Batgirl star Leslie Grace thanks fans for ‘love and belief’ following film’s cancellation

Actor speaks after the film, shot entirely in Glasgow on a $90m budget, was dropped from all platforms

Leslie Grace, the star of Warner Bros’ Batgirl film, has spoken out after the studio’s decision to cancel the release of the movie across all platforms.

“Querida familia! On the heels of the recent news about our movie Batgirl, I am proud of the love, hard work and intention all of our incredible cast and tireless crew put into this film over 7 months in Scotland,” Grace wrote on Instagram.

“I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process! To every Batgirl fan – THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, ‘my own damn hero!’ Batgirl for life!”

Grace, 27, rose to fame in the big-screen adaptation of In the Heights and would have been a rare Latina actor to headline a superhero film.

Grace accompanied her post with a behind-the-scenes video from the film, showing her singing along to I Will Always Love You while getting into costume.

The surprise decision by Warner Bros was made on 2 August, when the studio said the film, which had a $90m budget, would not be seen either in cinemas or on its HBO Max streaming partnership.

Speculation that the film’s quality was the determining factor behind the call not to let anyone see it has been questioned by some. Some have alleged the reasoning rests on the tax write-off from burying the film outweighing potential profits from releasing it, particularly given the heavy marketing spend required for promotion.

Some have also suggested that the studio was unhappy with the scope of the film, which had been conceived for HBO Max, rather than matching its recent blockbusters.

On Wednesday, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they were “saddened and shocked” by the news.

“We still can’t believe it,” wrote the pair, whose previous credits include Bad Boys for Life. “As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah.”

As recently as April, Grace had told Variety that discussions were already under way about a Batgirl sequel.

“There’s crazy stunts, crazy drops,” Grace added. “She’s a biker chick, so you’re going to see her do a bunch of badassery … There were a lot of long days, but it was so worth it.”

The film, which co-stars Brendan Fraser and JK Simmons, was entirely shot in Glasgow, whose city council had agreed to give Warner Bros a £150,000 “filming incentive grant” for choosing the location.

It is understood that money was offered in three £50,000 tranches: one to cover the business rates for a large empty building used as the film’s production headquarters; the second to support the employment of locally based crew; and the third tranche to cover hiring local apprentices and new entrants for the film.

The city council believes the producers honoured the first two parts of the deal, but is unsure about the third.

The city recently approached the Warner Bros executives involved, inviting them to send the council invoices for £100,000 only to discover on Tuesday evening they had been sacked as part of the Warner Bros management shake-up. It is not yet clear whether Warner Bros will now send those invoices.

While they are disappointed its cancellation means no Batgirl fans will be tempted to visit Glasgow for location-spotting, council sources said they believed the city had reaped all the benefits it expected from the filming, which ran from January to early April.

It estimates 450 Glasgow-based crew and 1,300 other Scottish creatives and technicians, as well as security staff and sub-contractors, gained work from the production.

Council leader Susan Aitken defended its involvement on Twitter, writing that “the production created well over 1,000 local jobs for crew, tradespeople and extras”.

She added: “No public money has been paid to Warner Bros, but the city did make direct income from the production in eg parking charges. Wider economic benefits to local supply chain and other businesses such as hospitality aren’t fully quantified yet, but they were very significant.”

A Glasgow city council spokesperson said: “The filming of Batgirl brought a very significant economic benefit to Glasgow when the production was here. Any decision on the release of the production is very much a matter for Warner Bros. The £150,000 grant support has not been paid, and discussions continue with the producers.”

Creative Scotland, the government and lottery-funded arts agency which includes the film-funding body Screen Scotland, said it had not given Warners Bros any financial support to film Batgirl in Glasgow.


Catherine Shoard and Severin Carrell

The GuardianTramp

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