Less men have portrayed Batman on screen than have walked on the moon.
It’s a sobering thought considering one of those is Val Kilmer, but it could have been very a different case had the cancelled 1983 ‘The Batman’ film gone ahead with its original choice for Bruce Wayne – Bill Murray.
Here’s 8 actors you’ll probably never believe nearly played your favourite superheroes.
Bill Murray as Batman
Following the success of ‘Superman: The Movie’, its screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz was tasked by Warner Bros. to craft an origin film for the Man of Steel’s DC stablemate Batman. Ivan Reitman was attached to direct film titled ’The Batman’, fresh from his success with ‘Ghostbusters’, and he wanted to cast Peter Venkman himself Bill Murray in the lead role.
David Niven was mooted for Alfred, Michael J Fox for Robin, and perhaps most excitingly was the prospect of David Bowie playing The Joker. The project eventually fell apart after numerous rewrites, and the project was eventually resurrected albeit with a new script for Tim Burton in 1989, who opted for another comedic actor in the shape of Michael Keaton.
Neil Diamond as Superman
The producers of the first Superman movie cast their net far and wide for the right actor to play Kal-el, the last son of Krypton. Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, and Sylvester Stallone were all courted, but none were ready to don the famous red y-fronts, so things got a bit desperate.
So desperate in fact that singer Neil Diamond was brought in for an audition. According to one report things didn’t go so well for the ‘Sweet Caroline’ singer and “people were laughing like hell”. He eventually declined the opportunity if favor of touring. Good choice Neil.
Bob Hoskins as Wolverine
Anyone who’s seen ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ knows Bob Hoskins was hairy enough to play Wolverine, but was he tough enough? Acclaimed ‘X-Men’ writer Chris Claremont certainly thought so as he revealed during a lecture at Columbia University back in 2012.
The writer says he and Stan Lee pitched ‘X-Men’ to James Cameron back in the early 90s and Hoskins was their number one choice to portray Logan, the metal-clawed mutant who – in the comics – is short and feral, just like Hoskins. Claremont says it was Hoskins’ role as a tough guy in the 1984 film ‘Lassiter’ opposite Tom Selleck that convinced him.
Jude Law as Spider-Man
Many names were linked with the Peter Parker role during its long and protracted journey to the big screen including Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Edward Furlong, but one of the most surprising choices was probably Jude Law.
The British actor was riding high with ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ but he was never considered an action star, plus this was a time before British actors snaffled all the superhero roles in Hollywood – the idea of an Englishman playing a quintessential American hero just seems so outlandish for the time. Eventually, Tobey Maguire took the role before passing the baton to Andrew Garfield for the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ series.
Nicolas Cage as Superman
Considered by many to be the most outrageous superhero film that never got made, Tim Burton’s cancelled ‘Superman Lives’ would have seen Nicolas Cage playing Superman.
The loose adaptation of the hit comic run ‘The Death of Superman’ got pretty far along in development before a nervy Warner Bros. pulled the plug, and there is even a documentary currently in production that promises to tell the whole story of the doomed film. Test footage of Nic Cage in costume shows a glowing suit and a glorious mullet giving us a taste of what could have been.
Jim Caviezel as Cyclops
Before he played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’, Jim Caviezel came very close to portraying Cyclops in Bryan Singer’s first ‘X-Men’ film. He fought off competition from Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, and Johnny Lee Miller for the role but was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with a little-seen thriller ‘Frequency’ opposite Dennis Quaid.
James Marsden took on the role for the first three ‘X-Men’ films, plus a cameo in ‘Days of Future Past’, but it looks like the part will be recast again for 2016’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’.
Marlon Wayans as Robin
Tim Burton was dropped from the third ‘Batman’ film by Warner Bros. after the studio decided they wanted a more family-friendly approach than the ‘Beetlejuice’ director had delivered with ‘Batman Returns’. Burton’s planned threequel would have seen Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight recruiting an orphaned Robin and taking down the Riddler, a role turned down by Robin Williams.
A pre-‘White Chicks’ Marlon Wayans had signed up to play the Boy Wonder, reportedly getting as far as having costume tests, but it was never meant to be. When Burton left the project, Joel Schumacher came on board and tossed the whole film out, casting and all, bringing in Chris O’Donnell to play Robin in his garish revision of the project.
Will Smith as Superman
This may seem like a stretch, but actually, the Fresh Prince was approached to play Supes not once but twice. The first time came when Kevin Smith was writing the script for the canned 1997 reboot which would have seen Superman donning a black suit and taking on giant spiders.
The giant spiders lived on when producer Jon Peters recycled them in another Will Smith vehicle ‘Wild Wild West’, which coincidentally but a stop to Big Willy Style’s second crack at Superman. Bryan Singer sought him out for ‘Superman Returns’, but Smith turned it down saying “There is no way I’m playing Superman! Because I had already done Jim West (Wild, Wild West) and you can’t be messing up white peoples’ heroes in Hollywood.”
Image Credit: Press Association/Warner Bros./20th Century Fox/Sony Pictures