It’s a bird . . . It’s a plane . . . It’s Dirty Harry?
Forty-five years after dashing newcomer Christopher Reeve’s caped flight to stardom in 1978’s “Superman” movie, a NYC auction house is listing rare documents revealing the other leading men the studio cleared to be cast in the iconic role, including Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Robert Wagner and then-closeted Richard Chamberlain.
Auction house Metropolis Collectibles revealed the names of 24 leading men and 23 actresses DC Comics officially approved to be Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane, characters ultimately played by the relatively unknown 26-year-old Juilliard alum Reeve, and established 30-year-old Margot Kidder.
“This has been a well-loved topic over the years and for the first time we have confirmation” about the approved list of actors “DC was comfortable with, as far as their public image,” said J.R. Taylor, a researcher for Metropolis. “The casting has always been the most talked about thing and this list has names no one ever knew before.”
The celebs who coulda been contenders were:
The caped crusader with a deadly squint?
“A lot of actors probably weren’t thrilled at the idea of playing Superman. This was a time when starring in a comic book movie certainly sounded like a risky proposition,” said Taylor.
The veteran actor and husband of Natalie Wood (whose name was on the list for Lois Lane) would have been 48 when the movie premiered on Dec. 15,1978.
“At that point he was a television actor,” said Taylor.
The “Chinatown” actor and “Cuckoo’s Nest” Oscar winner with the unnerving grin would ultimately go on to play the Joker in 1989’s “Batman.”
But he was no obvious Superman, said Taylor.
“You can see DC probably was considering nothing more than people who they considered to be bankable” stars, but he would have brought “baggage” from his previous eccentric roles.
The brooding bad boy ended up playing Superman’s father Jor-El, despite Brando famously trying to convince producers that the role should be portrayed by a green suitcase.
“His logic being that if they were aliens, there’s no way of knowing what Superman’s father really looked like, perhaps hoping to be paid for voiceover work,” said Taylor.
“He’s the only actor on the list, besides Rock Hudson, who’d have been a closeted gay actor in the part,” said Taylor.
Not in “one million years” could people see the international sex symbol as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Daily Planet” reporter.
Though the sexy starlet went on to star as vampy villain Diana Pride in the TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” in 1995.
“This is probably the biggest surprise here,” said Taylor of the starlet who found overnight fame in the title role of 1962’s “Lolita,” but who “relied on drive-in movies and small TV turns by the time of Superman’s production.”
The former “Live and Let Die” Bond girl later turned up in the Superman series “Smallville” on The CW and named one of her children after her close friend Christopher Reeve, said Taylor.
NATALIE WOOD AND SISTER LANA WOOD:
“Natalie’s name has come up, but no one’s ever mentioned her sister Lana, primarily known as a ‘Bond girl,’ being approved for the role,” said Taylor.