Last week, Hollywood news outlets reported that Henry Cavill might be done playing Superman on the big screen, as he’s been doing since 2013 in films like Man of Steel, Justice League, and Batman vs. Superman. It remains to be seen who will next wear the cape…and who will have almost become the Man of Steel, like these actors who were considered for the part at various times over the years.
Back when the first Superman was coming together in the 1970s, producers wanted to create a sweeping Hollywood epic for the ages, and they pursued as many legendary Hollywood stars as possible. They so wanted Paul Newman involved that they offered him $4 million to play…well, whatever role he wanted. Given a choice between playing Superman, Superman’s father Jor-El, or Lex Luthor, Newman chose “none of the above.”
In 2006, Superman Returns, the first new Superman movie in nearly 20 years, hit theaters, starring little-known actor Brandon Routh as Superman / Clark Kent (sorry, spoiler alert). He just edged out Matt Bomer, best known for his work on the TV show White Collar and the film Magic Mike. Bomber had actually already secured the part, but then director Brett Ratner quit, and Bryan Singer replaced him…and started from scratch with the script and the cast.
In addition to declining the chance to play everyone from James Bond to Han Solo, Burt Reynolds could’ve portrayed the classic superhero, as he was on D.C. Comics short list of approved actors for the part back in the ‘70s.
Portraying Superman turned Cavill, a relatively little-known English actor, into an international superstar, a fate that likely would have come for Cotrona, had things worked out a little differently. Ten years before Justice League hit theaters, production was underway in 2007 on a movie called Justice League: Mortal. Sets had been constructed, and a cast was assembled, which including Armie Hammer as Batman and Cotrona as Superman, at the time best known for a horror movie called Venom and a short-lived Fox show called Skins. But then production fell apart due to budgetary concerns and the film was never made. (Cotrona at least went on to star in a G.I. Joe movie.)
Before he rebooted Star Wars, J.J. Abrams took a shot at bringing Superman back to the big screen. In 2002, he headed up a movie called Superman: Flyby, and he and producers aggressively pursued the late The Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker. In 2003, about when the movie was canceled, Walker told reporters that although he was offered “a gazillion dollars,” he just wasn’t interested.