Superman has been played by several men on the big screen, including: Christopher Reeve in four films, starting with Richard Donner’s Superman in 1977; Brandon Routh in one film, when he played Clark Kent in director Bryan Singer’s polarizing Superman Returns in 2006; and, most recently, Henry Cavill, who played him in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (and will continue to do so in the subsequent DC universe films).
Aside from these three well-known iterations, Superman concepts have often languished in development hell or faltered before they hit the big screen, leaving fans of the iconic do-gooder to wonder how other famous actors might have portrayed him. Perhaps the most infamous of those failed attempts to revive the Superman myth onscreen is Superman Lives, which was in development in the late 1990s and eventually morphed into Singer’s film (nearly a decade after screenwriter Kevin Smith presented his initial script). Tim Burton was set to direct the film and Nicolas Cage was to play the lead role.
Burton’s take on the Man of Steel never made it to production, but a new documentary The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? reveals test footage of Cage in Burton’s version of the beloved costume. In an interview with Yahoo! Movies (about his upcoming starring role in The Runner), Cage offer his own thoughts on Burton’s canceled vision for the iconic DC Comics superhero Kal-El:
The only thing I’ll say about that — because that is such a lighting rod hot topic and if I say anything at all it just seems to snowball — but I will say that I had great belief in that movie and in what Tim Burton’s vision was going to be for that movie. I would’ve loved to have seen it, but I feel that in many ways, it was sort of a win/win because of the power of the imagination. I think people can actually see the movie in their minds now and imagine it and in many ways that might resonate more deeply than the finished project.
Cage expounded a bit on that point, when his interviewer noted that a lot of fans have indeed put together their own visions of what Superman Lives might’ve looked like:
“Tim [Burton] is the total artist, a pure artist with a real vision, and I’ve often said that he can create worlds and that’s exactly what he does. I saw some of the tests of different characters and costumes for Krypton and they were just so surreal and so magical and beautiful. He’s definitely one of my favorite filmmakers because of his originality, because of his vision.”
Fans don’t have to wonder what a Tim Burton DC superhero movie would look like, as the director collaborated with Michael Keaton on Batman (1989) and Batman Returns. Still, Burton’s macabre sensibility seems far more at odds with the traditional Superman mythos, so his take on the character may’ve beenquite different than anything that had been onscreen before (or since, for that matter). The same goes for Cage in the title role, whose often strange and ambitious acting style would have easily distinguished his version of Kal-El from any others.
Superman Lives could easily have been the costly misfire the studio apparently expected it would be. Cage might be right that it’s better to imagine this bizarro version of the character’s story rather than actually seeing it. And many of the Superman films that actually exist are worth watching and present different facets of the character. Hence, the Superman Lives documentary provides an intriguing glimpse at an alternate timeline where Burton, Smith, and Cage collaborated on a major DC superhero film in the 1990s.
The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? is available on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand now through the movie’s website.
Source: Yahoo! Movies
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