There is one anecdote from the new Ray Fisher exposé in The Hollywood Reporter about the unprofessionalism and racism he claims to have experienced during Joss Whedon’s Justice League reshoots that perfectly encapsulates the reported tone-deafness, disrespect, and mismanagement that caused Warner Bros. to launch an internal investigation into his complaints — and it all centers on a catchphrase. In prior statements, Fisher had expressed disappointment that Whedon — who took over directing the film after Zack Snyder left the project due to the death of his daughter — had cut the backstory of his character, Cyborg, which he believed had given him depth and dimension and depicted his parents as “two genius-level Black people … We don’t see that every day.” After Whedon got involved, producer Geoff Johns also told Fisher that he wanted Cyborg to smile more.
In the new THR story, Fisher claims Johns and Whedon were trying to foist a catchphrase on him: “Booyah,” which the animated version of Cyborg says a whole lot on Teen Titans. According to Fisher, “Johns had approached Snyder about including the line, but the director didn’t want any catchphrases.” So when Whedon began reshoots, the studio saw its opportunity to introduce what Johns’s rep called “a fun moment of synergy.” But Fisher “thought of Black characters in pop culture with defining phrases: Gary Coleman’s ‘Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?’; Jimmie Walker’s ‘Dy-no-mite!’ As no one else in the film had a catchphrase, he says, ‘It seemed weird to have the only Black character say that.’” Fisher then recounts how producer Jon Berg took him out to dinner just to convince him that he had to say “Booyah.”
“This is one of the most expensive movies Warners has ever made,” Berg said, according to Fisher. “What if the CEO of AT&T has a son or daughter, and that son or daughter wants Cyborg to say ‘booyah’ in the movie and we don’t have a take of that? I could lose my job.” Fisher responded that he knew if he filmed the line, it would end up in the movie. And he expressed skepticism that the film’s fate rested on Cyborg saying “booyah.”
Fisher acquiesced, and the line ended up in the 2017 theatrical cut of the film. And of course Fisher filmed the take under the most annoying of circumstances possible. Fisher tells THR that on set, “Whedon stretched out his arms and said a line from Hamlet in a mocking tone: ‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you.’” Fisher apparently answered, “Joss — don’t. I’m not in the mood.” So it sounds like even when Whedon isn’t reportedly harassing female stars, he is being the exact sort of sniveling, snide, annoying nerd you’d expect. A real Xander.