With Superman being such an iconic character, it is inevitable that any actor stepping into the role is likely to encounter some controversy or backlash from the general public. This is especially true if the actor does not fit the conventional mold of the character. Dean Cain, who took the part of Superman in the 90s television series Lois and Clark, encountered backlash from the public because of his Japanese ancestry. Of course, he took it well even when one fan claimed he wanted “Superman – not Sushi Man.”
The most recent actor to take on the role of Superman was Henry Cavill in the 2013 film, Man of Steel. He will continue the role in the follow-up film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to be released in March. He was cast in the role because “He’s got an amazing quality. He doesn’t look too much like Reeve and Routh but he’s big and strong and he has a very modern feel to him. We’re really going to try and make Superman as contemporary as possible.” Naturally, he encountered criticism from the public when the casting was announced. Why? Because he is British. The film also received mixed reviews from critics after its release. The general idea was that, while he very much looked like Superman, his acting was too stiff (Daily Mail) and he lacked charisma (Entertainment Weekly). He just didn’t have the twinkle of his iconic predecessor, Christopher Reeve.
So just who might satisfy the public’s insatiable requirements? Could a different actor take Superman in a different direction?
10 James Franco
To satisfy the fan need for a conventional, all-American Superman that resembles the character from the comic books, there are several requirements. First of all, the actor would need to be around 6’3, be 235 pounds, have blue eyes and jet black hair with a curl in the front. He would have to have the build of a bodybuilder and a defined jaw. James Franco comes close to matching this description. He has dark hair, a chiseled jaw, is American, with an American accent, which as noted, is seemingly very important to fans. They would really only have to make his eyes blue and ever-so-slightly more body-builder-esque. James Franco is also likely to have a lot more personality than Henry Cavill.
9 Tom Hardy
If the film were to cast a Superman that would be both believable and powerful, Tom Hardy is a good candidate. Known for his breakthrough roles in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and most recently Mad Max: Fury Road, the versatility of his roles shows that he would be able to strike a balance between Clark Kent and Superman. In addition, he has also been nominated for an Oscar, so his critical acclaim likely means that his portrayal could be very powerful. He also looks the part of Superman, with his muscular build and dark hair.
8 Leonardo DiCaprio
The versatility of Leonardo DiCaprio, with roles ranging from a mentally challenged child to a wealthy stockbroker to slavemaster, would allow him to capture both sides of Superman - both Clark Kent, and of course, Superman himself. Given that he often plays anti-heroes, this would be just another opportunity to embrace his diversity as an actor. He frequently plays roles of people who have suffered some type of loss, so he would easily be able to tap into Superman’s own loss when he loses his family after his home planet of Krypton is destroyed. Now if we could just get Martin Scorsese to sign on as director, it shouldn’t be hard to get DiCaprio to go along with it. If he’s lucky, he might finally win an Oscar.
7 Michael Fassbender
Superman is at high risk of being a relatively flat, one-dimensional character without a lot of complexity. This wasn’t always the case as the earliest comics presented Superman as aggressive and with less of a moral code. But, in the late 40s, an editor changed Superman into a much tamer version: brave and kind, with a strong moral code and a sense of justice - but not much else. In other words, he doesn’t undergo a lot of development or personal growth that would make him more of a round character because he simply doesn’t need to - he has few flaws. This flat character doesn’t often translate well on-screen - in fact, perfect characters are usually always boring. Needless to say, the very essence of his rather flat character requires that an actor come in and provide depth to him. One such candidate might be Michael Fassbender, who is known for his intense and emotional acting, like his performance in Inglourious Basterds. He has been nominated for two Oscars, which means his acting skills are strong. He has the muscular build of Superman and the square jaw as well.
6 Will Smith
Diversity is an important topic - it received recent media attention when several actors and actresses announced that they would be abandoning The Oscars because of a lack of representation. With this in mind, it would be interesting to see a person of color take on the role of a mostly all-white and all-American Superman - even though it would be controversial to some. Will Smith is a good candidate for this - his personal charm would translate on-screen and allow him to easily play the role of Clark Kent. Will Smith’s public persona as “a good guy” would mean that playing Clark Kent would be quite believable as well. He has shown that his roles aren’t all just fun and games, with the likes of The Pursuit of Happiness, where Will Smith was also nominated for two Oscars and a number of Golden Globes. In other words, even with Will Smith in the part, he still has the potential to make Superman powerful.
5 Nathan Fillion
An aging Superman would be a different take on the film and one that films don’t seem to explore. DC Comics, however, has published several stories where Superman ages. The original Golden Age Superman is one example, with the hero aging in the same way a human would. In Kingdom Come Superman he also ages, but at a much slower rate than that of humans, while growing more powerful. In The Silver Age Superman, he doesn’t age at all. Film has only ever explored an aging Superman with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in ‘87. Who could take on the role of an aging superman? Perhaps Nathan Fillion, who not only resembles Superman physically, but also has garnered critical acclaim for his acting. He also has a strong fan base, who would probably immensely enjoy him taking on this role. The man is not lacking in the charisma department, either.
4 Adam Driver
Another candidate who could potentially also provide some depth to the character of Superman is Adam Driver, who is known for his roles in HBO’s Girls, and most recently in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where he plays Kylo Ren. This would be a very different take on the traditional role of Superman, given that he doesn’t meet the typical physical description of the character, but he isn’t far off. His acting abilities will certainly go a long way - in fact, he has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards. He is quirky and charming. Needless to say, casting Adam Driver in the role of Superman would make for a very interesting portrayal of the character indeed.
3 Aziz Ansari
Who doesn’t love Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation and Master of None? Completely lovable, he would make a goofy and believable Clark Kent. His strong charisma and charm would easily translate on screen. While a serious and powerful Superman could be a bit of a stretch for Ansari, given that he isn’t exactly known for these roles, casting him as Superman would be a completely new and fresh take on the character, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. He has been nominated for a Golden Globe, so his critical acclaim would ensure that the film wouldn’t move into the ridiculous territory. Casting Aziz Ansari is just crazy enough that it could work. Who wouldn’t watch him as Superman?
2 Jason Bateman
Another interesting take on the role of Superman is if it were to be played by Jason Bateman, who easily “looks” the part, with his black hair and strong jaw, and who could play the dorky Clark Kent quite well. The man is full of charm, charisma and is in short, hilarious. He is known for a variety of roles, including HBO’s Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses and Juno, and is capable of Award winning performances, as he does have a Golden Globe under his belt. In short, he wouldn’t take the character into ridiculous territory, although his overall take would look much different than that of the typical Superman. It is possible that he could add a comedic touch to the character for something different than the usually serious Superman.
1 Matt Damon
At the end of the day, people mostly just want to see the traditional Superman. So, who truly fits the bill? None other than Matt Damon, of course. The man doesn’t need an introduction. He will be the least likely to garner any controversy because he is basically Superman in the flesh already. All-American? Check. Has the looks to play the part? Check. He could create a powerful Superman with his acting chops, while having enough charm to make up for the lack of charisma of Henry Cavill. We don’t need to go into all of the Awards and nominations he has received. In short, Matt Damon as Superman is just 100% believable.