The decade-long slog undertaken by Warner Bros. to get a Superman movie project off the ground during the mid-1990s and early 2000s is cinematic legend. We dodged some bullets there. Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, starring Nicolas Cage, was a mess of a script and a director completely wrong for the material.
It shows the paucity of intellectual thought in Hollywood. The conversation among the suits clearly went something along the lines of:
“Batman did good money, get us that Batman guy!”
Just when it couldn’t get any worse, it did. The J.J. Abrams written Superman Flyby was one of the worst scripts in existence, altering all sorts of aspects of Superman lore while demonstrating all of the hackiest qualities of hackery for which Abrams would eventually become infamous. How could you ever make that worse? Brett Ratner was to direct. There’s how.
Before we got 2006’s Superman Returns there were also plans for as George Millar-led Justice League and a version of Batman vs. Superman.
Over the years Jude Law and Josh Hartnett were close to being Superman and Batman respectively, but the three picture deal in front of them was not a commitment they wanted to make. Then, suddenly, every hot young buck in Hollywood was being tested for the role of Superman.
Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher, Matt Bomer, Victor Webster, Joel Edgerton, and James Marsden were screen tested. Also tested was Brendan Fraser. The 6′ 3″ actor was at the height of his powers, with The Mummy Returns in theaters.
He was interviewed on The Howard Stern Show this week and spoke in detail about the experience.
“Of course, it’s a life-changing, amazing opportunity, but I had to reconcile with, ‘Okay, say you do get the job to be the Man of Steel. It’s going to be chipped on your gravestone. Are you okay with that? You will forevermore be known as the Man of Steel. There was a sort of Faustian bargain that went into [the] feeling, and I think inherently, I didn’t want to be known for only one thing because I prided myself on diversity my whole professional life. I’m not a one-trick pony.”
He says a multitude of factors were behind him not getting the role:
“[it] had to do with shenanigans and studio politics, and, probably, inherently, in my screen test. I think that’s why you test – they could kind of see I was only there like 98%.”
He had another DC-related near miss, as he was the villain in the completed but cancelled Batgirl movie which became a tax write-off.
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