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Deathstroke has been a major villain in the DC Comics universe for four decades now, and his popularity has been boosted over the last decade thanks to various live-action appearances. In addition to Manu Bennett and Esai Morales bring Slade Wilson to life on the TV shows Arrow and Titans, respectively, True Blood actor Joe Manganiello got to briefly portray the character in Justice League, as Slade met with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor about starting a “league of their own” to combat the newly-formed superhero team.
This was intended to be the first of several Deathstroke appearances in the DC Extended Universe, which included a standalone Deathstroke movie that The Raid’s Gareth Evans was tapped to write and direct. However, there haven’t been many updates on this project since it was announced in late 2017, and since the direction of the DCEU has changed significantly following Justice League’s release, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Joe Manganiello will reprise the one-eyed assassin.
As such, Gareth Evans was recently willing to shed some light on what he wanted to accomplish with his Deathstroke movie. As the filmmaker put it:
The plan was, I wanted to tell something that would be a lean story, that would be kind of an origin of that character. Something that felt like it could be 100 minutes or 110 minutes long, max – not to go over the two hour period with it.
It makes sense that the Deathstroke movie would have explored Slade Wilson’s past, because even though DC fans are quite familiar with him, he’s still relatively unknown to the general public. So with Justice League having featured an established Deathstroke, the assassin’s movie could wind the clock back and showed just how he built his notorious reputation.
This would have included showing how Slade Wilson lost his eye, something that captivated Gareth Evans when he was reading Deathstroke stories and has happened in many different ways, depending on the continuity. Continuing in his interview with Yahoo:
When I read up on it, there were about three different versions of how his character originated. And so I thought we could do something quite Shakespearean, in terms of how he loses his eye, and how he gets created as the character that he is.
Gareth Evans also mentioned that when he pitched Deathstroke, he was “massively influenced by the noir films coming out of South Korea,” and wanted to use the same kind of texture, color tones, grit and aggression with Slade Wilson’s story. And, as anyone familiar with Evans’ body of work might have assumed, the Deathstroke movie would have Indonesian-inspired martial arts scenes, although the director noted that the fighting in this story would have been a melding of the “grounded style” he traditionally highlights with some more “flamboyant” and “stylized” elements.
Overall, Gareth Evans said that his “bold ideas” for Deathstroke “could have been really visceral and really fun,” but things never moved forward beyond the two or three phone calls he had with the Warner Bros brass. Evans suspects that this project just isn’t a priority anymore, but speculated that maybe it could be picked up again five or ten years down the line.
This Deathstroke movie isn’t the only opportunity that Joe Manganiello lost out on to play Slade Wilson again. Back when The Batman was still being envisioned as a platform for Ben Affleck’s incarnation of the Caped Crusader, the plan was for Deathstroke to be the main antagonist. That’s no longer the case, as Matt Reeves’ version of The Batman sees Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl, with his Bruce Wayne crossing paths with rogues like Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman, Paul Dano’s Riddler and Colin Farrell’s Penguin.
Gareth Evans’ latest project, the TV series Gangs of London, will air on Cinemax later this year. Keep track of what DC movies are still on the way with our detailed guide.