Caffeinated Clint : One Off’s


Will Brandon Routh get his chance to wear the ruby roos again and play Superman again? Doesn’t sound like it, and I think Warner Bros are madder than Cujo’s mama for allowing the ideal Reeve proxy to slip through their fingers.

Speaking this morning to a producer friend at the Burbank branch, it sounds improbable that  uncle Alan will be seeking out the services of the former Lucky Strike employee to bring Kal-El to life again (Routh’s option has expired). Pity, Routh was fantastic in the role. Looked the part, performed the part, was enthusiastic ‘about’ the part (can you say that about Kilmer, Norton or a few of the other actors that have played superheroes in the past?).

And the WB isn’t shying away from Routh because they don’t like him – in fact, “they love him” – but because “they want the next Superman movie to be its own beast. Unlike Superman Returns, it’s not going to be a homage to the Dick Donner movies. They’re thinking bigger – bigger names, bigger movie”. I can understand that…. but the last time Warner Bros thought ‘bigger’ when it came to the character we nearly ended up with Nicolas Cage (and his horrible hair-plugs) donning the Super suit. Do we really want a forty-something Man of Steel – – at the expense of potentially getting a few more bums-on-seats next time around? Fuck no!

If I were in charge of Warner Bros I’d be (well, besides greenlighting that long-gestating “Goonies” sequel, relaunching the “Gremlins” series with Joe Dante back behind the megaphone, and paying Mel Gibson and Dick Donner ‘whatever they wanted’ to do a new “Lethal Weapon”) sticking with that plan of making a bigger, badder, more ambitious “Superman” movie whilst hanging onto the guy – they took years to find – that plays the Blue Avenger. They’re not going to find any better. And if Sony is confident they can reboot “Ghost Rider” with the same actor (Cage) that played the character in the shitty first incarnation, what’s the difference in having the WB re-use Routh for a Singer-linkless “Superman”?

Consider it Al – but don’t let you mind wander – it’s far too small to be let out on its own.

It’s sad when terrific ‘finds’ like Brandon Routh only get to bring a character they were seemingly born to play to life just once. And it happens all the time – for numerous reasons. Sometimes an actor walks over a pay dispute; sometimes it’s over script; sometimes the guy playing Batman gets caught in an uncompromising position with an exec’s wife, or, as is usually the case, a film does Nada business at the box office leaving the studio with no decision but to cancel all further installments for the time being (At least until George Clooney agrees to take on the same part, and J.J Abrams agrees to develop it.)

Alec Baldwin, in my opinion, was the finest incarnation of literary hero Jack Ryan to date. But when Paramount contacted Ryan to reprise the role for a “Red October” follow-up, the actor was otherwise busy. Some say the deal went awry because of Baldwin, but that’s not true, Baldwin legitimately had other commitments (he was doing “A Streetcar named Desire” with Jessica Lange on Broadway at the time, and couldn’t get out of it) and it was Paramount who weren’t willing to pay him to break those commitments.

”Alec went nuts,” a source told Entertainment Weekly. ”He needed [Patriot Games].”

”Baldwin may have felt that because he established the character in The Hunt for Red October,” says one Paramount executive, ”that he had us over a barrel.” Apparently not. ”Baldwin isn’t a star yet,” says a Columbia executive. ”With Ford, they’re getting more marquee, more insurance.”

Later, Harrison Ford – who ultimately took on the role of Ryan when Baldwin got the finger – walked away from the same series when he realized the script for “Sum of All Fears” wasn’t as hot as the previous two Ryan films he’d starred in (“Patriot Games”, “Clear and Present Danger”). Sad, because Ford was great too. And look what happened to that series once Ford was swapped for Ben Affleck? Seemed like a good idea at the time, right? (Speaking of, Affleck made a good pretty good ‘Daredevil’ too, but as was the case with “Sum of All Fears”, the film made zip with him in the title role – so he was pink-slipped shortly after).

After “Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines” flopped, Nick Stahl knew he’d never get a chance to play John Connor again – and that’s despite the fact that most agree his was the best incarnation of the character to date. Might “Terminator Salvation” have been a little more appealing had they just kept Stahl, rather than bringing in ‘bigger name’ Christian Bale? It definitely might’ve pleased the fans a little more than it did. Heck, did “Salvation” please anyone outside of the McGintley family?

Though a wonderful film in its own right, Disney’s “The Rocketeer” was squashed by a remake of an old Spencer Tracy flick (‘Father of the Bride’) and a big-screen version of a crusty sitcom (‘The Addams Family’) when it hit theatres in 1991. And like Routh, it’s a shame – because Billy Campbell was a terrific Cliff Secord. He was charming, fit, and really embodied the role of the pulp hero. At the time Disney had Campbell signed to a plum deal that included a soon-to-lens sequel, but once Lurch and Gomez came into the picture, The Rocketeer had his jet-pack defuelled.

Campbell told MTV Movie News, “[Unfortunately] the movie didn’t make as much money as Disney had hoped and that coupled with the acrimonious relationship that the director [Joe Johnston] and the studio had contributed to them not even considering it.”

Many actors only got their one shot to play superheroes though – Val Kilmer’s stay as Batman was brief because he had other commitments (some say at Burger King), Eric Bana was let go as ‘The Hulk’ because of the lack of ‘Green’ the Ang Lee version accumulated, Billy Zane would always be a one-shot ‘Phantom’ after it flopped faster than a roof bound pancake in 1996, Thomas Jane walked from the role of ‘The Punisher’ after only the one film because the sequel’s script wasn’t to his liking, and Dolph Lundgren, though contracted for sequels, got out of his contract to star  in a “Masters of the Universe” (1987) sequel.

“At the time I was proposed it, I was shooting Red Scorpion”, Lundgren told Impact Magazine in 1989. ‘’Masters of the Universe was a nightmare. 5 months of filming, 2 by night. The studio had big troubles and the budget was huge. And it was first starring role. It was very tough. In general I don’t like myself on a screen, but there… There are yet some special effects, some sequences to save. Not more. I’d like to forget. On the other hand, it helped me in my career and taught me a lot. Masters of the Universe was number one in rental videos in England but I didn’t get much money in the story. Anyway, what counts it what we want to become.”

“Playing He-Man was pretty much my lowest point as an actor”, the “Rocky IV” star said in another interview. “It was a kids’ movie. How much could I do as an actor when I was running around in swim trunks and chest armor? There was talk of my doing a second one, but I wasn’t available, and from what I understand, the whole idea of a sequel fell through.”

The studio briefly flirted with the idea of using actor Laird Hamilton in a sequel. Oh, and the storyline for the proposed sequel? He-Man heads back to Earth disguised as a football quarterback!

No wonder Lundgren elbowed the idea!

And in far more catastrophic circumstances, Brandon Lee’s ‘big shot’ at stardom playing Eric Draven in a feature film version of “The Crow” was cut short when the actor was tragically killed on set. Dimension was planning big things for the series (and Lee) and though the series continued without the actor it never really returned to the heights of the Alex Proyas-directed original. Unfortunately, cloning wasn’t as commonplace back in 1994 either.

And then there’s promising star-driven franchises that never eventuated – usually because of an unwillingness to cough up the coin to keep the star happy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to reprise his role as camouflaged renegade John Matrix in a “Commando” sequel but Fox couldn’t make a deal (as a consequence, most of that script was re-used for “Die Hard”), same with “Predator 2” – Arnie was supposed to be back as ‘Dutch’ for it, but a mix of scheduling difficult and insufficient funds saw Gary Busey take the big guy’s place. Jean Claude Van Damme was due to star in a sequel to “Kickboxer” but his star rose quicker than a penis at the Playboy mansion after the release of the first film and the studio realized they could no longer afford him. And just this week, Roland Emmerich told reporters that he’d love to do a sequel to “Independence Day” – but star Will Smith wants too much money.

Sometimes, as was likely the case with Kilmer in ‘Batman’, an actor simply doesn’t like repeating himself – no matter how good, and how accepted, they were in a given role.

Brendan Fraser walked from the “George of the Jungle” series because Disney didn’t want to, well, try anything new. Oh, and he was fat and didn’t want to lose the weight.  But bottom line – the guy just wasn’t that interested in wearing the loin-cloth again. Was it a fuck up on his behalf? Maybe, after all we didn’t see the guy on the big screen again until quite a few years later – and even then it was in a lousier-than-lousy “Mummy” sequel.

(Christopher Showerman replaced Fraser in “George of the Jungle 2”, and understandably assumed this would be the first in a long line of “George of the Jungle” flicks he’d be headlining. When Disney decided to reduce the amount of product being churned out for their direct-to-DVD division though, George had his vine lopped. Showerman was forced to hand in his loin cloth. And another promising franchise had its wings clipped. Don’t worry about Showerman – he bounces back almost as quickly as his cheques!)

Like Fraser, Tom Cruise had never been big on sequels – – until he saw how much healthier a bank balance can look by being in one.

He had passed on “Top Gun 2”, but surely Cruise would want to, er, resurrect the Vampire Lestat for a sequel to “Interview with the Vampire”?

No Fangs!, said Mapother.

Instead we got Stuart Townsend’s version of Lestat, the ‘Fuckin’ Photocopier’ guy from ‘The Castle’, and Moonface’s kid! Lest we forget.

Never get too attached to an actor in a role – especially these big-time superhero or franchisey roles – because you just never know when the actor, or better still, the studio, will find an excuse for them not to return for the next one. On the other hand, if you have the money….