This past December, DC fans saw the legendary villain Maxwell Lord in a big screen blockbuster for the first time in Wonder Woman 1984, but what's interesting to remember from a historical perspective is that we almost saw that particular debut happen about a decade ago. When director George Miller was making Justice League Mortal, his plan was to feature Lord as the central villain, and he even got far enough into the process to hire Jay Baruchel to play the role.
Sadly that film never actually made it into production, but based on recent comments from Baruchel, his version of Maxwell Lord would have been quite freaky.
The actor-cum-filmmaker recently sat down with Variety to discuss his directorial debut, the thriller Random Acts Of Violence, and it was at the end of the interview that he was asked about Maxwell Lord and his thoughts on Pedro Pascal's Wonder Woman 1984 performance. Baruchel couldn't comment on the latter because he apparently hasn't watched the Patty Jenkins-directed DC Extended Universe blockbuster just yet, but he did have some interesting comments that definitely make his incarnation sound different than the one we saw:
I have no idea what they did in the new one, but in ours we had psychokinesis and blood coming out of my tear ducts and a whole bunch of crazy, cool shit that would have been a blast to do. We were painting with pretty vivid operatic colors.
It is worth mentioning that there is a point where Pedro Pascal's Maxwell Lord bursts a capillary in Wonder Woman 1984 as an extension of his physical need to grant the wishes of those around him, but beyond that it sounds like Jay Baruchel's version of the character from Justice League Mortal would have been very different – with the fact that he would have had the power of psychokinesis being interesting and a notable deviation from the comics.
Originally announced back in 2007, Justice League Mortal was originally planned as the first ever live-action film about the titular team, and it assembled a massive cast beyond just Jay Baruchel as Maxwell Lord – with D. J. Cotrona as Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern, Adam Brody as The Flash, and Teresa Palmer as Talia al Ghul. The production hit multiple set backs and delays, and the project was eventually cancelled altogether, but Baruchel certainly makes it sounds like it was an awesome thing to be a part of, even for a short time.
Discussing the limited time he had to work on Justice League Mortal and work with George Miller, Jay Baruchel described it like a fantasy – getting the opportunity to really dig into his craft alongside one of the great modern filmmakers. Said the actor/director,
I can’t speak to what they did versus what we were going to do. I can speak to the crazy fucking fever dream that would have been Justice League: Mortal by George Miller. I just spent ten minutes talking shit about acting, but my time in Australia with him is everything I adore about the craft. He treated it like a play. We workshopped it. We had a full-on dramaturg on set and did super, super earnest Meisner technique shit and ripped apart and unpacked the script just for the sake of itself. It was art for art’s sake. George is one of the most important filmmakers of all time and part of the reason I wanted to be a director was Road Warrior.
Justice League Mortal will forever just have to live in our imaginations, the idea coming together in our minds through descriptions like these from those who were involved as well as the various pieces of concept art that have leaked out. Perhaps the concept could someday be turned into an animated film, but for now it's just fun for fans to hear details like this.