While speaking with Yahoo Entertainment about his new film, Archenemy , Joe Manganiello opened up about the Ben Affleck Batman movie which has been shelved since 2016. You can’t help but wonder with his willingness to speak openly about what could have been if that means there is no chance for the film to be made. Before we dive into what it could mean let’s first hear what he had to say.
At the time, Affleck had just starred in the director’s 2012 hit, Gone Girl, and took inspiration from one of his earlier movies. “There were similarities to The Game,” Manganiello says, referring to Fincher’s 1997 cult favorite that starred Michael Douglas as a rich banker who loses everything overnight, and then runs a dangerous gauntlet orchestrated by a shadowy organization.
In the original pitch for The Batman, Deathstroke performed a similar demolition job on Bruce Wayne’s life, systematically destroying his public status as Gotham City’s leading citizen and his private existence as its Caped Crusader. “It was a really dark story in which Deathstroke was like a shark or a horror movie villain that was dismantling Bruce’s life from the inside out. It was this systemic thing: He killed everyone close to Bruce and destroyed his life to try and make him suffer because he felt that Bruce was responsible for something that happened to him.”
Besides The Game, Affleck’s proposed storyline also bears strong similarities to “Born Again,” a classic arc from Frank Miller’s run on Marvel’s Daredevil comic book that was loosely adapted to the screen in the third season of the Netflix series. “It was really cool, really dark and really hard,” Manganiello says, wistfully. “I was very excited for it.” So was (Zack) Snyder, who teased The Batman in the original version of a post-credits scene that appears at the end of Justice League where Deathstroke pays a visit to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.
Unfortunately it didn’t end there. Despite shooting a sequence with Snyder setting up future projects that would include Deathstroke. Things began to look bleak for Manganiello’s time in the DCEU.
In January of 2017 Ben Affleck officially stepped away from the Batman project and not long after that Zack Snyder left Justice League due to a personal tragedy. This is where Geoff Johns and Jon Berg took complete control of the DC Cinematic Films bringing Joss Whedon in to re-write and reshoot much of Justice League changing the direction in what the future held.
When discussing the scene where Deathstroke is conversing with Lex Luthor in 2017’s Justice League, Manganiello was surprised it was left in.
“I thought that scene was gone, but [producer] Jon Berg called me up and said, ‘We’ve reworked the scene and put it back in,’” Manganiello remembers. “I was as surprised as anybody!” Instead of The Batman, the Lex/Slade encounter now laid the groundwork for a second Justice League film, though not necessarily the one Snyder had planned.
Rather than reshoot the entire sequence, the filmmakers opted to rewrite Eisenberg’s side of the conversation. “They reshot all of Jesse’s dialogue to tease Justice League Part 2, which was going to be about the Injustice League,” Manganiello says now. (For the record, Snyder intended to feature the alien despot Darkseid as the primary villain in his Justice League two-parter.) “All of that dialogue was about Batman originally, and it was changed to lines like ‘Shouldn’t we have a league of our own?’”
With poor critical and financial response to 2017’s Justice League things began to get shuffled around behind the scenes. A sequel was not a priority for the studio and many other planned projects were delayed indefinitely or cancelled altogether.
Also swept up in that bit of studio housecleaning was Manganiello’s treatment for a standalone Deathstroke film that consumed six months’ worth of his blood, sweat and tears. “I worked with an Oscar-nominated writer on that treatment, and it was one of those projects that got canceled during that period. There were maybe seven different Deathstroke projects that all didn’t happen over the course of four years. It’s one of those funny things in Hollywood and in life where you’ve just got to let it go.“
However, despite all the shenanigans that occurred in 2017, 2020 appeared to show that there was light at the end of the tunnel. In 2021 Zack Snyder will be releasing a 4-part mini series of his original vision of his Justice League film on HBO Max. Joe Manganiello was lucky enough to be asked back for the 4 to 5 additional minutes of footage that was shot in October.
“Zack called me one day and asked, ‘How’d you like to do it again?’ So I said, ‘Sure, man, I’ll be there.’ And he told me, ‘OK, we’re getting your armor out of storage in England, and we’re going to fly it over here. Is there anything you want to do differently?’”
Sure enough, Manganiello had all kinds of fresh ideas that he wanted to put into this last stab at Deathstroke, including a few culled from his never-made treatment. “Some of those elements I snuck into this round,” he teases, specifically citing the character’s badass Mohawk. “The greatest warriors are the ones who walk into battle already dead or assuming that they’re going to die — they’re looking for someone who could actually kill them. There’s almost an excitement around that, like ‘Is today going to be the day?’ So there was a climatic moment in my standalone story where I wanted Slade to shave his head into this war-like Mohawk knowing that he was going off to his own death. I said to Zack, ‘I always envisioned him with a big white Mohawk,’ and he was totally down for it.”
Fans of Zack Snyder have been clamoring at the bit, hoping and praying that Warner Media not only handed the keys back to Snyder to complete his Justice League film but to also un-pause the Snyderverse. Currently, it is believe that will Zack will not only be able to complete his entire arc but Ben Affleck will get an opportunity to make his Batman project which was shelved in late 2016.
While all of that is possible, check out our Rumorverse article about the Affleck Batman series, Manganiello holds out hope that Zack’s series could lead to further exploration of his interpretation of Deathstroke.
Depending on how the series is received, Manganiello has fresh hopes of reviving his standalone Deathstroke script. “Hopefully this will reinvigorate interest from the fans as far as wanting to see this version of the character get told. We landed on an origin story that everyone I’ve ever pitched it to has gone crazy for. There’s been so many versions of this character over the years, and I just wanted to put my own stink on him.”
This brings us back to the question at hand. Is him openly talking about these projects bad news for the future of these films?
One thing that we all need to remember is everyone involved now has hindsight. The amount of information that has leaked over the last 3/4 years has caused a stir within the fan community. Be it good or bad.
Most of what he revealed here is not anything new. It was only a few weeks ago where Joe was very hush on the subject of Deathstroke. However, he spells it out plainly in this quote here. “Hopefully this will reinvigorate interest from the fans as far as wanting to see this version of the character get told. We landed on an origin story that everyone I’ve ever pitched it to has gone crazy for. There’s been so many versions of this character over the years, and I just wanted to put my own stink on him.”
This is simply a way to build hype to show Warner Media the excitement that is out there for these projects that have yet to be greenlit or announced.
There is much more to come, as stated in the past by multiple trustworthy outlets, the Snyderverse is back on. While the future appears to hinge on the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Warner has already seen how that little series that almost wasn’t helped boost HBO Max in its first six months.
For those who are worried that Affleck’s Batman is not happening, rest assured that things are still moving.
Author: Robert Slavinsky
Robert is not only a Senior Editor for Spoilerverse.com but he also hosts both Bridging the Geekdoms and the Spoilerverse's premier Star Wars podcast, Shootin' the Sith. He is a passionate fan of movies, video games, comics and pretty much all things within the pop-culture world. He can be found on Twitter or over on his Bridging the Geekdoms YouTube channel where he talks about any rumors he is hearing as well as news that has dropped and more.