Christopher Reeve, Superman: How The Role Nobody Could Play Went To A Nobody

By | September 25, 2020

test article image
Source: IMDB

Few casting choices can touch Christopher Reeve as Superman in the 1978 film of the same name. Could the DC Comics blockbuster have succeeded with Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, James Caan, Bruce Jenner or Neil Diamond playing Clark Kent's alter ego? Fortunately we will never have to watch any of those guys fly around in blue-and-red tights. It's a cliche to say an actor was born to play a role, yet it's hard to imagine anyone else as Superman, and it's hard to look at pictures of the late actor and not see the Kryptonian hero. But getting to Reeve wasn't easy -- in fact, the search for Superman was a long and painful process that saw the producers consider just about every actor in Hollywood.

Producers Felt It Was Crucial To Have A Big Star Play Superman

test article image
Ned Beatty, Reeve, and Gene Hackman (as Lex Luthor) in 'Superman.' Source: IMDB

A box-office smash, Superman (also billed as Superman: The Movie) solved the riddle of how to make a serious superhero movie. The previous big comic-book success was the campy Batman TV show from the '60s -- could stories of beloved comic book heroes ever make the big screen in a way that wasn't ironic if not outright comical? Today, with our film industry dominated by Marvel and DC heroes, the question is ludicrous, but in the early '70s a big-budget superhero movie was considered a risk.

The most common way Hollywood hedges against risk is by using known quantities that will put butts in seats -- in other words, if Superman had any hope of succeeding, it needed a big star in the title role. The 1978 film did feature some big stars, notably Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. But the quest to fill the iconic title role was a grueling task for director Richard Donner and co-producer Ilya Salkind.