Gareth Evans’ new action-drama series Gangs of London has landed on Sky Atlantic but it’s not the first time the The Raid director has been associated with all-out, highly-choreographed action vehicle.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Movies UK, Evans has spoken candidly about the DC Comics Deathstroke movie he was attached to direct back in 2017, and why it hasn’t materialised.
“I was actually quite enthused and excited about [Deathstroke] back in the day, when it was first pitched to me. I met with them, and talked to them about it, and was certainly attached to it at a certain point,” Evans tells Yahoo.
Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello was introduced as supervillain Deathstroke in the post-credits sequence of 2017’s Justice League. Arriving on Lex Luthor’s yacht after the events of the movie, the masked villain is asked by Jesse Eisenberg’s bald baddie to set up their own an anti-Justice League team.
The scene appeared to be setting up the masked merc (real name Slade Wilson) and his own league of villains to appear in the upcoming DC extended universe, which at the time included the Ben Affleck-starring Batman solo movie.
However, with that version of the extended DC universe now not happening, with Robert Pattinson recast as Batman and Matt Reeves taking over to direct The Batman for a slated 2021 release, it appears that Joe Manganiello probably won’t be cast as the villain anymore either.
“I've spoken to Joe Manganiello, who was attached to star as Deathstroke,” Evans tells us. “I spoke to him a while back, and we both lamented the fact that it didn't happen. But yeah, I don't really have much more than that, in terms of anything lately on it.”
Read more: Eisenberg keen for Lex Luthor return
“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,” says Evans.
The heightened, highly stylised take on London in Gareth Evans’ Gangs of London – Evans removed major landmarks from the London skyline, for example – offers a hint at the world design that might have existed in his take on Deathstroke.
“Back then, I was massively influenced by the noir films coming out of South Korea, so that was my pitch. I was like, these films are amazing: the texture, and the tones of colours, the grit and the aggression of them is super interesting to use to tell Deathstroke's story.”
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Despite not getting far in the project, Evans did research which Deathstroke comic book arcs he would want to use for the big screen origin story.
“I'll be the first one to admit it, I'm not a massive comic book or superhero fan, but something about Deathstroke interested me. I did some reading into it – not enough to make real hardcore fanboys happy – but I tried my best to consume as much as I could in the time that I was on it, for a bit,” Evans tells us.
“When I read up on it, there were about three different versions of how his character originated,” explains Evans, “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.”
Of course, we’d also expect tightly choreographed, Indonesian-inspired martial-arts fight scenes, as Evans currently exhibits in Gangs of London and became known for with his seminal martial arts movies The Raid, The Raid 2 and Menantau.
Read more: Gareth Evans talks Gangs of London
“We had ideas of the kind of style that we would have gone for with that, which would have married some of the more grounded style that I have,” Evans tells us, “but then because of the world of it, it would allow me to be a bit more flamboyant and a bit more stylised. We could have taken it in some really interesting areas.”
“We had some pretty bold ideas there that could have been really visceral and really fun,” reflects Evans, “But, yeah, I don't know. Who knows? They might come back again in five or ten years time, you never know.”
“I don't know what exactly happened. I think there might have been a change of personnel, as happens quite a lot in big US studios. I think that project just stopped being a priority for them. It never really went further than two or three phone calls. I've never heard anything since, so I just presumed that project was either on the back burner somewhere, or someone else might be doing it.”
Read more: Gareth Evans shares Raid 3 concept
Gareth Evans’ next project, after Gangs of London, is a Christmas film, Havoc, which he is writing now. “We’ve already done a lot of the action design for it, and it's pretty crazy and relentless. But it's got a lot of heart in there, which I'm really excited about,” the director revealed to Yahoo.
“It's more of a sort of mainstream take on what I've done before, but still has all the edge and the fun that comes along with it.”
All nine episodes of Gangs of London are available to watch now on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.