When THR reported in September 2018 that Henry Cavill would be stepping down as Warner Bros.’ big-screen Superman, it rocked the superhero-loving world so hard it almost felt like the Man of Steel would have to fly around the globe really fast a bunch of times to undo the damage. Now, there seems to be some disagreement about whether Cavill — who first played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel and reprised the role in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and later Justice League – really has hung up his tights. Subsequent reports suggest this is a publicity stunt — which, if true, would probably not be the worst strategy, considering the DC Universe streaming service just launched and right now everyone is talking about Superman.
Regardless, there’s been nothing official either way, and official messages from those in the know haven’t been particularly clear — like Cavill’s cryptic Instagram post. No one has stopped the often heated online discussion about who should replace the Man of Steel, and gambling sites are busy taking bets on who will play the Kryptonian next.
Superman is an American icon, and while the character is criticized for not being edgy as some of his super-colleagues, not just anyone can play him. For truth, justice, and the Hollywood way, here are our thoughts on the best and worst choices for actors to replace Henry Cavill as Superman.
Best: Michael B. Jordan
It didn’t take long at all for reports to surface that Warner Bros. already had a frontrunner to replace Cavill as Superman, and if it pans out, it’d arguably be the most nontraditional and bold Superman casting choice to date: Michael B. Jordan, who played the villain Killmonger in Black Panther.
Jordan keeps proving himself to be a stellar actor with huge range. He’s one of the premiere reasons Black Panther is an Oscar contender. And as any man or woman who’s had to hear their partner talk about watching Jordan go shirtless in Black Panther can attest, we know the he’s got the physique.
As for changing Superman’s skin color, well, there already is an African-American Superman in the comics — Kalel, a.k.a. Calvin Ellis, who in DC Comics is the Superman of Earth-23. And honestly? Multiverses and alternate realities and parallel whatevers aside? Superman is an alien. If you can suspend your disbelief enough for two hours to accept aliens exist and sometimes — just because our sun is apparently weird – visiting our planet gives them godlike powers, you should be able to fit “and they aren’t necessarily all white” in there too.
Worst: Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s name is popping up as a potential candidate for obvious reasons: he sells tickets, he’s got the body for it — as USA Today said, “He is Superman, after all” — and of course there’s the simple fact that Johnson has been showing up in pretty much every second or third action blockbuster for the past couple of years anyway.
However, there are at least two really good reasons to keep Johnson far away from this role. First, and most obviously, his commitments to play the antihero Black Adam would make playing Superman in the same narrative difficult. Second — and way more importantly – while Superman is big, muscular, and larger-than-life just like Johnson, he’s also humble. He’s not just the guy who would save the plane from crashing; he’s the guy who would personally help each and every passenger out of the plane after everyone was safe. Johnson isn’t that guy. Really, he’s so much not that guy that if Warners decided to go in a different physical direction for Superman’s classic nemesis, Johnson could make a great Lex Luthor. He already has the hairdo.
Best: Armie Hammer
One of the names that’s coming up more than others is Cavill’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. co-star Armie Hammer. He’s been on the periphery of the DC big-screen adaptations for a while, having been cast as Batman in George Miller’s unrealized Justice League: Mortal. According to THR’s blog Heat Vision (via /Film), Hammer was one of the final contenders for Man of Steel’s Superman role before it went to Cavill.
Hammer would be a perfect fit. He’s got the height. He’s got the physique. As proven by the well-deserved praise for his work in 2017’s Call Me by Your Name, he’s got the talent. Probably the biggest concern is — if Hammer were cast as Superman — what it would do to his friendship with Cavill. The two have been known to mess with each other on Instagram, so you’d hope they at least have a good sense of humor about it. Maybe they could wear matching Superman outfits to parties. Or they could flip a coin over who gets to dress as Superman and who gets to dress as Bizarro.
Worst: John Krasinski
John Krasinski isn’t at the top of a lot of lists to replace Henry Cavill, but Mark Hughes of Forbes thinks he’s the perfect choice. Hughes compares Krasinski to Chris Evans, saying the actor can deliver the “earnest, old fashioned, idealistic personality” that Superman calls for. He likens Krasinski’s The Office character to Clark Kent, and says performances like the one Krasinski delivered in 13 Hours prove he can tackle an action role.
Perhaps it’s the product of typecasting, but it’s difficult to imagine Krasinski as Superman. Hughes’ comparison of Jim Halpert to Clark Kent is more than apt, and that’s the problem; it isn’t difficult at all to see Krasinski as Clark Kent, but it feels almost impossible to see him portraying the other half of that iconic duality. That may be our limit as audience members, because trying to separate the actor’s brilliant work on The Office’s fallible but lovable Jim Halpert from that of the alpha male All-American superhero is a little too tough. His work in A Quiet Place and Jack Ryan notwithstanding, Krasinski seems like the guy who plays the one who’s being saved, not the one who’s doing the saving.
Best: Colin O’Donoghue
According to THR’s blog Heat Vision (via /Film), Irish actor Colin O’Donoghue was one of the actors competing with Henry Cavill for the role of Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. These days O’Donoghue is best known for his work as Captain Killian “Hook” Jones on the show Once Upon A Time as well as his memorable portrayal of Michael Kovak in 2011’s The Rite. According to The Irish Post, O’Donoghue is now an early frontrunner to replace Cavill.
O’Donoghue is a good choice, but not a perfect one. He certainly has the acting ability and the looks to play Superman. In some photos, he looks like a younger — and not quite as bulky — Chris Evans. But he also has a natural mischievous quality that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with the Man of Steel. He seems to consistently have one eyebrow cocked, giving him an air of mischief and thoughtfulness at the same time. While he would do well in Superman’s tights, you’d almost wonder if he might do better in Lex Luthor’s office.
Worst: Tyler Hoechlin
DC Comics fans who were missing the marquee heroes in CW’s Arrowverse shows were thrilled when Tyler Hoechlin appeared as Superman in the second season of Supergirl. His name keeps coming up in predictions for the next Superman, though not quite as often as others. Fans of his take on the character seem convinced this is a job for his Superman, like The Ringer’s Austin Elias-de Jesus, who called his work as the Kryptonian “a perfect blend of Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh” and added that Hoechlin’s portrayal has “a calming sense of lightness and warmth.”
Whether or not you like Hoechlin’s take on the Man of Steel, someone already playing Superman in another live-action medium should not be the guy who replaces Cavill. First, the casting would confuse audiences. Not everyone can compartmentalize different superhero storylines. We all — comic book geeks and civilians alike — know that one person who will occasionally say things like, “So explain to me again why Batman isn’t in the Avengers.” To that person, having two live-action Supermen played by two different men is probably confusing enough. Casting the same guy in both roles? Forget it. Second, we already know the stars of CW shows haven’t always been thrilled about the fact they weren’t cast in the films. If actors like Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell, and Melissa Benoist find out Hoechlin got to be in the movies, there might be a lot of unscripted punching.
Best: Henry Golding
Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding has emerged as one of the leading contenders to play Superman in any future DCEU projects, and the choice has promise. He’s a rising star in Hollywood with good looks and a warm likability.
He would be a bold, nontraditional choice. And there is comic book precedence for an Asian Superman — or, more accurately a “New Super-Man.” With DC’s 2016 Rebirth event, the company launched the title New Super-Man featuring Kenan Kong, a Chinese answer to the Last Son of Krypton. He isn’t a Kryptonian, but got his powers when his life force was mixed with that of Kal-El’s. His powers don’t work exactly like Superman’s, but his name is pretty close, and he even has his own version of the Justice League. So that’s pretty Superman-y.
Golding is a talented actor who’s getting a lot of attention right now. Add to that the fact that Warner Bros. has been making some very public statements recently about their commitment to diversity, and Golding seems like he has a real shot at those blue tights if he wants them.
Worst: Nicolas Cage
Believe it or not, yes, a growing number of people want Nicolas Cage to get another shot at the role of the Last Son of Krypton. Is it kind of a hipster ironic thing? Do they just have really low standards? Are they, possibly, all drunk? We don’t know. But they exist, and they have Twitter accounts.
Cage is known to be a huge comic book fan, going so far as to name his son Kal-El. When he played Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Ghost Rider in the Ghost Rider films, a tattoo of Ghost Rider had to be digitally erased from his arm. He was famously cast in Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, which was never finished because, well. Sometimes the universe is kind.
It seems like such a no-brainer that even explaining why this shouldn’t happen feels almost insulting, but just so we can say we made an effort: Nicolas Cage is too old, Warner Bros. probably wants people to see any Superman movies they make, and — unless they’re planning a nontraditional, dystopian Superman film which would admittedly be interesting — Superman is not insane.
Best: Matt Bomer
Best known as the leading man of USA’s White Collar, Matt Bomer is another actor who was considered an early candidate for Man of Steel, and he actually voiced the alien superhero that year in Superman: Unbound. Even earlier than that, Bomer was cast as Superman before Brandon Routh in what eventually became Superman Returns. The same year Bomer publicly came out as gay at an awards ceremony, author Jackie Collins claimed that Bomer was ousted from the role because of it, but in October 2012 E! News reported this wasn’t the case. Citing an unnamed source, the site said that Bomer was cast when Brett Ratner was initially attached as director for what at the time was titled Superman Flyby. Once Bryan Singer replaced Ratner, the concept and casting changed.
Bomer has a lot of things going for him. Undoubtedly, he has the looks to play Superman. And on top of that, he has the acting chops. Critics were blown away by the acting range he showed in 2017’s Walking Out. Plus, come on, he’s already been cast as Superman! Twice!
Like Jordan and Golding, casting Bomer would be a brave choice that would go a long way to proving Warner Bros.’ commitment to diversity. Considering Kit Harington’s recent calling out of Marvel for not casting gay actors as superheroes, it would carry that much more weight for Warners to not only cast a talented gay actor as a superhero, but as the superhero.
Worst (and too sexy): Rob Delaney
Rob Delaney – one of the few surviving members of Deadpool 2’s original X-Force team — jokingly threw his hat in the ring for the new Superman the same day it was reported that Cavill was out. Posting a GIF of his character Peter skydiving to his (temporary) death in Deadpool 2 on Twitter, Delaney wrote, “Heard they’re in the market for a new Superman. How sexy are they looking to go?” As of the writing of this feature, the tweet earned over 18,500 likes and has been retweeted over 2300 times.
While the GIF certainly highlights Delaney’s flying skills, it’s unlikely he’s a serious contender. Still, it’s a popular tweet and it would almost be worth hearing Ryan-Reynolds-as-Deadpool complain about the Warner Bros. poaching from his franchise if all it meant was enduring Delaney as Superman for a film or two. Not to mention that with the number of people supporting a Nicolas Cage casting, there’s really no room to criticize anyone for supporting a radical choice.
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