A good guy and a bad guy walk onto a movie set. Both walk away feeling wronged. Disappointed. Underwhelmed. Audiences felt pretty much the same when a hopelessly messy version of Justice League hit theaters almost four years ago.
Both Ray Fisher, playing hero Cyborg, and Joe Manganiello, playing villain Deathstroke, saw their futures as iconic DC Comics characters vaporized in the aftermath of behind-the-scenes battles, catastrophic reviews, abandoned sequels, and enduring disagreement. Then, four years later, they got a do-over.
That’s where the actors found themselves last fall when Vanity Fair interviewed them on the set of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which was in the midst of shooting a new sequence for an unprecedented second try at Hollywood’s most notorious superhero face-plant. The “Shocking, Exhilarating, Heartbreaking True Story of the #SnyderCut” has already been told in detail.
The Q&A below is the story of Cyborg and Deathstroke.
Fisher thought that playing the reconstructed robotic hero in the original 2017 film would be a career breakthrough. But after Zack Snyder left the project amid a family tragedy and irreconcilable disagreements with Warner Bros., Avengers filmmaker Joss Whedon took over. That’s when the project became a source of personal upheaval for the actor, as Fisher’s negative experiences with Whedon exploded into tensions with the studio that continue today.
When Snyder was still in control of the original film, Manganiello shot a post-credit cameo as the assassin Deathstroke, intended as a prologue to a much more substantial role in Ben Affleck’s planned stand-alone film about the Caped Crusader. When that version of The Batman movie fell apart in preproduction, Manganiello’s footage was re-edited by Whedon to tease a Justice League sequel—which also never happened.
After Snyder agreed to return to the project last year to finalize his original vision as a four-hour event on HBO Max, both Fisher and Manganiello signed on to shoot the project’s one major new sequence. They’ll also see the their earlier performances restored to something closer to Snyder’s original intent. Fans will finally get to see it all in its entirety on March 18.
Both actors sat down during a break on the Simi Valley set last October to discuss how Justice League went awry, and what they hope this version sets right.
Vanity Fair: What’s it like to come back? It’s got to be a little strange.
Joe Manganiello: Four years…I mean, jeez, I don’t even know how to put it in words. We all thought it was over. But the fact that the fans were that…
Ray Fisher: [Pulling up a chair.] Hey, what’s up, man?
Manganiello: How are you? I want to hug it out, but…
Fisher: Hey, it is what it is—2020. Back in the saddle! Mohawk looks good!
Manganiello: [Runs hand through it.] Thanks!
Fisher: I was gonna say, that’s not you, though? That’s not your personal mohawk?
Manganiello: That’s my hair!
Fisher: No, it’s not. [Laughs.] That’s fucking dope.
Manganiello: Yeah, I shaved it over the weekend. He just asked what’s it like being back. It’s like, there were just so many things that I had thought about, [other projects] I had worked on. I didn’t just shoot the final scene for Justice League, the end-credit sequence. I was preparing for a movie. I was preparing for [Affleck’s] Batman. So, all the work, the sword training, the guns, you start thinking, Okay, well, I have to hurry up and shoot this scene to tease that movie. But then next year I’m going to come back and fully flesh this character out. I had all of these thoughts. And this is the culmination of four years of staring at the ceiling at night. What could I do? So, it’s fun to come back and start playing a little bit of that out. And of course, it’s great to see Zack and all the people I haven’t seen since London, all those years ago.
How is it for you, Ray? I know it’s complicated, because you’re in a situation with Warner Bros.