The highly competitive rivalry between Deadline’s Mike Fleming and the film reporting crew at Variety has taken a contentious new turn. Reacting on Wednesday to a variety.com item by Jeff Sneider and Justin Kroll (with help from Marc Graser) about Warner Bros.’ pursuit of Ben Affleck as a possible director for a Justice League movie, Fleming lost it:
I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately that has been of questionable substance, and I’m calling bullshit on this big Variety scoop today that implies Warner Bros. will get Ben Affleck as director of its Justice League film. This is a story I checked out days ago, and didn’t run when Affleck’s reps stated that it was not going to happen with him…
Just because the studio wants Affleck doesn’t mean he will do the movie, and several sources tell me he might take a meeting, but that’s it.
The ensuing Twitter dialogue included a reminder from the Variety end that the item in no way suggests that Affleck-JL is a done deal. This morning, film editor Josh Dickey had this to say to FishbowlLA about Fleming’s accusations. “Our story, the product of several days speaking to multiple sources and rigorous vetting, is accurate. We stand by it,” he told us via email.
So what gives? Beyond a feisty competition for exclusives, what in this particular case would make Fleming drop the BS word? It’s hard to say. Perhaps it’s the fact that Dickey has been more aggressively sharing his weekly comparative tallies of film scoops published by Variety, Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter. Maybe it’s the specter of Variety inching towards powerful, non-Penske new ownership. Or, it could be nothing more than Fleming blowing off some malformed steam. Stay tuned.