Tim Burton brought the Dark Knight back to the big screen in 1989’s Batman and later delivered a pitch-perfect sequel with Batman Returns. From there, he planned to do the same for the Man of Steel, casting Nicolas Cage in the ill-fated Superman Lives.
The project fell apart long before cameras could start rolling and Supes remained on the shelf until Superman Returns attempted to recapture the magic of Superman: The Movie (it didn’t work and Zack Snyder later reboot, 2013’s Man of Steel, divided opinions).
In the closing moments of The Flash last summer, Cage was finally able to suit up as Superman as part of a strange CG sequence which saw him do battle with Superman Lives‘ widely discussed giant spider.
On the one hand, the sequence – while brief – should have been a dream come true for both fans and Cage. Beyond the weird visuals, however, the actor has revealed he was misled by The Flash director Andy Muschietti and only shot a scene as Superman where he was witnessing the Multiverse’s destruction. The issue is, no one told him he’d then become a CG creation who flew into battle!
Talking to Deadline, Cage opened up on Superman Lives, why he was left “perplexed” by what he saw in The Flash, and the aspects of his cameo he did like.
“Oh, no, I don’t think that’s coming back in any way. And listen, I wasn’t angry about the situation. I really wasn’t. I was just confused. I was mystified by what happened [in the first place], because [Tim Burton], one of the greatest directors in the world, had wanted to make the movie and already had kind of defined the way to make the best comic book based storyline with the Batman franchise with Michael Keaton. So I couldn’t understand why that studio, who had such success with that fantastic, brilliant director, would pull the plug.”
“But that was a long time ago. And then subsequently what happened with The Flash… I wasn’t upset, I was just perplexed. I was just like, ‘It wasn’t what I shot,’ and I was worried about it. Like, ‘Did you just tell me that I was witnessing the destruction of the universe so you could take pictures of me and then animate me?’ Whether it was through CGI or AI, that wasn’t the conversation we had. So I was confused.”
“But I was still happy to look at it. I still wanted to see Colleen Atwood’s suit, which I maintain is a beautiful suit, and 50% of that [character] was my design. I wanted Superman to have the long, kind of black Samurai hair and a vulnerable feeling — almost no blinking, a stillness in his eyes. And so it was 50/50. It was Tim and myself, we had designed something, and it never came to light, so when I saw it moving, I was very happy that Andy Muschietti wanted me to do it.”
“I did get some satisfaction from seeing the character, but to me it didn’t look [right]. But then, Superman is an alien. Kal-El is from another planet. So in that way, the CGI kind of looked right, because it’s alien. It doesn’t look real. It doesn’t look like it has a heartbeat. So I can look at it that way and think that it worked.”
Cage seems ready to move on from Superman and it’s a shame he walked away from The Flash unhappy. The actor seems to have found some level of peace with what he saw, anyway, and his cameo was arguably the best of a bad bunch.
Muschietti has never responded to Cage’s expressions of disappointment and it’s still unclear whether those cameos were a last-minute addition made by DC Studios (similar to George Clooney’s appearance and Barry Allen’s CG tooth) or the plan from the start.
The Flash is now streaming on Max.