It's old news by now that Zack Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon as director of Justice League and reshoots drastically changed the movie's story, style, and tone, but the film itself wasn't the only thing impacted, as many actors saw their parts disappear on the cutting room floor, and at least one actor not only saw his credit disappear, but he also never got paid his residuals, even though he still actually appears in the movie.
Nick McKinless, who was cast in the role of Ares for Justice League's history lesson flashback went through months of intense training to prepare for the role of the Greek God of War. While the theatrical cut still featured him briefly, a significant part of his role was removed, including a one-on-one fight vs. Darkseid, and he only walked away with a "stunts" credit, despite his contract to play the role of Ares.
The situation is unfortunate for both McKinless and for fans, as the fans ended up missing out on a much more intense History Lesson with a bigger role for the Greek gods, particularly Ares, than what was shown in the theatrical cut.
Ares’ Role in Justice League Explained
We were first introduced to Ares in Wonder Woman's history lesson scene, which depicted him growing jealous of his father Zeus' creation, mankind, and sought to corrupt them. Zeus forced him to retreat, but centuries later, he returned to start wars on Earth until Wonder Woman defeated him. Justice League takes place before all this, while Ares was still allied with the other Greek gods.
In the theatrical cut of Justice League, Steppenwolf attacks Earth to use the Mother Boxes to create the Unity, but the armies of Man and some Greek gods stand against him. In the battle, there’s a brief shot where Ares can be seen attacking Steppenwolf before he's forced to retreat. But things were drastically different in Zack Snyder's cut, before the Joss Whedon reshoots.
In the Snyder Cut, it was actually the DC mega-villain Darkseid who led the invasion of Earth. According to the Greek text found on the murals for the set from a cut Wonder Woman scene, Darkseid was the one that invaded and faced off against Ares. Screen Rant has verified with a source close to production that Darkseid was indeed the intended villain in this scene when it was shot. According to a Zack Snyder social media comment from Vero, it may have been a younger Darkseid, going by the name Uxas. In the comics, Uxas takes the name Darkseid after acquiring the Omega Force, which gave him the power of a New God.
Greg Draven, the actor who played the Viking that buried the mother box in the history lesson, revealed to Screen Rant the Greek gods Zeus, Ares, and Artemis arrive just when the Armies of Man are being beaten down and close to defeat. Their arrival turns the tide and energizes the tribes of men to push back.
In the Justice League History Lesson, the role of Ares was played by Nick McKinless. McKinless verified with Screen Rant that he shot a longer fight scene than what was included in the theatrical cut. When the scene was shot by Snyder, Nick wasn’t told who the villain was, as he faced off against a green-suited stand-in on set, but a source close to production verified with Screen Rant that the fight was indeed against Darkseid, and a stunt performer provided motion capture for the battle separately, while Darkseid's voice, face capture, and motion capture for other scenes were performed by actor and audiobook reader Ray Porter on a later date.
In the fight, McKinless said he jumped off a box (VFX would correct this to pick him up mid-air in a massive leap) and landed in a signature Zack Snyder pose with his giant axe embedded in Darkseid. After this, he swung his axe around his head “like a hammer thrower in track and field.” There were no enemies present on set, but the description seems like the second part may have been him battling off a swarm of Parademon counterattacking after he injured Darkseid. This attack may be what ultimately turned the tide against Darkseid, with the other Greek gods fighting back Darkseid's forces, leading to his retreat.
McKinless told Screen Rant he trained for the role from February 2016 to April 2016, dropping down to just 6% body fat.
“Zack, Eunice Huthart (stunt coordinator) and myself sat in Zack’s office and discussed the scene and what look he wanted extensively and he clearly stated I would be Ares. It was that way right up until DC stepped in to completely change the make-up and costume after Zack had pretty much signed off on our original ideas. We did so many changes it was getting ridiculous frankly… Zack’s vision [was] skin like paper and veins like worms. I managed to implement a plan and train myself to get the required results. As well as being a stunt coordinator, I’ve also trained athletes and actors my whole life so I knew what was necessary”
Nick McKinless Says He Wasn’t Credited as Ares or Paid Residuals
Despite being signed on to play Ares (McKinless told Screen Rant his contract specifically says “Ares”), working with Snyder to establish the character’s look and build, and actually appearing in the History Lesson in the theatrical cut, David Thewlis, who played Ares in Wonder Woman, was ultimately credited as Ares in Justice League, while McKinless merely got a “stunts” credit. Meanwhile, the other Greek gods, Zeus and Artemis were properly credited as Sergi Constance and Aurore Lauzeral, respectively. McKinless also says he has not received any of the residual pay he expected from Warner Bros.. He says he’s attempted to contact producers, but he’s been unable to get a response.
In the theatrical cut, Nick McKinless’ face is clearly visible when he jumps at Steppenwolf. After the battle, there’s a group shot where Ares takes off his helmet, giving a brief glimpse of what could potentially be David Thewlis, but between the two actors, McKinless clearly put in more work and has a larger presence and more screen time. And, as he said, he was contracted to play the role of Ares, so it seems like Warner Bros. may have a contractual issue to clarify or work out here - it's not uncommon for multiple actors to be credited for the same character when relevant. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus even credited six actors for the same character when Heath Ledger died before the movie was done and got replaced by different actors in different scenes.
With the massive cuts and reshoots to Justice League, it shouldn’t be a surprise the behind the scenes issues extended beyond simple changes to the film, as accounting for each actor's part could get messy when so many parts were cut or shortened.
No other actors have come out yet to express similar contractual or pay issues with the movie, but this would be an understandable concern for Warner Bros. releasing the Snyder Cut of Justice League. Not only do they have the cost of completing the film's VFX and music/sound mixing, but also re-accounting for all the lost and shortened parts, potentially resulting in even more money going to any actors impacted by the changes, especially if there are more cases like McKinless. Nevertheless, with Snyder confirming his cut of the movie does exist and an incessant fan campaign for Warner Bros to release it, those are all issues Warner Bros. will likely have to resolve eventually.