James Gunn Confirms that Henry Cavill Won’t Return as Superman

“This news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life,” wrote Cavill. “The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that.”

nbspHenry Cavill in Man of Steel.

 Henry Cavill in Man of Steel.Courtesy of Clay Enos for Warner Bros via Everett Collection

Two months ago, Henry Cavill made a big show of announcing his formal return as Superman via The Rock’s Black Adam film—but it turns out DC now has other plans for the cape. After last week’s news that incoming DC creative gurus James Gunn and Peter Safran have a new road map for their superhero collective, yesterday Gunn and Cavill made it official that the actor would not return as Superman, making him just one of a few stars that won’t be back as their signature characters.

In a series of tweets, Gunn revealed that he and Safran have a slate of DC projects “ready to go” and that one of the planned films is a Superman reboot. The project, to be written by Gunn, will focus on “an earlier part of Superman’s life” (though not an origin story), which would ostensibly require a younger actor to take up the cape. Safran and Gunn held a meeting with Cavill earlier in the week, informing him about the decision, but spoke about bringing back the actor in another role in a future project. Cavill confirmed the news on Instagram, stating, “ After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to [Gunn and Safran’s] hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life. The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that. James and Peter have a universe to build. I wish them and all involved with the new universe the best of luck and the happiest of fortunes.”

Cavill’s tenure as Supes started back in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and continued through 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League. After the poor reception to the last movie and Snyder’s overall vision, Cavill was ostensibly grounded—until Dwayne Johnson very publicly pulled him off the sidelines to appear in a post-credits scene for Black Adam

Cavill’s Black Adam return came after a bit of public jockeying by Johnson, who had aspirations to pit his titular antihero against Superman in a future project, going so far as to boldly declare, “That is the whole point of this, man.” According to a Hollywood Reporter tidbit, former DC Films head Walter Hamada was firmly against seeing Cavill return, but Johnson flexed a bit of muscle and convinced other Warner Bros. executives to let it happen. The post-credits scene was shot in September, a few weeks before the announcement of Gunn and Safran. 

Coming quickly after the news that DC won’t be going forward with Patty Jenkins’ vision for Wonder Woman 3, the decision to move on from Cavill is a key omen that the new heads are plotting a full tear-down of what’s come before. It’s particularly brutal for Cavill, who just stepped away from a rumored $1 million per episode payday on Netflix’s The Witcher series in favor of more Superman projects.

With regards to Gunn’s plans for Superman, sources tell the Hollywood Reporter this new story will focus on a younger Clark Kent, living in Metropolis and working for The Daily Planet. Gunn’s history with Superman dates back to when the writer/director jumped ship to DC, where former Warner chairman Toby Emmerich proposed he take on the Man of Steel. Earlier this week, Gunn posted about the original Superman movie’s 44-year anniversary, stating the film rivaled Star Wars in his admiration. Gunn’s films have a tinge of gonzo humor to them that may or may not translate well with diehard fans of the historically earnest Superman, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of Gunn’s tone is present. He isn’t directing the film at this stage, but that may change in the future. Curiously, Gunn also mentioned in his tweets that he and Safran recently met with Ben Affleck about directing a future DC project.

The Gunn Superman movie will not cause any issues for the long-gestating Black Superman project written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and produced by J.J. Abrams. THR reports Coates is still working on the script, and a version of Superman will likely exist outside of the new, interconnected DCU in the same way that The Batman and Joker do. 

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