It’s no secret that Nicolas Cage is a big Superman fan —he named one of his sons Kal-El, Clark Kent’s Kryptonian name. Way back in 1998, Cage was all set to star in a Superman re-launch moive directed by none other than Tim Burton. Not only that, but “Superman Lives” was to be an adaptation of the early ’90s comic book arc “The Death of Superman.”
Jon Schnepp’s new documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?” explores this film that never was, and there’s a brand new trailer below. In the doc, Schnepp interviews Burton, costume designer Colleen Atwood, Kevin Smith (who wrote the first draft of the script), production designer Rick Heinrichs, Wesley Strick (who wrote later drafts), and many others involved in pre-production on the failed flick. Cage apparently only appears in the documentary in archival footage.
According to the film’s producer Jon Peters, “people were scared of this movie, just like they were scared of ‘Batman’” (referring to Burton’s decade earlier Caped Crusader picture, which Peters also produced). But behind the scenes gossip detailed in David Hughes’ book “The Greatest Sci-fi Movies Never Made” suggests that outside “people” weren’t the only stumbling blocks. Apparently, Smith felt he had been hired to simply turn a preplanned idea into words on the page and was given both a lot of direction and a lot of prohibitions in crafting his story. For example, Peters apparently didn’t want Superman to fly in the film (read much more about Burton’s film and the other failed iterations in 4 ‘Superman’ Movies That Never Took Flight).
Despite whatever was going on behind the scenes, everyone interviewed in Schnepp’s doc was clearly psyched for this rendition of Superman. The designers come across as especially stoked for what they were working on, and the producers exude nothing but eagerness for the project that’s now 17 years dead. Cage was enthusiastic, saying “look, I’m not going to be one of these guys that’s going to be lamenting things. But is Tim Burton one of my favourite directors? Yes. Did I see some of the drawings of where he wanted to go? Yes. And I will tell you, they were fantastic and it would have been a mind-blowing experience. Did I have a concept of how to play the character? Yes, and I can tell you it would have been gutsy. So maybe Warner Brothers got scared because they had two artists that weren’t afraid to take chances.”
Check out the trailer below. “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?” gets limited release on May 1st.