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Nicolas Cage As Superman: Could it Have Worked?

Written by Josh Sammons

As a Superman fan, the short answer would have been hell no! I, like many was hugely put off of the idea of Nic Cage as Superman. It wasn’t helped by the blurred image of Cage in the Superman suit and a dodgy wig making its way around the web. The image was frightening and was more than enough to convince pretty much everyone that it would have been atrocious. But watching the documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”, What Happened? I started to warm, ever so slightly I might add, to the idea.

Ok so let’s break it down a little. Nicolas (Ah the bees) Cage was cast as The Man of Steel in Superman Lives, a failed attempt to bring Superman to the big screen in the 90’s. It was to be directed by Tim Burton and feature the death and then return of Superman.

The Positives

In the 90’s, Nicolas Cage was an actor at the top of his game. This was a time when he didn’t take just about any role offered to him. Whether he was starring in over the top yet fun films such as Con Air or Oscar Winning roles such as that in Leaving Las Vegas, he was pretty great and memorable in these roles. Being cast as Superman was so left of the field and absurd that it could have worked, it certainly did for Michael Keaton whose casting as Batman saw near universal uproar. It might not have sounded so absurd at the time because he was one of the biggest actors who starred in a string of successful films.

More pictures surfaced of Cage as Superman, ones that weren’t half as bad as the infamous blurred picture that was burnt into most of our brains. Admittedly, it’s still not a great sight, and the wig still looked ridiculous but it was a definite improvement.

Nic-Cage-Superman-2

Cage is also a Superman fan; he even named his son Kal-El and owned a copy of Action Comics Issue 1, which sold for over $2 million. So he at least understands the character. Judging from what was seen in the documentary he had a few decent ideas about the character of Superman and how he was struggling to fit into the world, which highlights his strengths as and actor.

It would have certainly been a unique take on the character, one that we hadn’t seen and more than likely wont see anytime soon. It would have added another dimension to the character, good or bad.

The Negatives

As good an actor as Cage was, and still is it doesn’t mean he would have fit the role. He doesn’t look like the typical image of Superman. His voice is unique and quite monotone, which doesn’t scream Superman. He also looked ridiculous as Clark Kent, which to be fair was only seen from test footage and was by no means the final end product.

Nic-Cage-clark

Was the world ready for a psychotic and crazy Superman? This was something we were bound to see with Cage’s take on the hero. Even if he did somehow pull of the role, there were still large issues with the script. Three re-writes didn’t change some of the absurd ideas being floated around at the time, such as Lex and Brainiac combining into some weird mesh of a character naming but one absurdity. There was also producer Jon Peters obsession with Superman battling giant spiders and adding random things like polar bears into the script that brought confusion more than anything.

There’s also the actors other failed attempt into the comic world with Ghost Rider, a film which despite his best efforts just didn’t work. Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that Cage was a big star at the time. Superman has usually been played by an unknown, seeing Cage flying around in the suit, my first reaction wouldn’t be that’s Superman, it would be Nicholas Cage is playing Superman.

Numerous issues meant that we never got to see the unique take on the character. This was a time just after Batman & Robin when the studio released a string of flops; Superman Lives was too much of a risk (ironically they invested the money in Wild Wild West instead which flopped as well). Comic book movies just weren’t as popular as they are today and the idea of taking a huge risk on a new take of Superman was too much for the studio. Cage officially left the role in 2000, after failing to tempt the studios into reviving the film. Superman Lives officially died for good and it was another six years until we got to see another Superman film with Superman Returns.

Despite the slight sway in opinion after the documentary, I’ve still come to the conclusion that we were lucky not to see Superman Lives ever get made. A unique spin on the character doesn’t necessarily mean it would have been any good and that test screening image still frightens me.

Do you agree with my opinion? or do you think Nicolas Cage would have made a good Superman? Let us know in the comment section below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

About the author

Josh Sammons