Step back in time with me, if you will, to a simpler time: September 2016. At that time, Zack Snyder was still the director on Justice League, and Ben Affleck was still directing The Batman. Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) was announced to play the villainous Deathstroke, who would be squaring off against Batman in his solo feature and possibly making an appearance in Justice League.
Fast forward to July 2017 and Snyder has left Justice League for personal reasons with Joss Whedon overseeing extensive reshoots, and Affleck has handed directing duties on The Batman over to Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) who envisions a potential trilogy now that he’s thrown out the script Affleck was going to use. So where does that leave Manganiello?
The actor is remaining tight-lipped on the situation, only telling THR that when it comes to having information on The Batman, “I don’t. Well, I do but nothing that I can share. I know everything but I can’t say any of it,” adding that when we do find out something, “It’s not up to me. That’s a good question for Warner Bros. and D.C.”
While you can interpret Manganiello’s tight-lipped response as either a guy who doesn’t want to speak out of turn or someone who’s a bit sour over recent events, it’s more important to look at the bigger picture. The DCEU has gone through some major changes in 2017, not just with replacing directors, but also with the success of Wonder Woman. That film’s template and tone is what Warner Bros is going to chase because it’s a proven success. The Deathstroke character Manganiello signed on for is a relic of a time where the studio still didn’t know what it wanted.
That’s not to say he’s out, but if I may, I’d like to offer my speculation. My theory is that Manganiello had a much bigger role in The Batman. He got teased a bit in Justice League and then he would take center-stage in The Batman, and that film would basically be a battle between two strategic minds. However, it’s possible that Reeves wants to go bigger. There have been rumors (and granted, this rumor keeps popping up, so take it with less than a grain of salt), that they want to do Arkham Asylum, which would mean lots of villains coming at Batman. In that case, you could still have Deathstroke, but the role has been greatly diminished. In which case you have Manganiello holding on to a gig even if it’s not the gig he originally signed on for.
Again, that’s just pure speculation. With The Batman a long ways off, it will be interesting to see if Deathstroke even appears in Justice League or if the character is left on the cutting room floor.