Henry Cavill: All the controversies and tragedies that have plagued the Superman role over the years
The role of Superman is one of the most coveted parts in Hollywood, but as Henry Cavill has discovered in recent years, it’s one that often comes with many complications.
Just two months after the Man of Steel star announced he would once again don the iconic the iconic red and blue suit, the 39-year-old star was forced to reveal that he had been fired from his role.
The surprising news is just the latest dramatic twist to take place in connection with the beloved DC character over the years.
Indeed, there has been whispers of a Superman curse for decades within the fandom after many of the actors who brought the character to life on screen have found themselves either dealing with career begin to stall afterwards, or meeting a tragic end.
The Hollywood jinx is believed to have dogged the franchise ever since Bud Collyer, who voiced the role on radio, died from heart trouble.
The series of supposedly related misfortunes that have plagued the likes of George Reeves, Christopher Reeve and many more, now has another chapter in the book after Cavill’s surprise exit from the role.
Here, FEMAIL looks back at the alleged curse and how it has affected the stars who brought Kal-El to the bring life on screen.
Henry Cavill: Landed the role ten years after losing out… but ended up getting fired due to a DC revamp
Henry Cavill may arguably be the latest victim of the ‘Superman curse’ after he was fired from the role, just two months after announcing that he would return as the caped superhero
Though he was seen playing Superman in three separate films before his shock firing, the road to the role was not smooth for Henry Cavill.
He had been set to play Superman in director McG’s attempt to bring the story to life in 2004 film, Superman: Flyby.
However, McG pulled out of the project and direction was taken over by Bryan Singer.
Ultimately, Singer went with a different lead actor and recast Brandon Routh for Superman Returns.
Cavill managed to have his moment as Kal-El as he went on to star in 2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League.
Fans got an extra serving of Cavill’s Superman when Zack Synder’s Justice League was released in 2021.
The British actor, 39, most recently has a cameo appearance as Superman at the end of Warner Bros. Black Adam, teasing a showdown between Superman and Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam.
Then fans were met with an unexpected update on December 14 when Cavill took to Instagram to reveal the news to his 22.9 million followers that he will not be back as the Man of Steel on the big screen.
Though he was seen playing Superman in three separate films before his shock firing, the road to the role was not smooth for Cavill who had missed out on the part ten years before finally donning the iconic costume
‘I have just had a meeting with James Gunn and Peter Safran and it’s sad news, everyone. I will, after all, not be returning as Superman,’ Cavill began.
‘After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life,’ he continued.
‘The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that. James and Peter have a universe to build,’ he added.
‘I wish them and all involved with the new universe the best of luck, and happiest of fortunes,’ he added.
The actor went on to address, ‘those who have been by my side through the years,’ adding, ‘we can mourn for a bit,’ before speaking about the future of the franchise.
‘But then we must remember…. Superman is still around. Everything he stands for still exists, and the examples he sets for us are still there!’ Cavill said.
‘Everything he stands for still exists, and the examples he sets for us are still there! My turn to wear the cape has passed, but what Superman stands for never will. It’s been a fun ride with you all, onwards and upwards!’ Cavill concluded.
Brandon Routh: Film flopped at the box office and the actor failed to soar to the leading man heights that many had expected
Brandon Routh beat out Cavill for the lead role in 2006’s Superman Returns, but the film drew in disappointing results at the box office
The film flopping put an end to plans for a 2009 sequel and meant Routh’s time as Clark Kent was much shorter than anticipated
Routh (pictured left at 2019 Comic-con) failed to become Hollywood’s next leading man. He has since starred in other DC Comics-related projects over the years (pictured right as Superman in the 2019 Arrowverse crossover episode)
Relatively unknown actor Brandon Routh slipped on the superhero outfit in 2006’s Superman Returns, starring alongside Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.
Routh beat out competition from Cavill, Matt Bomer, Paul Walker and Brendan Fraser to play the Son of Krypton.
In 2016, Jude Law revealed that he turned down the chance to star as the titular character, making way for Brandon.
He explained: ‘I just felt like… it just didn’t seem to fit. And I was always worried about the outfit it and I, I just didn’t fancy it. And this director was very keen to meet and impress it upon me.’
Sadly for Routh, the revival didn’t perform as well as hoped in the box office, despite getting critical praise.
After having a budget of $270 million, the movie only managed to rake in $390 million at the box office. The poor returns put an end to plans for a 2009 sequel and meant Routh’s time as Clark Kent was much shorter than anticipated.
Despite expectations that the part would help him become Hollywood’s next leading man, the actor failed to land many more box office projects.
After celebrated appearances in the film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the television series, Chuck, the actor went on to play Ray Palmer (the Atom) on other DC Comics-related projects.
He was also a recurring character in Arrow and The Flash, and a regular in the spin-off series Legends of Tomorrow.
Routh even revisited the Superman role in the crossover storyline, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Meanwhile, his Superman Returns co-star Bosworth attributed her break up with Orlando Bloom to the curse, with the pair splitting due to the strain her role put on the relationship.
Kirk Alyn: Blamed his fame as the superhero for ruining his acting career
Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play the beloved comic book character in a live-action film
The star blamed his success as the character for ‘ruining’ his acting career and as a result, he was relegated to doing voiceovers, commercials, and uncredited screen roles
The actor went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in his life, and died in 1999 at the age of 88
Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play the beloved comic book character in a live-action film.
He starred in 1948’s Superman alongside Noel Neill, who was the first ever on-screen Lois Lane, and Alyn returned again for the 1950 sequel Atom Man vs. Superman.
Though he will always be celebrated as the first big screen Superman, Alyn didn’t enjoy being connected to the role once he found fame.
In fact, he blamed his success as the character for ruining his acting career and as a result, he was relegated to voiceovers, commercials, and uncredited screen roles.
However, he benefited from a wave of nostalgia for the franchise in the 1970s, which saw him grace comic book conventions to meet eager fans.
According to reports, he said in 1972: ‘Playing Superman ruined my acting career and I’ve been bitter for many years about the whole thing. But now, it’s finally starting to pay off.’
Alyn also helped to begin the tradition of Superman actors making cameo appearances in later projects after he played Lois’ father alongside Noel as her mother in 1978’s Superman (which famously starred Christopher Reeve).
The actor went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in his life, and died in 1999 at the age of 88.
Lee Quigley: Kal-El child actor died at the age of 14
Child actor Lee Quigley was tapped up to portray baby Kal-El in the 1978 film, he went on to die in 1991 at the age of 14 from solvent abuse
His onscreen parents were Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Susannah York as Lara Lor-Van
When he was just a baby, Lee Quigley was tapped up to portray baby Kal-El in the 1978 film starring Christopher Reeves.
His onscreen parents were Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Susannah York as Lara Lor-Van.
The child star went on to die in 1991 at the age of 14 from solvent abuse.
His heart attack at such a young age would make him the youngest victim of the alleged curse, and his untimely passing is seen as one of the biggest tragedies linked to the supposed bad fortune of the franchise.
Meanwhile, Brando’s personal life was fraught with misfortune and tragedy, including his son’s involvement in the shooting of his half-sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend in 1990. His daughter Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995.
Brando eventually became a recluse later in life, and the actor died just three months before Christopher Reeve in 2004.
George Reeve: Found dead of a gunshot wound at his home after he struggled to land other major roles afterwards
After starring as the superhero in the 1951 film, Superman and the Mole Men, George Reeves was the first one to bring Superman to TV series in the ensuing series, Adventures of Superman
Once his time in the part came to an end, Reeves struggled to find other big name projects because he felt he was too associated with the Superman role
Things then took a tragic turn in June 1959, when the actor (pictured right in Adventures of Superman) was found dead in his bedroom from a single gunshot wound to the head – just days before he was meant to get married (pictured left in 1940)
One of the most mysterious incidents linked to the curse is the passing of actor George Reeves.
After starring as the superhero in the 1951 film, Superman and the Mole Men, the actor was the first one to bring Superman to TV series in the ensuing series, Adventures of Superman.
However, once his time in the part came to an end after 104 episodes, Reeves struggled to find other big name projects because he felt he was too associated with the Superman role.
Things then took a tragic turn in June 1959, when the actor was found dead in his bedroom from a single gunshot wound to the head – just days before he was meant to get married.
Police concluded the his death was a suicide, however controversary began to surround his passing due to the fact Reeves’ fingerprints were never found on the gun.
It was Reeves’s death that added fuel to the fire for conspiracy theories of a curse associated with the character.
His story tragic story was immortalized in 2006’s Hollywoodland staring Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Diane Lane.
Christopher Reeve: Beloved actor was paralyzed from the neck down after a horse riding accident
Christopher Reeve instantly became the best-known version of the superhero after he donned the iconic red cape for 1978’s Superman: The Movie
Like Kirk Alyn, and other Superman stars, his close association with the role made it hard for him to land of lead parts in films after he found global fame
His acting career was halted after he became paralyzed from the neck down after an accident in 1995 (pictured in 1997)
The late Christopher Reeve instantly became the best-known version of the superhero after he donned the iconic red cape for 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
His version of Clark Kent was the most-loved across the globe, leading him to star in a string of iconic movies.
Reeve reprised his role in 1980’s Superman 2, 1983’s Superman 3, and 1987’s Superman 4: The Quest for Peace.
Like Kirk Alyn, and other Superman stars, his close association with the role made it hard for him to land of lead parts in films
Eventually, his career was unexpectedly halted after he became paralyzed from the neck down after an accident in 1995.
The actor was thrown from his horse in a cross-country equestrian riding event on Many 27, 1995.
Reeve became an avid campaigner for the disabled and set up the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which raised more than $30million for research and $6million in grants to patients.
The star and his family also worked hard appealing for research into spinal injuries and by 2000, he had regained some movement and sensation in his body and could feel when his wife Dana or his children – William, Alexandra and Matthew – embraced him.
Reeve survived ten years of near total immobility after his accident but died of complications in October 2004, shortly after his 52nd birthday.
Fans have often alleged that the curse even affected Reeve’s wife Dana, after the non-smoker died of lung cancer at the age of 44.
Dean Cain: Popular actor has gone on to lose fans due to his passionate right-wing views and commentary
Dean Cain became a household name thanks to his portrayal of the caped superhero in the extremely popular Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Cain has always looked back on his time as Superman with ‘extremely fond memories’, however he failed to land big parts in future endeavors – focusing mainly on television shows and made-for-TV movies
The actor has since made headlines after appearing on Fox News as a pro-Trump commentator and for passionately sharing his conservative views
Dean Cain became a household name thanks to his portrayal of the caped superhero in the extremely popular Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
He played the role of Clark Kent and his alter-ego Superman alongside Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane, in the series, which ran from 1993 until 1997.
Much to the annoyance of longtime fans, the show was cancelled before one unresolved plot thread could be tied up.
Cain has always looked back on his time as Superman with ‘extremely fond memories’ and said it was an amazing start to his career.
He said: ‘When I get associated with the character now, I’m still happy as a clam because what would you want to be called, if you were ever going to be called the same character for life, I think Superman pretty much takes the cake.’
However, the actor didn’t land many big roles after the show and kept his career going with appearances in Fraser, Law &Order and a string of made-for-TV movies.
Cain, now 56, rejoined the DC universe between 2015 and 2017 on Supergirl, where he played Kara Danvers/Supergirl’s father Jeremiah Danvers.
In 2018, Dean took a slight career change as he became a reserve officer and was sworn in in the US state of Idaho.
The actor has since made headlines after appearing on Fox News as a pro-Trump commentator.
In July 2020, he blasted a Time Magazine opinion piece which compared superheroes to police officers and says today’s ‘Cancel Culture’ would have censored his character’s famous ‘truth, justice, and the American way’ catchphrase.
In 2021, Cain accused DC Comics of ‘bandwagoning’ after the company revealed that the legendary superhero will come out as bisexual and begin a romance with a close male friend in the comic series.
While some fans praised the star for speaking out, others were disappointed to discover the actor’s conservative beliefs.
Tom Welling: Fan-favorite actor failed to become Hollywood’s next leading man like many hoped
Tom Welling found fame after spending ten years portraying a teenage Clark Kent in the hit series, Smallville
Tom (pictured left in 2001) went on to turn down a chance to play Superman once again in Supergirl, but he did return to the role for a cameo scene in Arrowverse’s crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths (pictured right as Clark Kent in Smallville)
His career never took off like some might have hoped with the star making appearances a small number of films and TV shows including Lucifer and The Winchesters over the years (pictured at New York Comic Con in 2022)
Fans believe Welling’s former co-star Allison Mack (far left) was also part of the Superman curse. After playing the major role of Chloe Sullivan in Smallville, she became involved with sex cult NXIVM and was sentenced to three years in prison
Tom Welling found fame after spending ten years portraying a teenage/young adult Clark Kent in the popular series, Smallville.
The show ran for ten series between 2001 and 2011, with 217 episodes airing in total, and also starred Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang and Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor.
Despite spending so much time playing Kal-El, Welling never got to wear Superman’s iconic suit during his stint as young Clark.
Back in 2017, he told Entertainment Weekly that he strongly supported the show’s ‘no tights, no flights’ mantra.
‘It was something that we discussed before we ever shot the pilot with [creators] Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar],’ he said.
‘We literally had a sit down where we talked about the show and I asked about the suit and the tights and the flying, and they said, “No, absolutely not,” part of the reason being is that show is about a teenager trying to figure out who he is.’
The only time Tom was seen in the red, blue and yellow was in the series finale, when he ripped open his shirt to reveal the House of El symbol on his chest.
Tom went on to turn down a chance to play Superman once again in Supergirl, but he did return to the role for a cameo scene in Arrowverse’s crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Elsewhere, his career never took off like some might have hoped with the star making appearances a small number of films and TV shows including Lucifer and The Winchesters over the years.
Meanwhile, he starred in films such as 2003’s Cheaper by the Dozen, 2014’s Draft Day and 2016’s The Choice, with the actor also working behind the camera as an executive producer on 2010’s Hellcats and 2020’s Professionals.
Fans believe Welling’s former co-star Allison Mack was also part of the Superman curse victim. After playing the major role of Chloe Sullivan in Smallville for ten seasons, she became involved with the sex cult NXIVM.
Her involvement with NXIVM led to criminal activity and subsequent imprisonment, with Mack pleading guilty to charges of racketeering and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Nicholas Cage: His doomed Superman outing never made it to screens… and the failed movie is now the subject of a documentary
Nicholas Cage was all set to play the iconic superhero in what would have been a Tim Burton-directed movie
In 2015, the Death of Superman Lives documentary explained how the Superman Lives project was ultimately killed after years of rewrites and redesigns
It wasn’t well known at the time but Kevin Smith had written a script which was being developed before Burton threw it out and cast Nicholas Cage – a well-known fan and collector of Superman comic books.
In 1997, Nicholas Cage suited up in the iconic superhero costume to shoot some test footage for the doomed Tim Burton-directed movie, Superman Lives. However, Cage wasn’t quite mainstream enough to pull off the worldwide appeal of Superman after leaked photo drew ire from fans at the time.
The full footage was eventually revealed to the public many years later through a documentary titled The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, written and directed by Jon Schnepp.
Cage was fitted for a one-of-kind steel blue Superman suit that was custom created by three-time Oscar winning costume designer Colleen Atwood.
Coincidentally, the project was a practice run for Colleen’s collaboration with the Superman franchise who went on to become the costume designer for the Supergirl series, starring Melissa Benoist.
Both Burton and Atwood were interviewed for the Death of Superman Lives documentary which explained how Superman Lives was ultimately killed after years of rewrites and redesigns.
The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? was released on DVD, Blu-ray and digitally in 2015.
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