Before Henry Cavill put on the red and blue cape, it was donned by Brandon Routh. Before Routh, it was worn with pride and honour for a long time by Christopher Reeve. And before that it was the identity of George Reeves. George Reeves was one of the earliest actors to portray Superman on the big screen in 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men. More like a trial run, this movie marked the beginning of the long-running TV series in the 50’s, Adventures of Superman with Reeves continuing to play the superhero from Krypton.
It was not before 1978 that the next depiction of Superman on the big screen was seen, with the story written by no one else but Mario Puzo. In one of the greatest castings ever done for superhero movies, an unknown actor was sought to play Superman and eventually a certain Christopher Reeve was cast who would go on to play the iconic role four times and largely define the appearance of Superman for many fans. Christopher Reeve starred inSuperman (1978), Superman II (1981), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). While the first two movies are considered iconic in the Superman film saga, the third and fourth ones shared a fate quite similar seen later on for the Batman movies of the 90’s. They bombed at the box-office and were panned by the critics and audience. Superman needed something new now, a fresh start and that was not going to happen anytime soon.
There were multiple scripts discussed in the studios later on, some even reaching advanced stages of pre-production with shooting schedules finalised. Numerous writers were brought in and directors roped in, including the likes of J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton, at different stages to get Superman kick-started again. But it took almost two decades for the big guy to return to the big screen in the aptly titled Superman Returns (2006). The costume was handed over to another relatively unknown actor Brandon Routh (who looks quite similar to Christopher Reeve) and the story was continued from Superman II. The movie did earn well, but not well enough to meet the expectations of Warner Bros and its proposed sequel never really took off.
With Christopher Nolan having successfully and quite artistically revived Batman, his pitch for a revival of Superman on the basis of the story by David Goyer was well received by the studio. Nolan came on board as the producer and Zack Snyder was handed the duties of the director. And continuing with the tradition, another unknown actor in Henry Cavill was asked to follow the steps of George Reeves and Christopher Reeve to make Superman soar to his greatest heights. How well will Cavill do in this famous cape (though now without the red underwear in front)… we shall find out very soon!