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10 outrageous facts about Nicolas Cage’s canceled Superman movie, Superman Lives

With the recent leak about Nicolas Cage appearing as Superman in DC’s The Flash, some people might be left scratching their heads over this bizarre cameo. Though Cage has never played the Man of Steel in live-action, he almost did back in the ’90s when he signed up to star in the canceled film Superman Lives.

Even by comic book movie standards, the story and the troubled production of this film are pretty bizarre, but many fans still wonder what could’ve been. Since Cage is finally fulfilling his dream of physically playing the Blue Boy Scout, it seems like the perfect time to go over what has been revealed over the years about his axed superhero film.

Tim Burton was going to direct

Tim Burton in "The Death of 'Superman Lives:' What Happened?"
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Following his success bringing Batman to the big screen, legendary director Tim Burton signed up to give the Man of Steel his own reboot. Burton is known for typically making dark and gothic films, and one can’t help but wonder what his vision of Superman’s world would’ve been like.

Considering the lasting impact of his Batman films on superhero media, perhaps his Superman film could have revamped the hero for the modern era and given him the same level of popularity as the Dark Knight. Alas, it was not meant to be, and Burton went on to direct such movies as Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish, and the musical Sweeney Todd, as well as several episodes of the recent hit Netflix series Wednesday.

Kevin Smith wrote the screenplay

C Flanigan/FilmMagic

At one point during preproduction, acclaimed indie filmmaker Kevin Smith was hired to rewrite the script of this Superman reboot, and it seemed like a dream come true for many.

While working as the film’s screenwriter, Smith changed the title to Superman Lives and was the one who suggested Tim Burton direct it in the first place. But in an ironic twist, Burton chose to have writer Wesley Strick completely redo Smith’s script, as he was dissatisfied with the story thus far. Ouch.

It was based on The Death of Superman storyline from the comic books

The Doomsday creature looking intently in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This film loosely adapts The Death of Superman storyline, which shows the Man of Steel meet his end after fighting the ultrapowerful monster Doomsday, as well as the subsequent The Return of Superman arc in which he returns from the dead. While Doomsday was supposed to appear and kill Superman, he was only one of the multiple villains who threatened the Earth in this film.

Brainiac was the main villain

Brainiac Superman Villains
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In every draft of this canceled film, the alien android Brainiac is the main antagonist. In Smith’s version of the story, Brainiac tries to kill Superman by blocking out the sun to weaken him and then sending Doomsday to finish him off.

In some other drafts, Brainiac is responsible for the destruction of Krypton and teams up with Lex Luthor to defeat Superman, eventually merging with Luthor to create “Lexiac.” The villain tries to destroy Earth using a bunch of nuclear warheads.

Superman comes back from the dead

Warner Bros.

Though Superman meets his end fighting Doomsday, he was supposed to come back to life in the same movie. Keeping in line with the comic book source material, Smith’s script shows the Kryptonian robot called The Eradicator taking Superman’s dead body and resurrecting him. But in Strick’s script, the hero is instead brought back by the power of “K,” the spiritual embodiment of Krypton itself.

Producer Jon Peters was a nightmare to work with

Bradley Cooper as Jon Peters in "Licorice Pizza."

If the name “Jon Peters” sounds familiar, it may be because he is the real-life producer Bradley Cooper portrays in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza as an erratic and violent wild man. This may be an exaggerated depiction of Peters, but given his controversial history in Hollywood, it may not be so far from reality.

As the producer of Superman Lives, Peters made many bizarre demands for the story and repeatedly clashed with the filmmakers over these creative differences. Peters’ history with Superman is so infamous that Christopher Nolan paid him millions of dollars just to stay away from the set of Man of Steel.

Superman fights a spider

A giant mechanical spider in "Wild Wild West."
Warner Bros. Pictures

For some reason, Peters was obsessed with making Superman battle a giant spider in the film’s third act, and he made that a prerequisite for Kevin Smith before he joined the production.

Peters later recycled this idea for Will Smith’s critically panned steampunk Western Wild Wild West, which had the heroes battle a robotic, 80-foot tarantula. However, Superman does kind of fight a giant mechanical spider in the form of the World Engine in Man of Steel, so it seems Peters got what he asked for.

Superman wears a black suit

Superman in a black suit in "Zack Snyder's Justice League."
Warner Bros.

Peters’ second requirement for Smith upon bringing him in as a screenwriter was that Superman not wear his iconic red and blue suit, as he was not a fan of this look, especially his tights.

Instead, Smith has Supes wears an all-black costume, which falls in line with the character wearing a black Recovery Suit to regain his powers following his resurrection in the comics. Seeing how Superman rocked a black suit in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, this seems to be the best idea Peters came up with.

Superman couldn’t fly

Christopher Reeves in Superman
Warner Bros.

Smith claims Peters demanded that Superman not fly in the film before Smith signed up to write it. It’s hard to imagine Superman not being able to fly, but bear in mind he didn’t have this power when he debuted in 1938, and he pretty much went 10 seasons on Smallville stuck to the ground. But given this and his desire to get rid of Superman’s red-and-blue suit, it seems like Peters hated almost everything people love about the Man of Steel.

Lex Luthor had a space dog

Chewbacca in "Star Wars."
Lucasfilm / Lucasfilm

Since the film was in the works around the time the original Star Wars trilogy was rereleased in theaters, Peters got the idea for Brainiac to give Lex Luthor a space dog similar to Chewbacca.

According to WhatCulture, Peters made Smith write this alien pet into the story, saying, “Chewie’s cuddly, man. You could make a toy out of him, so you’ve got to give me a dog.” While this seems like a ridiculous way to make money, it could have been the perfect way to bring Superman’s dog Krypto into the mix and have the two pets fight their own battle.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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