Searching for Superman: Inside the Quest to Cast DC’s New Top Hero (Exclusive)

The quest for James Gunn’s Superman is up, up and away.

Casting for Superman: Legacy, the feature meant to kick off Gunn and Peter Safran’s much-vaunted first chapter of DC Studios, is hitting a crucial phase, with a shortlist of names bubbling up for the roles of Clark Kent, Lois Lane and even Lex Luthor.

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David Corenswet, who recently played the ill-fated projectionist opposite Mia Goth in Pearl, is among the top contenders to play Kent, aka Superman, advancing to the screen test stage that will likely take place after Memorial Day or in early June, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Two other contenders may also be in the mix, but their identities remain unknown.

Jacob Elordi, the sought-after star who broke out as the resident villain on HBO series Euphoria, is another name that has surfaced for the role of Kent, but sources say he never submitted himself into the ring. British actors Tom Brittney and Andrew Richardson were also in the early mix.

As for Lane, the spunky reporter at Metropolis’ Daily Planet news organization, contenders have been Emma Mackey, one of the stars of the Netflix series Sex Education who will also appear in Warner Bros.’ Barbie; Rachel Brosnahan, the Emmy-winning star of Amazon’s acclaimed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Bridgerton actress Phoebe Dynevor; and Samara Weaving, last seen in Scream VI. It is unclear who is advancing on to the testing stage. Brosnahan is said to have delivered an “outstanding” audition but, at 32, may be in the older range for what Gunn is ultimately hoping to achieve: a look at Metropolis heroics via 20-something characters.

Sources caution that some of the aforementioned are not screen testing and have merely been in the mix. One source, without providing additional detail, dismissed some of the names as “a chatroom list.” Warners had no comment, and one insider said the filmmakers and studio “are nowhere near a decision.”

One role that seems to have only one person earmarked is the classic villain Luthor. Nicholas Hoult, currently starring in vampire comedy-thriller Renfield, has been tipped to play the bald-headed evil genius. Hoult’s name has been swirling around Legacy for several weeks now, with some theorizing he was up for Superman. The actor had a previous close call with the DC movie realm when he was the runner-up to play Batman for Matt Reeves, with the role going to Robert Pattinson. “The studio has loved him since Fury Road,” said one source, referring to Warners’ 2015 action classic from George Miller.

And while the roles being chased by many of the town’s up-and-comers include the trio of classic characters, sources say the movie will be populated by many faces as it will seek to introduce DC heroes that are already established in the movie’s setting.

Superman: Legacy will be the first film under the Gunn-Safran regime at DC, making the casting of particular note. The superhero holds a place of particular importance for Gunn. “I completely relate to Superman because he’s everything I am,” Gunn told THR in an April cover story. “He’s somebody who is an outsider who feels like an alien, but also the ultimate insider, because he’s fucking Superman. And that’s kind of like what I feel like.”

As for the macroeconomics of Superman, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is betting big on the new superhero strategy. “DC is the biggest value creation opportunity for us,” Zaslav said in February. In 2022 and early 2023, WBD cleared the DC decks, shelving Batgirl indefinitely to claim a tax write-down, and releasing Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods to mixed results at the box office. Still to come is Blue Beetle, which was once set for HBO Max but was moved to an August theatrical release, and June’s long-delayed Flash movie that has already been screened in full for exhibitors at CinemaCon with positive results. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, due out in December, is the final DC film made by the previous regime.

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