30 Actors Who Almost Played Superman

Sylvester Stallone

Who They Missed Out To: Christopher Reeve. Bouncing along on the success of the first Rocky film, Sly Stallone "lobbied hard" for the role of Superman.

When Marlon Brando landed the part of Jor-El, though, it spelled doom for Stallone. Brando had casting approval on Supes, and he didn't want Sly near the role.

Sounds like producer Ilya Salkin wasn't a fan, either, having admitted it was "a little bit difficult to imagine" Stallone as Supes.

So much for 'Gonna Fly Now'.

If They Had Got It:
We’d have needed subtitles to understand Superman’s impassioned speeches.

Ashton Kutcher

Who They Missed Out To: Nobody. Though Kutcher reportedly gave a "very, very good" audition for director Brett Ratner, he backed out, citing the Superman curse as a reason to stay away.

"I think there’s a bit of a curse behind that role – the things that have happened to people," he said at the time.

"Also, I think once you’ve played that role then you’re just forever known as Superman. It’s kind of hard to play other things. I have a lot of other characters I’d rather play."

If They Had Got It: Audiences would have felt like they were watching a special, feature-length edition of Punk’d.

Will Smith

Who They Missed Out To: Brandon Routh, though technically Smith turned the role down before Routh swooped into frame.

Said Smith at the time: “The last Superman I got offered, the script came, and I was like, ‘There is no way I’m playing Superman!’

“Because I had already done Jim West ( Wild Wild West ) and you can’t be messing up white peoples’ heroes in Hollywood. You mess up white peoples’ heroes in Hollywood, you’ll never work in this town again!”

If They Had Got It: He could have starred opposite himself in a Hancock Vs Superman smackdown event movie.

Warren Beatty

Who They Missed Out To: Christopher Reeve.

Though in actuality, Beatty got so far as trying on those infamous tights. Unfortunately he felt so ridiculous in them that he declined the role.

If They Had Got It: He wouldn’t have made Heaven Can Wait (released the same year as Superman) and received those nine Academy Award nominations.

Josh Hartnett

Who They Missed Out To: Nobody. Harnett was being courted by director Brett Ratner to star in Batman Vs Superman (with Christian Bale as the Dark Knight), a movie that never got made.

Said Ratner in 2003: “No star wants to sign that, but as much as I’ve told Jude [ Law ] and Josh [ Hartnett ] my vision for the movie, I’ve warned them of the consequences of being Superman.

"They’ll live this character for 10 years because I’m telling one story over three movies and plan to direct all three if the first is as successful as everyone suspects.”

If They Had Got It: We’d have had Hartnett vs Bale. I think we know who’d win in that situation.

Jon Voight

Who They Missed Out To: Christopher Reeve. Voight was just one of 200 actors who went up for a part in the 1978 Superman – and was even the producer’s back-up if they couldn’t find their ideal Supes. Probably thanks to his enthusiasm.

"Jon Voight had signed a deal to play Superman for a lot of money if we couldn't find anyone else," creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz recalls on the Superman DVD.

If They Had Got It: Voight’s Superman would have battled a giant anaconda.

Neil Diamond

Who They Missed Out To: Alright, we know this is meant to be a list of actors who missed out on donning the cape and pants, but this one’s so bizarre it had to be included.

Producer Ilya Salkin revealed that American singer Neil Diamond was up for the role before they settled on Christopher Reeve.

Salkin had this to say at the Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con: "After meeting a lot of actors, such as Jon Voight – we even met Neil Diamond, don’t ask me why - I knew in my heart of hearts it had to be an unknown."

If They Had Got It: Clark Kent would’ve been a country music star who had to balance a life on the road with saving the world.

Brendan Fraser

Who They Missed Out To: Brandon Routh. Fraser was being courted by JJ Abrams for Superman: Flyby , a film that eventually was dumped in favour of Superman Returns.

If They Had Got It: It would have been humongous, according to Fraser. He said in 2008 that it would have been “far superior to Bryan Singer’s film”, adding:

“JJ had a vision that was larger. It spanned galaxies. It was Lord Of The Rings . I mean, it was that huge. It was like a Third World War on Earth involving different planets and universes, and brotherhoods - sibling rivalry and the collision of enormous powers.

“I mean, come on, it wasn't smacking you over the head with a symbolic hammer till you weren't paying attention. That's how good JJ is.”

David Boreanaz

Who They Missed Out To: Boreanaz has the dubious honour of having been beaten out by both Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill – according to web reports, the Angel star went up for the role of Superman not once but twice.

The first time was with JJ Abrams’ Superman: Flyby. The second was Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel. He lost out both times.

If They Had Got It: He would have played a somewhat older Superman (he was 40 at the time of auditioning for Snyder).

And one who brooded quite a bit. (See three years of Buffy and five years of Angel for references.)

Jason Behr

Who They Missed Out To: Nobody. Best known for TV series Roswell, Behr shot some test footage with director McG, who was keen on an 'unknown' name for the Man of Steel.

While talking up The Grudge at Comic-Con 2004, Behr had this to say: "Who’s Superman? Never heard of the guy.

“Ah, you know I think that everybody is aware of the fact that they’ve been trying to redo that for a long, long time. You know growing up I always looked at Chris Reeve and thought he was Superman. So, you know…until things happen…they happen. But as of right now I think Chris Reeve will always be Superman in my mind."

If They Had Got It: Superman would have been supremely soft and emotional.

Just look at Behr in Roswell .

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.