Some of these are pretty far out there, even for a comic book movie.
If you live for 'Superman' news, last week was good to you. Everyone knows that 'Batman' mastermind Christopher Nolan is shepherding a big-screen reboot of the Man of Steel with writing partner David Goyer. But last Thursday, it was revealed that there's a short-list of directors that Nolan is considering, including Zack Snyder and Tony Scott. Then this past Monday, Darren Aronofsky's name was added to the list of possible directors. Furthermore, if Aronofsky gets the job, he is reportedly looking to get Natalie Portman as his Lois Lane. Then just Wednesday, it came out that Robert Zemeckis is also a candidate. UPDATE: Zack Snyder to Direct 'Superman'
But as exciting as all these 'Superman' possibilities may be, they're just the latest in a long list of "what if?" dream projects featuring interesting directors and off-beat casting choices. In fact, there are more never-made 'Superman' movies than there are actual 'Superman' movies.
Read on to discover 'Superman''s complicated big-screen history and learn about all the leading men who almost wore the red cape.
Superman 'SUPERMAN' (1974-78; pre-Richard Donner)
Starring ... Muhammad Ali?
Directed by ... Sam Peckinpah?
Casting for the classic 1978 'Superman' starring Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner was not a simple process. The search took four years, and everyone and his brother was on the short list to play the Man of Steel.
Seventies superstars James Caan, Dustin Hoffman (who also turned down the part of Lex Luthor), Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Al Pacino were all considered. Paul Newman turned down the parts of Supes, his father and Luthor. Neil Diamond, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone all campaigned to get the job, but none of them was considered. Even Muhammad Ali was in the discussion! Amazingly, one man who actually got to audition for the part in 1976 was Olympic gold medal decathlon athlete (and future plastic surgery enthusiast) Bruce Jenner.
Finding a director was equally difficult. Sam Peckinpah was in the running to direct, until he produced a gun during a meeting with producers. George Lucas was courted, but he was too busy getting ready for 'The Empire Strikes Back.' The producers then disagreed over hiring Steven Spielberg, arguing that, in the pre-'Jaws' world, he wasn't a sure thing.
'SUPERMAN REBORN' (1994)
After burning out the Donner/Reeve series with sequel-itis, Warner Bros. and producer Jon Peters hoped to reboot the series in the 1990s to capitalize on the success of the 'Death of Superman' storyline that took the comic-book world by storm -- and also to reinvigorate the franchise's lucrative merchandise potential.
'Superman Reborn' went through several drafts, with the basic story of Superman dying at the hands of alien monster Doomsday, but not before passing on his reincarnated form to Lois Lane, who becomes pregnant via immaculate conception. The baby ages super-fast into an adult super-hero and saves the day.
'SUPERMAN LIVES' (1997)
Starring ... Ben Affleck?
Written by ... Kevin Smith?
Kevin Smith was brought on to rewrite the script but quickly found himself at odds with Peters, who reportedly made a few questionable demands: Superman should not wear the traditional red-and-blue costume; Superman should not fly; Superman should fight a giant spider at the end of the movie; and the villainous Braniac should be accompanied by a gay, sarcastic robot and a Chewbacca-like dog that could be marketed as a children's toy.
For his part, Smith envisioned Affleck as the Man of Steel; Jack Nicholson would play Lex Luthor and Linda Fiorentino would be Lois Lane. Braniac would be played by Jason Lee and Jimmy Olsen would be played by the foul-mouthed Jason "Jay" Mewes. Peters meanwhile felt that Sean Penn was the perfect choice because he had "the eyes of a killer" -- which totally describes Superman, right?
Tim Burton 'SUPERMAN REBORN' (1998)
Starring ... Nicolas Cage?
Directed by ... Tim Burton?
Smith's script was thrown out when Tim Burton signed on to direct the film. Burton's vision of the film featured a black-suited Superman rising from the grave, thanks to a mysterious, ancient alien power known as "K" -- a power almost exactly like the Force.
Clark Kent's nemesis would be Lexiac -- a hybrid of Lex Luthor and the alien Braniac. Kevin Spacey was set to play Lex Luthor, while either Tim Allen or Jim Carrey were lined up for Braniac. Cameron Diaz was rumored for the part of Lois Lane, with Chris Rock signed to play Jimmy Olsen. Over the years, rumors have persisted that Hulk Hogan would have served as the monstrous figure of Doomsday, and Michael Keaton would have made a cameo as Bruce Wayne.
After constant arguments with producer Jon Peters, Burton left the project and the cast fell apart. Amount spent on pre-production: $30 million. Amount of footage shot: none.
'BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN' (2002)
Starring ... Josh Hartnett?
Directed by ... Wolfgang Petersen?
More screenwriters, comic book writers and even fan fiction scribes were given the opportunity to work with 'Superman Reborn,' as Peters tried to make it more 'Matrix'-y. Will Smith was offered the part, but turned it down, forcing Warner Bros. to decide that another reboot was necessary.
With the 'Batman' franchise also suffering, Warner Bros. opted to relaunch both characters in one film. Hiring the Oscar-nominated Petersen to direct, 'Batman vs. Superman' takes place in a world where Alfred, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon are already dead, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane have divorced. The two bitter caped heroes would team-up/fight each other over the combined threat of Lex Luthor and the Joker.
Christian Bale was already being prepped for Batman, while the sleepy-eyed Hartnett was Petersen's pick for the big blue Boy Scout. The project fell apart when Petersen left to direct 'Troy.'
'SUPERMAN: FLYBY' (2003)
Starring ... Ashton Kutcher?
Directed by ... McG?
Written by ... J.J. Abrams?
Developed at the same time as 'Batman vs. Superman,' this Abrams-scripted trilogy was being considered and was rumored to cost over 200 million dollars. In 'Flyby,' Krypton doesn't blow up, but is caught in a civil war between Supes' father and uncle. Kal-El is a prophetic savior exiled on earth. And Lex Luthor was an alien-hunting FBI agent (and secret Kryptonian spy!).
McG signed on to direct, but then left the project to make 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.' Brett Ratner stepped in, and secured Anthony Hopkins for the part of Jor-El, Superman's father. Hartnett did not want to commit to three movies, so Superman was offered to Jude Law, then Ashton Kutcher, who screen-tested for the part, but ultimately rejected it out of fear of being type-cast. Ratner then dropped out after further casting difficulties and -- you guessed it -- arguments with producer Jon Peters.
McG jumped back onto the project, along with Christoper Reeve, who was brought on as a project consultant; Reeve pushed for an unknown to take the part. Shia LeBouf was approached for Jimmy Olsen, with Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane, and Johnny Depp as Lex Luthor. McG left the project again over filming concerns; WB wanted to film the movie in the more affordable locale of Sydney, Australia, while McG did not think that it would suffice as the American city of Metropolis.
THE 'SUPERMAN RETURNS' SEQUEL (2009)
Starring ... Brandon Routh?
Directed by ... Bryan Singer?
At this point, Warner Bros. decided to abandon the reboot concept entirely, and returned to the Reeve/Donner mythos with the 2006 blockbuster 'Superman Returns.' Director Singer and star Routh made plans for another installment, but when the film "only" grossed just under $400 million dollars -- and not the $500 million they'd hoped for -- WB called the film a "disappointment" and returned to the reboot plan.