Kevin Smith was the inaugural guest on Yahoo Entertainment’s “The Never-Weres” series and spoke in detail about an unsuccessful attempt to get a “Superman” movie off the ground with Ben Affleck in the title role. Both men were coming off the success of “Mallrats” at the time. Warner Bros. was in development on a new “Superman” movie titled “Superman Reborn,” but Smith thought the screenplay was “terrible.” That’s when Smith pitched his own “Superman” movie based on “The Death of Superman” comic series. Smith’s script went into development with producer Jon Peters, but the two clashed over casting.
“I was writing it for Affleck,” Smith said. “Ben was heating up. Like he was there. I think he’d been hired for ‘Armageddon.’ Affleck, he’s a fucking giant, like he’s built like a superhero, built like a giant action figure, particularly with the height. And then he puts on the muscles there too. So in my head and heart, it was always Ben and Michael Rooker.”
Smith wanted Affleck for Superman and Rooker for the villainous role of Lex Luther, but Peters had a different idea. The Hollywood producer wanted to cast Sean Penn as Superman, as the actor was hot off an Oscar nomination for Best Actor thanks to his role in the 1995 drama “Dead Man Walking.”
“[Jon Peters] goes, ‘Look in [Penn’s] eyes in that movie, he’s [got] haunted eyes, the eyes of a killer,’” Smith said. “And I was like, ‘Dude, it’s Superman. You know, that’s not how most people think of Superman’…But he wanted to reinvent it. He wanted something gritty, graphic and grownup. He essentially wanted like what Zack Snyder eventually did [in ‘Man of Steel,’ ‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘Justice League,’ which coincidentally featured Affleck as Batman opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman].”
Tim Burton eventually took over the reins of “Superman Lives” and set Nicolas Cage to star. Affleck would get his superhero shot years later by being cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne in “Batman v Superman.” Affleck is reprising the character in Warner Bros.’ upcoming comic book tentpole “The Flash,” due in theaters November 4.
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