In an elseworlds alternate timeline, actor Brandon Routh might be unveiling another cinematic flight wearing the cape and famous “S” symbol this year. Like Christian Bale a year before him, Routh was the star of a critically and commercially successful super hero movie in 2006, and it looked like he was about to become a franchise star. But the “Superman Returns” sequel never happened.
Directed by Bryan Singer, “Superman Returns” enjoyed largely positive reviews and netted about $400 million at the box office on a $200 million budget. Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” starring Bale, didn’t make that much in 2005 (though it did cost less to make). But because "Returns" didn’t meet its $500 million box office expectation, former Warner Bros. president Alan F. Horn deemed the film a disappointment.
Still, a sequel was announced, but filming was delayed and the release date pushed back from 2009 to 2010. It didn’t materialize and in the meantime, the film had begun to be thought of as a flop. As for Brandon Routh? Although he expected to return to the role of Superman, much as Christian Bale had returned in “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” his contract for the job expired in 2009 – and he made it known that he would sign back up as the Kryptonian if he could.
Of course that didn’t happen. And now, seven years after the world first saw Brandon Routh as Superman, Henry Cavill is about to assume the mantle in 'Man of Steel,' directed by Zack Snyder and opening Friday.
Routh has since developed a fan following for his turn in the role, and when I spoke with him at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con he had a steady line of fans peppering him with questions about Superman, along with those about his work as super-powered vegan Todd Ingram in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (not to mention turns on the CBS series “Partners,” “Chuck” and in Kevin Smith's “Zak and Miri Make a Porno”).
There, we chatted about 'Superman Returns', as well as his thoughts on 'Man of Steel':
MTV Geek: When you’re at cons like these, do you meet people dressed as you-as-Superman?
Brandon Routh: Yeah, and that’s cool. It’s younger people mostly who didn’t see “Superman: The Movie” and see Christopher Reeve. He was my Superman, so for me, it’s a cool thing to actually be the first iteration they’ve seen of the character.
Geek: Did "Superman Returns" get a bad rap?
Routh: After the movie came out, yeah. It was well reviewed and well-liked, and about a year after it, they started to be down on it.
Geek: The movie was commercially and critically successful, but there was a tide against it. Do you think things have come full circle and people are defending it again?
Routh: Listen, everybody that I meet says they liked the movie. It is unfortunate that people have to preface things with, “I don’t care what anyone else says, but I like the movie.” They should just be able to be proud and happy that they liked “Superman Returns.” I am proud and happy they liked “Superman Returns.” There are people who don’t like it, and who don’t like every movie. I want them to be able to live proudly in the sunlight.
Geek: With “Man of Steel” coming out, there's big Superman talk all around, but it’s not you in the suit. Is that a bittersweet experience?
Routh: I would have liked to done another movie. I love the character, and the fans are great. It has been an amazing family to be a part of. I feel like I still had more to do, and to grow as the character. But Henry [Cavill] is a great actor and has done a nice job. I’m happy for Superman fans that they get another film.
Geek: Has there been any interaction between you and Cavill?
Routh: No, I’ve never met him but I look forward to. He actually screen tested, I think, for the one iteration of the film I did as well back in 2004 and didn’t get it. He’s deserving of it, but had to wait a while.
Geek: Do you have any advice for him or anyone who takes over the role of Superman?
Routh: I think it’s just honoring that legacy, and the gentleman who has played the character to this point. It is a story with an amazing history, and I think he seems like a nice-enough guy that he knows that. I don’t think I need to tell him that, and he’ll learn from the fans how much Superman means to them. People come up and they love the character, and – as much as they may have loved me in the role – I’m just the vessel being able to put that guy up on screen.