Joe Manganiello, who played Peter Parker’s high school nemesis Flash Thompson in 2002’s Spider-Man before joining the DCEU as Deathstroke, originally screen tested for the web-swinger alongside future Harry Osborn actor James Franco.
“[Spider-Man] was my first role. When I moved to LA, I met [director] Sam Raimi and screen tested for him the weekend that I got to LA, straight out of drama school,” Manganiello told IMDb host Kevin Smith during San Diego Comic-Con.
“Screen tested alongside James Franco, [who] was testing as Peter Parker. He was in the middle of shooting James Dean, he screen tests as Peter Parker, and I screen tested as Flash. And I had to like beat him up. ‘Here’s this guy James Franco, go beat him up.’”
Despite his stature, the burly actor auditioned for the role of meek and mild-mannered Peter Parker before it was ultimately won by Wonder Boys star Tobey Maguire.
“I’m gonna tell on myself. I actually initially auditioned for Peter Parker as well. All the guys auditioned. I’m a big, huge comic book nerd. Big time,” Manganiello said. “So I wore my glasses, and I had a button-down shirt, and I came and read for Peter Parker, knowing full-well — ‘Well, if I’m Peter, who’s Flash?’ Like a lineman from the Dallas Cowboys or something.”
Days into his Hollywood journey, Manganiello was retained as impulsive jock Flash to screen test against potential Peter Parkers — including Franco, then best known for his role as repeatedly held-back musician Daniel Desario in TV’s Freaks and Geeks.
“So I came in, and the casting director, Francine Maisler, said, ‘You were great, you’re totally wrong for this part, but there’s this other part in the movie that you’re right for.’ And I said, ‘Flash, right?’ And she said, ‘Yes. Let me go get you the audition sides.’ I said, ‘I already read them, I’ve got them memorized, let’s go.’ I unbuttoned the button-down shirt, took the glasses off, and turned into Flash,” Manganiello said.
“And then she said, ‘That was great, I want you to meet Sam Raimi,’ and so like four days later, I was on set getting paid — they paid me to screen test with all of the Spider-Man Peter Parker candidates, and James Franco was one of them.”
Manganiello reprised the role for a cameo appearance in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Following starring roles in Magic Mike and hit HBO series True Blood, Manganiello landed the role of DC Comics’ merciless mercenary Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke, first surfacing in the Justice League post-credits tag.