Spare a thought for poor Joe Manganiello, who might just be the unluckiest man to have ever signed on to join the DCEU. After making his onscreen debut as Deathstroke in the post-credits scene of Justice League, the franchise clearly had huge plans in store for the actor, precisely none of which came to fruition.
As well as being set up for a major role in Zack Snyder’s Justice League Part 2, Manganiello was also cast as the big bad in Ben Affleck’s The Batman, he was poised for a solo movie directed by The Raid‘s Gareth Evans in what would have been the filmmaker’s Hollywood debut, and was even part of The Suicide Squad when Task Force X’s second outing was in the earliest stages of development.
After Justice League bombed, Affleck dropped out of The Batman and Matt Reeves stepped in to rework the project from the ground up, Slade Wilson’s spinoff fell apart and James Gunn took over The Suicide Squad, Manganiello was left completely out in the cold until he was brought back for Zack Snyder’s reshoots. Even then, Deathstroke is only expected to play a brief role in the Knightmare timeline along with fellow new recruit Jared Leto.
In a recent interview, Manganiello elaborated on why his Deathstroke movie never happened, and there are certainly hints of Todd Phillips’ Joker in the studio’s decision to simply abandon the project.
“When the dust settled, it was not seen as a priority to make a $40 million movie about a villain origin story in which you show the backstory.”
Warner Bros. were famously reluctant to hand Joker the green light, to the extent that they slashed the budget in the hopes that Phillips would give up, and Deathstroke appears to have suffered a similar fate. Which is a real shame, because a $40 million martial arts comic book actioner from the director of The Raid sounds as though it would have been guaranteed to turn a healthy profit had it been made.