BEVERLY HILLS, California — She's an actress respected for taking on gritty roles in tiny flicks like "The Rules of Attraction" and "Wonderland." He's a complete unknown, seven weeks away from becoming one of the most visible movie stars in the world.
So what do Kate Bosworth and Brandon Routh have on their minds as they get ready for their careers to take flight with "Superman Returns"?
"When the possibility of playing this character came around, I certainly thought about it," Routh said this week, acknowledging the onslaught of "Superman" action figures leaping into toy stores in single bounds. "I've seen the Superman Ken doll. ... Some of the stuff looks like me, some of the stuff not quite as much. But, you know, it's cool."
"It is fun," agreed the normally blond Bosworth, whose doll not only has Lois Lane's brown hair but also reinvents the actress' unmatched eye colors. "The weird thing is that [the doll] has the same color eyes. That was the funniest thing. It's a bit weird."
Offering a preview of the blockbuster flick due in theaters June 30, the two stars agreed on the one thing they'll always remember: all that flying.
The bad was far outweighed by the good, Routh said.
"In the trailer, you see some airplane stuff that was pretty fun," he remembered. "There's a part where I actually get a hold of [the plane], a section, and so that was a lot of fun because I actually get to slide down onto it and have some hands-on [action], instead of just having imaginary green-screen stuff."
Routh admitted that he had a fear of flying at first, but "I think you get over that right away. The first day I went up and got into a harness and got over that slight fear. They're spending enough money on this film, I figured they want to secure me. I just let that mantra happen in my head a couple of times and didn't let that worry me the rest of the time."
Now the 23-year-old Bosworth and her 26-year-old leading man are entering the history books as the latest in a long line of beloved Lois and Clark couplings.
"It's a very powerful thing," Routh said of putting on the costume with that "S" logo across the chest. "It always feels very powerful and very regal. And that grew as I became more in touch with the character. It's a very powerful and regal feeling to walk around; it's very graceful with the cape flowing behind you. You really feel the elegance of it. And I felt strength as well. I never felt goofy or strange wearing tights."
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"It took a long time to get the curl right," laughed Routh. "Just that whole head of hair and then the curl, where the curl should sit, how to get it to curl exactly. That took a couple of weeks and a couple of hours a day to really nail it down."
As for the film itself, both stars cite Kevin Spacey as its secret weapon — a powerful actor who was able to successfully bridge the gap between himself and the other double-Oscar winner who brandished Lex Luthor's chrome dome three decades ago.
"Every actor approaches every character differently, so there's going to be a lot of differences," Bosworth said of comparing Spacey to Gene Hackman in the Richard Donner-directed "Superman" flicks. "Besides playing a great villain, [both] bring a lot of great comedy to it."
"I was a big fan," Routh said of "Superman" and "Superman 2," which director Bryan Singer has said "Returns" is meant to be set in between. "The first time I saw the film I was around 5 or 6. I was in my living room. I was really excited to have my Superman pajamas on."
To enhance the continuity between the three films ("Superman III" and especially "Superman IV" are largely rejected by fans and critics alike), Singer dug up lost footage of Marlon Brando, recasting the deceased actor as Superman's dad, Jor-El.
"I think it's very cool to tie it in," Routh said of the decision. "Just subconsciously, it brings back those memories and really adds a nice color to the film and weight and authority; some great words and great phrases are used that Bryan chose to [resurrect]."
At the end of "Superman" films, fans fondly remember Reeve looking into the camera and flashing a warm smile. When asked if Routh does the same, the actor could hardly contain a grin over the thought. "There's an homage, definitely, at the end of the film to what Christopher did."
Clearly, Routh and Bosworth aren't toying around with the rich legacy of Superman. Then again, maybe they are.
"It's pretty neat when I see kids playing with them," Routh said, referring to his "Superman Returns" action figures. "My mom is a teacher, and I guess one of her students brought in one of the toys in my likeness. It made sounds or something."
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