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Perhaps one of the most famous movies never made is Kevin Smith's cinematic vision for DC's Man of Steel. The late '90s project, which would have adapted the "Death of Superman" comic book arc from earlier in the decade was ultimately shot down with a pair of laser beams due to irreconcilable creative differences between Smith and producer Jon Peters.
The latter famously made a number of reportedly unreasonable demands, including the need for a giant spider in the film's climax (for better or worse, Peters ultimately got his wish in 1999's Wild Wild West). That part of the story we already know and if you'd like a hearty laugh at Peters' expense, feel free to check out Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza (now playing in select theaters), which features a heightened and batsh** version of the Hollywood veteran, played by a go-for-broke Bradley Cooper.
Recently chatting with Variety, Smith shed even more light on his failed Superman effort, revealing the two actors he had in mind for the role of Clark Kent. “I was writing it for [Ben] Affleck,” the filmmaker revealed. “Ben was heating up. Like he was there. I think he’d been hired for Armageddon. Affleck, he’s a f***ing giant, like he’s built like a superhero, built like a giant action figure, particularly with the height. And then he puts on the muscles there too. So in my head and heart, it was always Ben and Michael Rooker.”
Despite the fact that the movie never materialized, Affleck — who would go on to star in a number of Smith-directed projects like Dogma and Jersey Girl — still got a chance to play the Man of Tomorrow...sort of. The Oscar-winner ended up portraying George Reeves (the actor who played Superman in the early days of television prior to his mysterious death in 1959) in the 2006 neo-noir, Hollywoodland.
Had Peters gotten his way, Sean Penn would have played the last son of Krypton (fresh off his performance in 1995's Dead Man Walking). “He goes, ‘Look in [Penn’s] eyes in that movie, he’s [got] haunted eyes, the eyes of a killer,'” Smith recalled. “And I was like, ‘Dude, it’s Superman. You know, that’s not how most people think of Superman’…But he wanted to reinvent it. He wanted something gritty, graphic and grownup. He essentially wanted like what Zack Snyder eventually did."
Tim Burton ended up inheriting Smith's baby, labeling it Superman Lives and casting Nicolas Cage in the title role. While Burton already had experience in the DC Universe after two successful Batman films, this project didn't see the light of day, though it got to the point of costume fittings. J.J. Abrams tried again in the early 2000s with Superman: Flyby before the iconic hero soared back onto the big screen by way of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Abrams is currently developing a new Superman title with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.