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“They punished him”: Nicolas Cage Almost Became the Superman Before Henry Cavill, Warner Bros. Wasted a Brilliant Script Including Brainiac

"They punished him": Nicolas Cage Almost Became the Superman Before Henry Cavill, Warner Bros. Wasted a Brilliant Script Including Brainiac

Actor Nicolas Cage is widely known for his brilliant acting skills as seen in movies like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. His skills have time and again been recognized through prestigious awards including an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe.

Unseen footage of Nicolas Cage from Superman Lives
Nicolas Cage from Superman Lives

Being extremely close to adding one of the most loved superheroes of all time to the colorful portfolio of his, Nicolas Cage almost played the role of Superman in the unreleased film, Superman Lives. The 1998 film was abruptly stopped by Warner Bros. which led to the question of “Why?” arising. While there were theories about why the movie was canceled, the actual reason could have been something completely difficult as it involves the director Tim Burton.

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Why Was Superman Lives Canceled?

Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!

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The what-could’ve-been movie, Superman Lives, had the perfect people to bring the best out of it. While Nicolas Cage was starring as the superhero, Superman, the movie had Tim Burton sitting on the director’s chair and featured a script from Clerks writer-director, Kevin Smith. The film was rumored to have a face-off with a monstrous spider, as well as a few fights between Brainiac and a couple of polar bears. That movie was all set to be an interesting and, not to mention, entertaining watch! However, as we know, none of it came to fruition.

A few theories were flying around about why the movie couldn’t be completed. According to The Hollywood Reporter one of them, as suggested by the 2015 documentary, The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? stated that Warner Bros. may have shut down the film owing to financial damages. The said financial damages came due to a series of flops faced by the studios, including Batman and Robin. Another theory stated that producer Jon Peters denied showing Superman flying in the movie. However, this theory didn’t stand strong as Peters himself denied the allegations. The real reason seems to be deeper than financial difficulties and creative differences, though.

Burton released a movie titled, Mars Attacks! in 1996 which didn’t do well at the box office despite having a star-studded cast. According to Inverse, Mars Attacks! might be why Superman Lives didn’t get to see the light of day. Inverse stated that the “misunderstood masterpiece” had questionable scenes including one with dog-human head swaps and cows being set ablaze.

The writer for Mars Attacks!, Jonathan Gems told Inverse that the cancellation of Superman Lives was to punish Burton for his 1996 film.

“They punished Tim. He had this wonderful project, with Nicolas Cage going to play Superman. The script was absolutely brilliant. They had incredible ideas for it. And then Warner Brothers dumped it and never gave a reason. It got the thumbs down from New York, the bankers who finance the studios. It wasn’t marketed properly at all. I think they decided they didn’t want people to watch the film.”

Whatever may be the reason, it would have been great to see Cage don the red cape and soar high into the skies as Superman. Plus, the Brainiac vs. polar bears fight seemed like an entertainment package in itself!

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Slight Good News for Nicolas Cage Fans

A still from the fan-made trailer of Superman Lives
A still from the fan-made trailer of Superman Lives

If there’s anyone who wants to see what Cage would’ve looked like as Superman and the very limited photos of him in costume aren’t enough, there’s good news for them! An animated trailer for Superman Lives was just released by animation house, Lazy Droid Studio. While the trailer is only fan-made, it shows how the movie would have turned out if the studios did decide to go through with it.

The trailer shows the movie’s villain, Brainiac, receiving Lex Luthor’s message as Cage’s Superman slowly and steadily makes his way to the spotlight. To be honest, it seems like if Warner Bros. didn’t stop the Superman Lives train, Cage’s take on Superman would’ve been quite delightful to watch!

Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! is available to rent on Prime Video.

Source: Inverse

Written by Mishkaat Khan

Mishkaat is a medical student who found solace in content writing. Having worked in the industry for about three years, she has written about everything from medicine to literature and is now happy to enlight you about the world of entertainment. When not writing, she can be found obsessing over supernatural beings through books and TV.