— by Larry Carroll, with additional reporting by Jeff Cornell
BEVERLY HILLS, California — Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a comedian?
With Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" mere days away, the time has come to get to know the personalities bringing the red and blue to the silver screen. The flick is the most high-profile yet in the careers of Hollywood veterans like Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth and Parker Posey, while relative newcomer Brandon Routh's days of obscurity are clearly dwindling. But as Routh becomes, in the eyes of millions, mankind's greatest protector, how might he react if a dare-to-be-super moment really arose?
"I don't know," the strapping 26-year-old stumbled, looking far more like Clark Kent than the Man of Steel. "I certainly don't know how to deal with that situation, other than to remain as calm as I can."
If Routh ever found himself in the middle of, say, a bank robbery, the young actor said he'd choose punch lines over punches.
"I'd have everyone else remain calm and not do anything too stupid," he speculated. "[Ripping open my shirt] might distract the gunman, so maybe I would try to kill him with humor or something. [I'd] distract him with humor."
Routh might not be able to outrun a bullet or leap tall buildings in a single bound but, as his co-stars are clearly aware, he certainly does look the part.
"[Seeing him in the suit] felt so natural — there was nothing shocking about it," Bosworth remembered of the first time Routh stepped on set as the Man of Steel. "It was weird, because I felt that I was going to be a little bit freaked out, but it felt so right. He just really looks amazing in it."
"I always felt that the role of Superman should be played by an almost total unknown," added Spacey, who plays the sinister Lex Luthor. "It's a little bit like when Bryan [Singer] was doing 'The Usual Suspects'  and he was offered more money in the budget if he'd recast my role, the Verbal Kint role, with a famous actor. Bryan was like, 'No, the actor who plays Verbal can't be well-known.' So I think it was the right choice. Brandon is a very good actor — I think he's approached it incredibly well, and Bryan shaped him incredibly well."
"In terms of the wise old actor giving the young newbie advice," Spacey grinned, "I got nothing; he's gonna do fine."
"Superman looks just like Brandon," beamed Posey, the indie darling ("Dazed and Confused," "The Daytrippers") who co-stars as Lex Luthor's girlfriend, Kitty Kowalski. "He's really cool."
As for her own role, Posey admitted to finding some information online about another Kitty from DC Comics and melding some of that sensibility with a less-lethal character from Superman's past.
"When they were talking to me for this part they were like, 'We're interested in you playing Kitty Kowalski,' and I thought, 'Well, I guess I'll Google her,' " Posey recalled. "I found a Kitty in the comic book lore. She had super powers, and she could extract energy from plants and solar energy from the sun, or something like that."
(In fact, as at least a few comic-book fanatics have probably already gleaned, the character Posey referenced is none other than Dr. Kitty Faulkner, a.k.a. the brilliant scientist who morphed into the muscle-bound, orange-hued sometime-villain, Rampage.)
"Then [I studied the performance by] Valerie Perrine, who played Eve Teschmacher in the first Superman movie," Posey continued, mentioning a role much closer in spirit to the Kitty that moviegoers will see this summer. "So, I kind of started there."
While Routh's portrayal owes much to the work of Christopher Reeve in the first three Man of Steel movies, and Posey went back nearly three decades for her inspiration, Bosworth and director Singer decided that the actress would pursue the most radical departure from previous incarnations of the film's well-known characters.
"I think Margot Kidder did an amazing job," the "Blue Crush" star said of the 1970s' Lois Lane. "She was very funny and feisty and kind of wonderfully chaotic. I just felt very strongly that this character, the way that it was written, was so different. Bryan and I both agreed that in the five years that [Superman] has been away, so much has changed for her that the stakes become higher for him when he returns. The old things are really different now, especially with the one person that he cares most about."
With everybody else coughing up personal details about their own performances, Spacey felt obligated to dish a bit about that shiny chrome dome for which Luthor is best remembered.
"I've been bald before, when I did 'Se7en,' but I was bald for a much briefer period of time," Spacey recalled. "It's actually the easiest thing in the world. I'd shave it everyday, and then Tanya, my makeup artist, would make it look good. When you're just bald, it doesn't quite have that gleam that they add to it."
"The funny thing is, you can't stop touching it," the Oscar-winning baddie added. "And other people can't stop touching it, either."