EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures have found their new Man of Steel. Deadline had been hearing for the past weeks that British actor Henry Cavill was the frontrunner for the much coveted Clark Kent/Superman role in this much anticipated reboot. But as of last week, Warner Bros film chief Jeff Robinov hadn’t seen Cavill’s or the other screentests and made his decision in recent days. Repped by CAA, Cavill, known for his portrayal of Charles Brandon on Showtime’s The Tudors, just wrapped production on The Cold Light of Day and stars in the upcoming Immortals opening this fall. Directed by Tarsem Singh, Caville in Immortals plays the he-man Greek warrior Theseus who battles mythological gods including Poseidon, Zeus, Minotaur, and Herecles. Given that set up, Warner Bros clearly has chosen a more macho leading man for Superman than the previous Brandon Routh or even Christopher Reeve. “He’s got an amazing quality. He doesn’t look too much like Reeve and Routh but he’s big and strong and he has a very modern feel to him,” a Warner Bros exec just told us. “We’re really going to try and make Superman as contemporary as possible.” And just like it did with Christian Bale in the Batman reboot, the studio has gone with a British actor. In fact, Cavill also auditioned for the Batman role but lost out to Bale in 2005. He also was a contender for James Bond but was deemed too young and lost out to Daniel Craig. Clearly, Cavill is a franchise waiting to happen. He also has a past with Superman. Before Bryan Singer came on to direct Superman Returns and cast Brandon Routh, Cavill had been one of the frontrunner choices for directers Brett Ratner and McG when they were going to helm the picture. That Superman was younger, and this time, the intention was to cast an actor near 30. Cavill, who will be 28 this year, was born in the Channel Islands and his film credits include The Count Of Monte Cristo.
The new film from Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures is being produced by Christopher Nolan (It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s Chris Nolan! He’ll Mentor Superman 3.0) and directed by Zack Snyder, who made this statement: “In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time, and I am honored to be a part of his return to the big screen. I also join Warner Bros., Legendary and the producers in saying how excited we are about the casting of Henry. He is the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield.” Warner Bros, Nolan, and Snyder cast a “wide net” to find the next Man of Steel. Last November, insiders told Deadline that the studio was open to creating a star as it rebooted the Superman franchise: specifically, that the actor would either be a discovery or on TV but likely someone who isn’t well known yet. And he’d be in the age range of 28-to-32. The studio considered hundreds of young actors before making a decision just like Sony Pictures did before choosing Andrew Garfield. There was buzz on actors like Armie Hammer, the strapping 6’5″ actor from The Social Network who was eyed to play Batman in a Justice League movie that Mad Max helmer George Miller was poised to direct, and True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, who claimed during a recent movie junket that he’d been considered, and Ian Somerhalder of The Vampire Diaries.
While the Batman films have been populated by established stars Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and now Christian Bale, Superman has always lent itself to discoveries. Christopher Reeve was a find in the Salkind franchise, as was Brandon Routh in the Bryan Singer-directed Superman Returns. (Before Routh got the job, Matt Bomer was eyed seriously by almost-directors McG and Brett Ratner.) Even on the small screen, the original Superman TV series star George Reeves and Smallville’s Tom Welling and Lois & Clark‘s Dean Cain were discoveries. The lone exception we can recall was the time that Tim Burton tried to put together a Superman film with Nicolas Cage, an effort that failed because the budget became so high. And then Josh Hartnett was courted during the Ratner version (that got scrapped when Singer took over), but Hartnett didn’t take the role, even though he stood to potentially make $100 million for three pictures if all had been made. Trust us, the new guy is going to get hired on the cheap.
Other producers include Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, and Deborah Snyder. The screenplay is being written by David S. Goyer based on a story by Goyer and Nolan. Thomas Tull and Lloyd Phillips are serving as executive producers. The new Superman is targeted for release in December 2012.