There are some roles that, as an actor, have to be more daunting than others. Particularly when you're talking about iconic characters that have already been pretty much perfected, like Sean Connery as James Bond, as an example. Sure, others can find some success (see: Craig, Daniel), but sometimes it's just a shadow a little too big to step out from. That was pretty much always going to be the case for Brandon Routh when he tried to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Reeve as Superman with his performance in 2006's "Superman Returns."
Routh was very much aware of this challenge, but eager to take it on anyway. And when you put on that cape, working with a director in Bryan Singer who, at the time, was one of the hottest names in superhero cinema coming off the success of "X-Men" and "X2: X-Men United," at least part of you has to be expecting to be in it for the long haul. Unfortunately for Routh, that's not how things panned out. But that didn't stop the pressure of playing Superman from influencing the way he handled his career after landing the coveted role. And given he was playing America's foremost Boy Scout, Routh took that responsibility very seriously. Probably, as he later realized, to his detriment.
Honoring A Legacy At The Expense Of His Career
With the legacy of Superman and Christopher Reeve weighing on him, Brandon Routh — who was a little-known actor at the time — decided to tread extremely lightly in the time immediately following both being cast in "Superman Returns" and the film's release. He felt he needed to keep more of a squeaky clean image in order for the audience to truly buy him as the Last Son of Krypton. It's a move he later realized probably cost him some juicy roles. As he told Empire Online in 2016:
"I think just the lack of knowing what was going on for so long was definitely a challenge, because I felt the need to uphold an image. No one asked me to uphold one, but that's how much I cared about the character. I felt certain things might be off-limits, certain roles. At least for the first couple of years when I thought we'd be coming back. As it got further away, that became less and less of an issue."
Ultimately, "Superman Returns" was a commercial failure due largely to its massive $232 million budget, and Routh's time wearing the cape was short-lived. Eventually, he started taking on some of those roles he probably wouldn't have dared touch when he thought he might need to report back for duty as Clark Kent again, such as the one he tackled in Kevin Smith's ribald sex comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." And while he never got to play Superman again on the big screen, fortunately for fans of both Routh's and the movie, he would eventually get to step back into the role one more time thanks to The CW's massive Arrowverse TV crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," in 2019.
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