Nicolas Cage's The Flash cameo was worth the wait

Nicolas Cage
(Image credit: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images)

Warning: Massive spoilers for The Flash ahead!

Though they might take a while, dreams do come true. It's no secret that Nicolas Cage is a big fan of Superman – to the point where he named his oldest son Kal-El. In 1998, the actor was set to play the Man of Steel before production was tragically shut down. 26 years later, Cage was finally able to don the suit and cape once more in a brief cameo for The Flash.

Flashback to 1996: with the success of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, Hollywood felt it was prime time for a darker Superman movie. Titled Superman Lives, the script was penned by comic book fan and comedy-drama filmmaker Kevin Smith and featured three arguably lesser-known Superman villains: Braniac, Doomsday, and the Eradicator. Christopher Walken was rumored to play Braniac, while Sandra Bullock was producer Jon Peters' first choice for Lois Lane. Peters' vision also included an epic finale where Superman fights a giant spider.

It's also important to note that the mid-late '90s was when Cage was still in his peak. After the success of Leaving Las Vegas, he would go on to film three of his best movies in a row: The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. And while Face/Off might be the most poorly reviewed of the three... the absurdity of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage wearing each other's faces while pretending to be each other withstands the test of time. What I'm trying to say is: this man was ready to be Superman.

Meanwhile Burton, hot off directing Batman, was set to helm the film. "Tim Burton did not cast me, I cast Tim Burton," Cage told Rolling Stone last year, setting the record straight once and for all. "The vision I had for Kal-El was more of a Tim Burton-style presentation universe.” However, Warner Bros. put the film on an indefinite hold just three weeks before filming was set to begin.

According to the documentary, The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, the film was ultimately canceled due to the poor box office performance of Burton's sci-fi comedy Mars Attacks!.

Nicolas Cage Superman Lives

(Image credit: Jon Schnepp)

It wouldn't be Cage's last attempt at playing a superhero, though, as he was cast as Johnny Blaze aka Ghost Rider in a pre-MCU feature directed by Mark Steven Johnson in 2007.  In the pre-Kevin Feige days, when many studios were throwing IP at the wall and seeing what sticks, anything was possible. Cage's performance as Ghost Rider, which led to a 2011 direct-to-DVD sequel, wasn't exactly well received by critics. He played Blaze with more depth and emotion than the comic book called for – but that's kind of why we love Cage. He's known to go off the page and add a little bit of himself to each role. Hence why his next superhero role, as Damon Macready aka Big Daddy in Kick-Ass (2010), was perfect. Big Daddy, a widower seeking revenge on a mafia boss, trains his daughter to become a vigilante superhero – so that together they can avenge the death of her mother. Cage once again proved he was ready to be Superman, or something equally as big, but no dice.

Cut to the third act of The Flash, where Barry confronts a younger, alternate version of himself and the mutated version of himself in the center of space and time. Different iterations of Superman suddenly appear, with the first being Christopher Reeve, who played Clark Kent from 1978 to 1983. Helen Slater's Supergirl, who had her own standalone movie in 1984, stands beside him, depicting the two side-by-side for the first time. 

Suddenly, another Superman is fighting a giant spider. We see him from the back at first, before it's revealed to be (a very CGI'd) Nicolas Cage. Not only is he battling a giant spider the way God or Jon Peters intended, but his hair is long and jet black – just like in the early pre-production stills and videos of Superman Lives.

Nicolas Cage as Superman

(Image credit: Jon Schnepp)

Reader, I screamed. To be honest, I knew the cameo was coming as Esquire Middle East had supposedly accidentally leaked the cameo a month prior to the movie's release – but I didn't know what it was going to look like, or that director Andy Muschietti was going to include Jon Peters' vision of that giant spider. There's also the issue of the CGI being very, uh, CGI-y. Muschietti did, however, confirm that they shot the scene with Cage in studio – and built the same Superman costume with the same designer from Superman Lives.

Some of us diehard Cage fans have been waiting all our lives to see him don that suit again, and computer-generated or not, we'll take it.

Not to mention Barry's alternate self has a Mars Attacks! poster in his college apartment in an earlier scene – another nice nod from Muschietti.

"Nic was absolutely wonderful," Muschietti told Esquire Middle East. "Although the role was a cameo, he dove into it... I dreamt all my life to work with him. I hope I can work with him again soon. He is a massive Superman fan. A comic book fanatic."

The cameo, while exciting, is extremely brief – and now we're back to wondering what could've been in 1998. Cage's moodier, more 'emo' Clark Kent (as he described it in Variety) wasn't dissimilar to Robert Pattinson's Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves' The Batman. Cage putting a dark, brooding take on such a colorful superhero – and directed by Tim Burton! It would've been epic. Though, now that DC moves into its new James Gunn-led era, we don't see why Cage can't play Superman in a non-canon movie. If The Batman can be part of a separate universe, why not put Super-Cage in Pattinson's universe? The two can listen to Nirvana and journal together as the rain comes down.

The Flash is in UK and US cinemas now. For more, check out our spoiler-heavy deep dives on...

Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.