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    Justice League Grounded

    When did Lex Luthor start running Warner Bros.?

    If the bald-headed baddie isn't in charge, then he definitely owes a debt of gratitude to studio bosses who have achieved something he was never able to do—put the Justice League on ice.

    The hugely anticipated comic-book adaptation, to be helmed by Oscar winner George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet), had been fast-tracked to begin shooting in the coming weeks for a 2009 release.

    But, according to trade reports, the film has been sidelined indefinitely after producers agreed the script by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney needed some tinkering—something that can't be done until the writers' strike is over.

    Another issue was Justice League's skyrocketing budget and Warners' inability to secure tax breaks in Miller's native Australia, where the film was planning to shoot.

    Finally, the studio was facing the expiration of its holding deals with its cast of newcomers set to play Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash.

    Having already exercised options to extend their pacts once during script development, the studio would have had to honor a pay-or-play agreement effective Tuesday. The actors would have been due six-figure salaries at that point even if Justice failed to materialize.

    Instead, Warners has opted to release the actors, allowing them to work on other projects in the meantime. The studio believes that because the film is so high profile, that the largely low-profile cast will remain attached to their superfriendly roles.

    The script focused on the original incarnation of the Justice League of America: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.

    The most recognizable players in the cast were The O.C.'s Adam Brody, who was slotted to play the Flash, and rapper Common as Green Lantern. Others in the cast included virtual unknowns Armie Hammer Jr. as Batman and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman. D.J. Cotrona, Anton Yelchin and Teresa Palmer were also on board, although their specific roles weren't revealed.

    If Warner Bros. can get the script issues resolved, Justice League may still begin shooting by this fall, but it wouldn't likely hit theaters until 2010. If so, Warners might be forced to juggle the release of the sequel to 2006's Superman Returns, tentatively titled Superman: Man of Steel. That film will once again star Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel.

    However, the postponement of Justice League is sure to please Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, whose camp worried that having another Batman on the big screen would dilute the Caped Crusader franchise Nolan reinvigorated with 2005's Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale.

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