Joe Manganiello is detailing what could have been for his Deathstroke movie.
Fresh off reprising the role for the Justice League Snyder cut, the actor is sharing more details on how he could have worked his popular mercenary into his own solo big-screen adventures.
Once a U.S. soldier, Slade Wilson took part in a secret experiment that enhanced his physical and mental abilities to the heights of human perfection. Wilson became Deathstroke the Terminator, a deadly mercenary/assassin answering to the highest bidder.
Slade did have a human side with his marriage to fellow soldier Adeline Kane and raising sons Joe and Grant. But when Joe was kidnapped, Adeline discovered the truth of her husband’s life. Slade’s rescue attempt went badly, with Joe losing his voice. Adeline responded by shooting out Slade’s right eye.
The character has often clashed with the Titans and was played in the Arrowverse by Manu Bennett and in the Titans TV show by Esai Morales.
Manganiello debuted in the role in the post-credits scene for Justice League as Deathstroke is recruited by Lex Luthor for his Legion of Doom.
The Snyder Cut has an added scene of Luthor telling Deathstroke Batman’s real identity. It also shows Slade working with Batman in the “Knightmare” sequence of Darksied conquering Earth.
Originally, Justice League would have led to a solo Batman movie directed by Ben Affleck. The plot would have been Slade believing Batman was responsible for the death of his other son, Grant, and embarking on a plan of revenge.
Speaking at Justice Con, Manganiello shared how that film’s story would have involved eliminating some supporting characters from Batman’s world.
“Some of the regular Batman characters that show up in the films were not going to make it through. It would have been a cleaning house in a lot of ways”
When that film fell through, Manganiello came up with his own treatment for a Deathstroke solo movie alongside Gareth Evans. He explains it would have involved Slade clashing with the League of Shadows, a deadly ninja-themed organization run by Batman’s old enemy, the immortal Ra’s al Ghul, alongside his daughter, Talia.
I want to make it clear that it wasn’t a script yet, it was a treatment. It was an outline for how the story could go. Who were the characters involved? It involved Adeline [Kane], the kids, who were going to be young, Wintergreen, Talia [al Ghul]. In my script, there was an origin story for the sword and there were League of Shadows ties and things like that.”
“It was more of a Tom Clancy ripped from the headlines sort of story, or even like a Bourne Identity where it was going to be really grounded, and political with military drama as far as what it would take to go from devoting his life to his country for this life he believed in to, you know, having the rug pulled out from underneath him and being stabbed in the back and not knowing who to trust.”
Grounding the tale
The storyline appears to have the origins of Slade and how he turned to Deathstroke, emphasizing he’d once been a good man before being twisted to a dark path.
Manganiello acknowledged that some of Deathstroke’s stories in the comics could be rather wild, including having Superman-level strength and sci-fi-themed adventure. He claims he wanted to ground the story for audiences.
And I wanted Deathstroke to be human and grounded and so I started with, you know, he was a part of the American military. OK, well what part? What branch? What would he have done? Where would have been, you know, what did his wife do? You know, and then of course, like the League of Shadows influence? And why does he carry a sword? And how do you learn how to use a sword? If you’re, you know, most military guys don’t mess around with katanas, it’s just not what they do. So that part of the story needed to build out. And so I was really grounding it and they really, you know they loved it. So I worked on that for six months.”
Yet there are hopes that the attention for the Snyder Cut might revive interest as Manganiello would love to once more don the suit of Deathstroke for a wild solo film outing.
Justice League the Snyder Cut streaming on HBO Max.