This article contains Zack Snyder’s Justice League spoilers.
Joe Manganiello was supposed to make numerous appearances in the DCEU as Deathstroke, a noted villain, antihero, assassin, and all around badass. His appearance in the post-credits scene of the theatrical cut of Justice League was little more than a cameo, one which explicitly stated that Lex Luthor wanted Manganiello’s Slade Wilson to be the first of a team of villains that could match the Justice League. In other words, it was a setup for a Justice League 2 that would never arrive.
But the version of that scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, while virtually identical in several ways, features different dialogue, and one that hints at the character’s ties to Batman. Snyder’s version of the scene doesn’t mention a team of villains at all, but rather shows Luthor revealing Batman’s true identity of Bruce Wayne to Deathstroke. Whatever history Deathstroke may have with Batman is left unspoken here (although it’s implied that Batman cost Slade his eye, giving him his trademark eyepatch), but it’s enough to get Wilson willing to strike a deal with Lex.
The idea of a Deathstroke/Batman fight wasn’t intended for Justice League 2, however, and was instead going to be the focus of the troubled Batman solo movie which Ben Affleck was set to direct, co-write, and star in which unfortunately never came to pass. Much of the ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League not only sets up sequels, but puts pieces in place for various solo movies for the characters, and this was no exception. Of all the things we lost out on when Affleck exited the role of Batman, the prospect of a Deathstroke vs. Batman throwdown is a pretty big one.
Manganiello’s Deathstroke was also supposed to get a solo movie of his own with The Raid‘s Gareth Evans at the helm, but that unfortunately never came to pass, either. But Manganiello was also supposed to appear in another DCEU project: a pre-James Gunn Suicide Squad 2. Before Gunn became involved with the Suicide Squad sequel, the project went through several scripts and directors, and it turns out that one version of that project would have centered on a conflict between Manganiello’s Deathstroke and Will Smith’s Deadshot.
“There was incarnation after incarnation of [Suicide Squad 2], involving me versus…Deadshot,” Manganiello recently told Vanity Fair. “So I went through a couple of years of that. And when the last one didn’t go, then you just put it away.”
But a newly filmed epilogue that Snyder added to his version of Justice League revealed even more plans for Manganiello’s Deathstroke. The character would have returned for the final part of the director’s planned Justice League trilogy, putting aside his differences with Batman after Darkseid and his hordes had ravaged the Earth, we see him as part of a ragtag team consisting of Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Mera, and…even Jared Leto’s Joker.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see any of these projects come to pass, maybe the DCEU will find room for Manganiello to get a bigger shot at the role someday.