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The actors who could have been Superman

April 27th, 2013 by Edwin Torres Jr Comments


With the new Superman reboot Man of Steel, set to come out June 14th, many fans are feeling better than they have in years about Superman on the big screen. I count myself among them. I thought Brandon Routh did an excellent job of channeling Reeve for Superman Returns, but he should have never been asked to imitate an icon. I didn’t think the movie was as horrible as others but it was boring and having it be a direct sequel to Superman 2 was a strange choice by Bryan Singer. So as we look forward to the reboot I thought this would be a fun piece to do. I just covered the basics.

Christopher Reeve was the perfect Clark Kent/Superman. But before him others were considered. After many him too.

Directed by Richard Donner, Superman was the first big budget, big screen superhero movie and of course attracted some big names. The biggest of them, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds, were said to have knocked back offers to star as Supermanearly on in development. But young rising stars were knocking down the door to audition for the role. They included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Nolte and Sylvester Stallone, who wanted his shot after the success of Rocky.

Stallone apparently lobbied hard for the part  and could’ve been Superman, until he received a big right hook from Marlon Brando, who had already been signed to star as Jor-El. Brando didn’t want the Italian Stallion playing his son.

Ouch. TKO

After the panned Superman IV it would be nearly two decades before his “Return”. About ten years before Brandon Routh became the Man of Steel, Nicolas Cage was set to put on the red underpants, or in this case black, for Tim Burton. Kevin Smith’s unique take, titled Superman Lives, which featured Superman wearing a black Eradicator suit and battling the ominous pairing of Brainiac and Doomsday, ultimately lured Tim Burton to direct and Cage to star. Though Smith allegedly wanted his old friend, Ben Affleck to have the role.

Burton eventually had Wesley Strick re-write Smith’s work and Superman was set to be confronted by a strange Brainiac-Lex Luthor amalgamation called Lexiac. But he studio scrapped that script, and then another one by Dan Gilroy, before eventually killing the entire project to focus on Wild, Wild West.

Will Smith was approached twice to play Superman. Once  by producer Jon Peters a couple of years after Kevin smith’s treatment.  Then a second time by director Bryan Singer, more recently before making Superman Returns. Ironically, Smith also turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix (another superman) so he could appear in the commercial flop Wild, Wild West. The closest Smith ever got after that was playing an alcoholic superhuman with an attitude in Hancock.

For a while a Batman vs Superman idea was tossed aroundbut they decided on screenplay by J.J. Abrams called Superman: Flyby, an origin story with a controversial difference that also deals with Superman’s death, a Kryptonian heaven, and Superman’s resurrection.

Up and comer Josh Hartnett, viewed as the next big thing in Hollywood, was allegedly offered $100 million to appear in a planned trilogy, but that was believed to be the sticking point. Jude Law was also in talks and Brett Ratner was signed to direct.

While they tried to move forward on Abrams’ script many young actors auditioned for the role, among them were Brendan Fraser, David Boreanaz and Ashton Kutcher.

Rumored to be the front runner after a “very, very good” screen-test, Ashton Kutcher eventually  punk d Brett Ratner and producers when he decided to drop himself from the race, after allegedly being spooked by the “Superman curse.”


A couple of years ago speaking about the original movie, producer Ilya Salkind said:

“After meeting a lot of actors, such as Jon Voight – we even met Neil Diamond, don’t ask me why – I knew in my heart of hearts it had to be an unknown.”

Thank the comic gods his heart of hearts was making the decision. The world would be a much sadder place indeed if it had never known Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.

Stallone? Cage? Really?







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Born and raised in NY, a self titled Nerd Jedi. He met his destiny at 5, with the snap-hiss of Luke's lightsaber in Star Wars. He's never looked back. He wields dual lightsabers, called Common Sense and Humor, and uses them in pursuit of all things Nerd. A husband and father, he still finds time for comics, video games, movies, and shows. You can follow his blog at or his Twitter @ed_pool