “It’s not typical for people to feel sorry for movie studios, but I really feel sorry for Warner Bros because they have a nightmare situation trying to figure out what to do because all the options they have are bad.”
Warner Bros. recently merged with Discovery in a $43 billion deal, which means the company’s upper echelons aren’t just inheriting content, but the crises that come with it. Experts told CNBC that David Zaslav, president and CEO of the newly created Warner Bros. Discovery is likely very involved with how the company will respond to the situation.
Freinberg suggested that Warner Bros. could also be avoiding speaking publicly about the Miller issue because those are allegations.
“A claim is just an allegation, it’s not proven,” Freinberg said. “They’re entitled to due process and all that, but on the other hand, what’s being said about them is very serious.”
Whatever Warner Bros. decide what will be the studio’s strategy going forward, both Freinberg and Nierman agree that it needs to be done quickly.
“The key to Warner Bros. is ‘Be quick, but don’t rush,'” Freinberg said, quoting basketball coach John Wooden. “There’s no time to waste, but they don’t want to advertise something that’s half-cooked.”
Nierman echoed that sentiment, noting that any statement needs to be communicated with transparency and authenticity — and that saying nothing would be a bad choice.
“If they were my clients, I would recommend going public with a statement and doing it with a strategic outcome in mind,” Nierman said of Warner Bros. “If they know they intend to release the film, explain why they’re not scrapping the film at this point. The public and reasonable people would understand.”
He added: “In the blink of an eye, their reputation can evaporate and for that reason they need to take it seriously.”