Though Man Of Steel and its follow-up, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, have certainly had their detractors, the response to little known British actor, Henry Cavill, in the role of Superman has been resoundingly positive. Indeed, the role has been something of a Holy Grail for Cavill (“He wanted to be Superman more than anything in the world,” the actor’s Tristan + Isolde co-star, James Franco, has said), and he nearly had it way before director, Zack Snyder, picked him to don the cape for 2013’s Man Of Steel. “He was almost Superman ten years ago, back when it looked like a J.J. Abrams script was going to get made with Warner Bros,” Man Of Steel producer, Charles Roven, told FilmInk just prior to his film’s release in 2013.
That script was Superman: Flyby, and it was set to be directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels), who liked Cavill for Kal-El. Cavill held the leading role until McG was replaced on the project by Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects), upon which the direction of the intended film changed. In a surprise move, Singer recalibrated the movie as an ersatz continuation of the 1970s Superman flicks, and the director wanted his Man Of Steel to closely resemble Christopher Reeve, the iconic star of those films. Enter young unknown, Brandon Routh, who Bryan Singer spotted on an audition tape that had been discarded by McG. “This role has been in my life ever since I moved out to Los Angeles in 1999,” Brandon Routh told FilmInk in 2006. “My first manager said that I looked a lot like Christopher Reeve, and that was a reason why he wanted to work with me. He always said, ‘If there’s a Superman movie, you’re gonna get it!’ I auditioned for [the TV series] Smallville and got a call back; I was really excited and it didn’t happen. I thought, ‘Well, there goes that.’ I moved to New York during the height of promotion for it and [small screen Superman] Tom Welling was everywhere! I even started watching the show!”
After meeting with Brandon Routh, Bryan Singer knew that he had found his Christopher Reeve-style Superman, and Henry Cavill was dosed with a heavy load of casting kryptonite, with the forced to wait a decade until he would get another chance to play The Man Of Steel.
Would It Have Worked?
Henry Cavill has proven himself a fine Superman, but for Bryan Singer’s Christopher Reeve-reminiscent Superman Returns, Brandon Routh was undeniably perfect.