Nicholas Cage Calls His Man of Steel in Cancelled ‘Superman Lives’ ‘Gutsy’

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Superman Lives Nicholas Cage Nicholas Cage Calls His Man of Steel in Cancelled Superman Lives Gutsy

After the mega-success (and mostly positive reception) of Zack Snyder’s DC hero reboot, Man of Steel, not to mention the upcoming shared universe story to be featured in its Batman vs. Superman sequel, it’s easy to forget that Warner Bros. struggled for over 20 years to relaunch the fan-favorite franchise. Without question, Christopher Reeve left an indelible mark on the Kryptonian hero and will be, for many, not just A Superman but THE definitive take on the character. Nevertheless, since that time several other actors have prepared to don the super-boots and cape in a wide range of attempted projects.

A few actually made it to the screen, Brandon Routh starred in Brian Singer’s divisive quasi-sequel Superman Returns and after ten seasons, Smallville star Tom Welling was digitally inserted into a super-suit (the same one as Routh) for the CW show’s series finale; however, several did not make it past the pre-production stage – including George Miller’s cancelled Justice League film which would have seen G.I. Joe: Retaliation actor D.J. Cotrona in the Superman role as well as Tim Burton’s axed attempt Superman Lives starring Nicholas Cage. Now, fifteen years later the Ghost Rider actor is opening up about the cancelled project – including how he planned to approach the iconic role.

Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider Nicholas Cage Calls His Man of Steel in Cancelled Superman Lives Gutsy

Speaking with The Metro newspaper, while promoting The Croods‘ DVD/Blu-ray release, the actor addressed the 1998 Man of Steel movie that was never filmed – calling his planned portrayal of Superman “gutsy” as well as asserting that, while the project was “very close” to fruition, Warner Bros. was too scared to invest in Burton and Cage’s ideas:

“Look, I’m not going to be one of these guys that’s going to be, like, lamenting things. But is Tim Burton one of my favourite directors? Yes. Did I see some of the drawings of where he wanted to go? Yes. And I will tell you, they were fantastic and it would have been a mind-blowing experience. Did I have a concept of how to play the character? Yes, and I can tell you it would have been gutsy. So maybe Warner Brothers got scared because they had two artists that weren’t afraid to take chances.”

For anyone unfamiliar, Burton’s film was based on a script by comic book writer/feature film director (and Superman fan) Kevin Smith – which would later be heavily re-written by Wesley Strick (who had contributed on Burton’s Batman Returns) as well as Dan Gilroy (known best, at the time, for Chasers). The final story that Burton was prepared to shoot would have depicted a loose interpretation of the “Death of Superman” storyline where Doomsday was sent by Brainiac and successfully kills the Man of Steel – so that Brainiac, later dubbed “Lexiac” (after merging with Lex Luthor), could destroy Earth. Superman would have been revived in the Fortress of Solitude by a mysterious force, “K,” later revealed to be residual energy from his deceased Kryptonian parents, and manages to save the day in the nick of time. The film closed with Lois Lane revealing that she is pregnant with Superman’s child (Singer, apparently, wasn’t the only one interested in that plot line).

cage superman 570x426 Nicholas Cage Calls His Man of Steel in Cancelled Superman Lives Gutsy

It’s hard to know exactly how Burton’s take on Superman would have turned out – given that budget constraints were a major reason the film never made it in front of cameras. Yet, most fans consider Smith’s script to have been the best of the polished treatments – which was subsequently whittled down and, frankly, convoluted in subsequent rewrites by other contributors (the choice to merge Brainiac and Lex Luthor was especially poorly received by fans). Similarly, it’s unclear what Cage means when he claims his take on Superman would have been “gutsy” – since Burton’s planned shooting script doesn’t feature a particularly different iteration of its main character. While it’s impossible to know, since the film was never shot, it seems as though a lot of the “gutsier” (read: controversial) choices would have translated into risky implementation of iconic villains (mashing Lex Luthor and Braniac together as well as casting Doomsday in a sidekick role) not a particularly unique approach to Superman himself. Still, casting Cage could be consider a pretty gutsy move by Burton – so it’s definitely possible that the often quirky actor might have, under the right circumstances, brought something interesting to the part.

For anyone interested in Cage’s larger views on the superhero movie industry, the actor commented on the relationship between comic books and animated features – claiming that he doesn’t read comics anymore but appreciates their role in modern mythology:

“The truth is I’m not obsessed with comics. I don’t read comics as a 49-year-old man. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I have other interests that are more in tune with where I’m at right now. But I’m loyal and I will never forget the impressions that comics gave me as a child. They are like primitive cartoons and those characters became like a modern mythology that’s touched the world. So animated movies are like cousins to comics.”

man steel visual effects 570x294 Nicholas Cage Calls His Man of Steel in Cancelled Superman Lives Gutsy

The comment is an interesting reversal for the actor who, at San Diego Comic-Con, has often talked-up his love of reading comic books. It is possible that, at the time, he may have simply been talking about comic books that he read not comic books he is actively reading – or Cage may simply have been trying to ground his comic book clout, while pitching a Ghost Rider sequel that few people expected to be good, at the world’s biggest comic book convention.

If you’re interested in learning more about Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage’s cancelled Superman Lives film, check out the introduction for Jon Schnepp’s upcoming Kickstarter-funded documentary about the film below:

As for the Man of Steel’s future, we’ll see Henry Cavill return to the role in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman team up (which will also, at least, feature Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman) – so make sure to check back for further updates.


The untitled Man of Steel sequel (a.k.a. Batman vs. Superman) hits theaters July 17, 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Batman vs. Superman as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Source: The Metro [via Bleeding Cool]

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. I think he meant to say “Guffy”. Parp.

  2. Methinks it wouldve been s****.

  3. I’m interested in seeing that documentary.

    • Me too.

  4. Wow just wow. Im extremely curious about this weird Superman.
    The costumes, the man starring it sounds and looks like it would be s***! but we are talking about Burton here… and he is very good at making hero films. yep.

  5. I don’t have much faith in Cage as an actor, but a part of me really wishes that they actually made Superman Lives.

  6. Got to admit, a big part of me wanted to see this. But I will watch Cage in anything. Sure, nine times out of ten he is hamming it up for the paycheque, but every once in a while he reminds you why there is no one else like him.

    He is also clearly a nutbar. That helps.

    • Great post. 100% agree with you.

  7. I read the script to this film last year on line. It might still be online somewhere, but from what I read it pretty much was your typical 90’s super hero stuff. Pretty much a “meh” IMO. Glad they didn’t make this , although it would have been better than Superman returns.

  8. “appreciates their roll in modern mythology”

    Did you mean to say “role”?

    • Cheers. Thanks for catching that.

  9. I’m really curious about how this would have turned out. It might have even be good, although I just can’t imagine Cage as Superman (seems an even odder choice than Affleck as Batman).

    Although I would have rather seen a Nicholas Cage Superman than a Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. Sorry, had to go there. 😛

  10. Didnt he name his son kar-el or something ?

    To anyone interested, as a teenager I wrote a Wonder Woman, justice league and a Martian manhunter script along with a Aquaman treatment
    I still have those notebooks somewhere in the attic

    My adaptations would have been gutsy !!!

  11. he doesn’t read comics all that much huh… What’s his kids name again?

    • Kal

    • That shows you how close he was to play superman
      He thought the character was gonna be the role he’d be remembered for
      I mean why would he name his kid like that?

  12. I think this would have stunk all the way. Cage is too skinny and facialy wrong, burtons films show he has a limited scope in what is produced, and the story was crap. What a turkey!

  13. i couldn’t picture him as Supes, especially with the hairline

  14. “After the mega-success (and mostly positive reception) of Zack Snyder’s DC hero reboot, Man of Steel, ”

    …. Are you f**cking kidding me? Are you? Are you serious, so god damned serious? You have balls, such big, big balls to say that because the internet is so split on that movie that it’s ungodly.

    • Man Of Steel WAS a mega-hit, especially for an “origins” film. The film grossed 170 million in advertising revenue in some new-type deal BEFORE the film even opened; thus paying for 3/4 of the shooting budget. Then it earned 658 million around the world and will probably be one of the top selling DVD/Blue-Ray of 2013. My dude, if you had a dollar for every dollar this film has made…you’d be yellin’ “yippie, yippie!” and would have quit your job…..

    • Right? More like marginally successful and mostly negative reception. Or “meh” reception at best.

      • No, it was very successful (see above for your edification. I spelled it out VERRRRY clear).
        Some critics wanted the Chris Reeve, silver-age nonsense. This is the same group that said “Superman Returns” was to much of a tribute to the Donner film and lacked creativity.
        Rotten Tomatoes had fans giving the film a 76% fan favorable rating.
        On IMDB and Google, it was voted film of the year.
        Soooooo…..I accept your appology….
        What else do you need to know?

  15. “Gutsy”?! More like “Nutsy!”

  16. I would have loved to have seen Tim Burton’s visual take on Superman. It might have been more crazy than good, but it sounds fascinating either way. All of that waiting and we got the most conservative film imaginable in Superman Returns (not knocking it, just invoking the obvious). Better for Lex to merge wit Brainiac, in my book, than to re-hash Superman: The Movie’s real estate plot.

    I think that Cage could have done something interesting with an older Superman. But I like Cavill and the direction that things are going in now, including that we probably will finally get to see Brainiac (not counting Superman III) and Doomsday on screen sometime soon.

    • With the Man of Steel, Brainiac showed up at the end. He is apart of the planet engine.

  17. so glad that did not happen

  18. I agree with Marcus. I believe Brainiac was part of the World Engine. And I think that Lex will somehow be the cause of Brainiac coming about in MOS 2… I think Snyder and Goyer have a very good plan going forward and we will all be pleased where this leads. I for one am very intrigued..

  19. 1998,20,49 hi Abby peeler

  20. Can you I stead build a time machine to go back to 1998 and actually get this film done. I think it’s more practical.

  21. as much as I loved the death and return of superman and the audio book superman lives I am glad they killed off this production .