Will "Dark Knight" god Christopher Nolan swoop in to carry the Man of Steel back toward big-screen glory? That's the rumor swirling around the Internet following a Deadline.com report that Warner Bros. had conscripted Nolan into a "godfather" role to mold "Superman" once again into an enduring film franchise.
The report is just the latest in a string of Metropolis-based gossip that has cropped up around this iconic superhero following the four Christopher Reeve-led "Superman" films starting in the late '70s. After the middling reception in 1987 of "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," Warner dithered for years as it attempted to reinvigorate the franchise. Writers and directors who took a crack at the franchise included Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Tim Burton, Brett Ratner and McG. Among the names floated to play prominent roles were Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, Jack Nicholson, Shia LaBeouf, Scarlett Johansson and Johnny Depp.
After this years-long series of false starts, Warner finally tapped Bryan Singer ("X-Men") to direct "Superman Returns," recruiting largely unknown actor Brandon Routh to play Clark Kent and Kevin Spacey to become villain Lex Luthor. While the film performed reasonably well at the 2006 box office ($391.1 million in worldwide box-office sales), it flopped in the eyes of fans, who were much more taken by Nolan's gritty "Batman Begins" the year before.
The reboot's middling performance sent Warner into another spiral of production indecisiveness. There were disputes over the sequel's budget, shifting start and release dates, and eventually Singer went off to direct "Valkyrie" with Tom Cruise. By early 2008, Singer still had plans to move forward with a sequel following the writers' strike. Yet by August of that year, Warner announced plans to reboot the franchise a second time.
" 'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov said at the time. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned. ... We're going to try to go dark, to the extent that the character allows it."
No progress had been made by fall 2008, when Singer told MTV News he'd be taking "a brief pause" with the franchise. By early 2009, it seemed Singer was done with Metropolis for good and the names of new directors began to crop up, from the Wachowski brothers ("The Matrix") with a rebooted "Superman" trilogy to James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta") with a dark take on the superhero.
Meanwhile, time continued to pass. In July, "Superman" was left off Warner's 2011 release calendar and Routh said his contract had already expired. A legal battle also ensued between the families of the "Superman" creators and Warner and DC Comics, in which a film needed to go into production by 2011, lest the studio open itself up to further legal action. Nonetheless, by the fall, DC Entertainment chief Diane Nelson said there were no plans to bring Superman to the big screen.
And then came these rumors of Nolan stepping into the mix. Will this be one more piece of Man of Steel gossip that fails to pan out? Will "Superman" soar into theaters once again with the "Batman" guru leading the way? We've got many questions and great hopes but, at least for now, very few answers.
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