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6 Superman Movies that Didn't Get Made

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By Scott Meslow

In case you've somehow missed the relentless onslaught of commercial spots and promotional tie-ins, Man of Steel—Zack Snyder's massive reboot of the Superman franchise, which stars Henry Cavill—hit theaters last weekend. But for every Superman movie that has hit theaters since the heyday of the Christopher Reeve-starring films, a number of other directors have made failed attempts to get the Man of Steel off the ground and back onto the big screen. Over the past two decades, what are the stories behind the strange, fascinating (and occasionally terrible) Superman movies that didn't get made? Here's a guide.

1. Superman V (1991)

Though both 1978's Superman and 1980's Superman II are widely acknowledged to be classics, the Christopher Reeve-starring films petered out at the end with the disappointing Superman III and the truly awful Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. According to comic book writer Cary Bates — who pitched a concept for a fifth Superman movie in 1991 that he says was almost greenlit — the franchise could have been saved by his script for Superman V. He says it was designed "to leapfrog over Superman III and especially IV, and return the series to the high mark achieved in 1 and 2."

The plan was "to do a fully developed, balls-out science fiction story pitting Superman and Brainiac against each other mano a mano," Bates continues at Newsarama. In Superman V, the extraterrestrial android would have arrived on Earth to shrink Metropolis and put it into a bottle as part of a larger collection of miniature cities. Then Brainiac would discover that Superman was in the tiny city, and he would have shrunken himself down to battle the Man of Steel, resulting in a brutal fight that would have left Superman dead years before a similar storyline appeared in the comics. Ultimately, Superman would have been reborn in Kandor — the capital of his home planet Krypton, which Brainiac kept in another bottle. After reconnecting with his roots, Superman would have escaped to resume his battle with the supervillain.

So what happened? According to Bates, producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind — who held the rights to the character at the time — put Superman V on hold to focus on their other project,Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. By the time they were ready to produce the superhero project, Warners Bros. had announced the TV show, Lois & Clark, which killed any other Superman projects in development. In retrospect, Bates thinks it was for the best: Given the rudimentary state of CGI at the time, his screenplay "was probably too ambitious and ahead of its time, given the modest projected budget." Any fans who are still curious can read an original draft of Bates' script at the Superman Homepage.

2. Superman Reborn (1993)

Producer Jon Peters, who made a splash with Batman in 1989, had his own plan to revive the Superman franchise in a post-Reeve era. Once the rights to Superman were reacquired by Warner Bros., Peters hired screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin to write a reboot of the franchise that owed a heavy debt to 1992's massively successful comic book story The Death of Superman. In Lemkin's Superman Reborn, the Man of Steel would have squared off against a vicious intergalactic killer called Doomsday, with both characters dying at the end of the battle. In his dying breath, Superman would have confessed his love for Lois Lane, which would somehow have rendered her pregnant with a superbaby. For reasons, once again, that went largely unexplained, the baby would have grown into adulthood in a matter of weeks, taking over for his father as Superman.

Warner Bros. rejected the (utterly crazy) first draft of the Superman Reborn script, hiring screenwriter Gregory Poirier to do an extended rewrite. Poirier's script added several new villains, including Brainiac, Silver Banshee, and Parasite — and though it still featured the death of Superman, it skipped the magic pregnancy/superbaby angle in favor of a government project that would have revived Superman. But Kevin Smith, who had his own ideas for the franchise, hated Poirier's script, and pitched his own concept for the reboot.

3. Superman Lives (1997)

So what was Kevin Smith's concept for Superman? The script, which he called Superman Lives, also featured Brainiac as a villain, and included the death and resurrection of Superman in its storyline. Unfortunately, the similarities ended there. In an extended monologue at a fan event, Smith revealed that there were a number of absolutely insane parameters placed on his screenplay by producer Jon Peters.

According to Smith, in his first meeting with Peters, the producer explained that he envisioned Sean Penn as Superman because he wanted the hero to come across as "a violent, caged animal — a f--king killer." Peters also laid down three rules for the script: Superman couldn't wear his familiar red-and-blue costume, Superman couldn't fly, and Superman had to fight a giant spider in the story's third act. After reading Smith's first draft, Peters asked Smith to add "a gay R2-D2" as a sidekick for Brainiac, and a character resembling Chewbacca, in order to capitalize on the success of the then-recent Star Wars re-releases.

Eventually, Batman director Tim Burton signed on to direct Superman Lives, with Nicolas Cage attached to play Superman. Burton had Smith's script thrown out in favor of a new script by writers that he'd personally chosen. Though locations were scouted and Cage did a costume test, the production was repeatedly delayed due to various creative and production problems. Burton left the project in 1998, and Cage left the project in 2000.

4. Batman vs. Superman (2002)

After various writers and directors tried and failed to get the next Superman film into production, one script stood out: Batman vs. Superman, from a script by Andrew Kevin WalkerIn a 2002 interview with Variety, director Wolfgang Petersen expressed his enthusiasm for the project: "It is a clash of the titans. They play off of each other so perfectly. [Superman] is clear, bright, all that is noble and good, and Batman represents the dark, obsessive and vengeful side. They are two sides of the same coin and that is material for great drama." He also predicted that the entire genre would be permanently altered by 9/11.

In the film, a retired Bruce Wayne's wife would have been murdered at their wedding, by the Joker, prompting Wayne to seek revenge and uncover a complex plot that involved Lex Luthor. Batman would then turn against his former best friend Superman before they teamed up once again to take Luthor down. Petersen had originally suggested that Matt Damon was the kind of actor he was looking for, though it's unclear if he meant Damon would play Batman or Superman. Reports indicate that the long list of favorites for either of the two starring roles included Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, James Franco, Jude Law, and Paul Walker.

5. Superman: Flyby (2002)

In the end, Warner Bros. decided to shelve Batman vs. Superman in favor of a competing script that focused solely on the Man of Steel: Superman: Flyby, by J.J. Abrams. (The Batman franchise, which went through its own extended development cycle, eventually reemerged with Batman Begins in 2005.) Superman: Flyby was a full reboot of the franchise centered on the far-reaching effects of a Kryptonian civil war — between Superman's father Jor-El and his uncle Kata-Zor — which eventually extended to Earth. Once again, Superman dies and is resurrected, and the story ends with Superman leaving Earth to go back to Krypton, setting up a sequel.

Over its troubled development process, many, many actors were discussed as possible stars for Superman: Flyby, including Josh Hartnett, Jude Law, Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher, James Marsden, and Brendan Fraser. After months of false starts, director Brett Ratner dropped out of the project and was replaced by McG, who dropped out when Warner Bros. insisted on shooting in Australia to save money. (Ironically enough, he later conceded that he'd been afraid of flying.) Though Abrams volunteered to direct, Warner Bros. hired Bryan Singer, who finally delivered an actual Superman movie in 2006: The Brandon Routh-starring Superman Returns.

6. Untitled Superman Returns sequel (2006)

Unfortunately for all involved, Warner Bros. was underwhelmed by the reaction to Superman Returns. (Though, perhaps it was an understandable response from the studio, given the movie's decade-plus development cycle.) The studio decided to go in a new direction with the franchise, but a sequel to Superman Returns was already in the early stages of development.According to a 2010 interview with screenwriter Michael Dougherty, the film would have introduced other Kryptonians, though he wouldn't say whether they would be villains. He also hinted that Brainiac might have made an appearance. And while he noted that Snyder's Man of Steel (in pre-production at the time of the interview) would be another reboot, he thought there was a decent chance that Brandon Routh would star again. (Sorry, Brandon.)

And here we are, more than two decades after Reeve's Superman took flight, as Man of Steel hits theaters. Will it be the smash-hit Superman film that screenwriters and directors have been trying to create for so long, or does Superman have yet another reboot in his future?

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential
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On this day 20 years ago, a rising star director, a writer who thought he’d never get the gig, and a remarkable cast got together to make a film about the corrupt underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, and the men and women who littered its landscape. This was L.A. Confidential, a film so complex that its creator (legendary crime writer James Ellroy) thought it was “unadaptable.” In the end, it was one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s, a film noir classic that made its leading actors into even bigger stars, and which remains an instantly watchable masterpiece to this day. Here are 10 facts about how it got made.

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.

Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

"He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn't want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor."

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED AS A MINISERIES.

When executive producer David Wolper first read Ellroy’s novel, he saw the dense, complex story as the perfect fodder for a television miniseries, and was promptly turned down by all the major networks at the time.

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.

Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”

4. CURTIS HANSON SOLD THE FILM WITH CLASSIC LOS ANGELES IMAGES.

To get the film made, Hanson had to convince New Regency Pictures head Arnon Milchan that it was worth producing. To do this, he essentially put together a collage of classic Los Angeles imagery, from memorable locations to movie stars, including the famous image of Robert Mitchum leaving jail after his arrest for using marijuana.

"Now you've seen the image of L.A. that was sold to get everybody to come here. Let's peel back the image and see where our characters live,” Hanson said.

Milchan was sold.

5. KEVIN SPACEY WAS ON HANSON’S WISH LIST FOR YEARS.

Though the other stars of the film were largely discoveries of the moment, Kevin Spacey was apparently someone Hanson wanted to work with for years. Spacey described Hanson as a director “who’d been trying for years and years and years to get me cast in films he made, and the studio always rejected me.” After Spacey won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, Hanson called the actor and said “I think I’ve got the role, and I think they’re not gonna say no this time.”

6. SPACEY’S CHARACTER IS BASED ON DEAN MARTIN.

Warner Bros.

Though he cast relative unknowns in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Hanson wanted an American movie star for the role of Jack Vincennes, and decided on Kevin Spacey. In an effort to convince Spacey to take the role, Hanson invited him to dine at L.A.’s famous Formosa Cafe (where scenes in the film are actually set). While at the cafe, Spacey asked a vital question:

“If it was really 1952, and you were really making this movie, who would you cast as Jack Vincennes? And [Hanson] said ‘Dean Martin.’”

At that point, Spacey looked up at the gallery of movie star photos which line the cafe, and realized Martin’s photo was right above him.

“To this day, I don’t know whether he sat us in that booth on purpose, but there was Dino looking down at me,” Spacey said.

After his meeting with Hanson, Spacey watched Martin’s performances in Some Came Running (1958) and Rio Bravo (1959), and realized that both films featured characters who mask vulnerability with a layer of cool. That was the genesis of Jack Vincennes.

7. HANSON CHOSE MUCH OF THE MUSIC BEFORE FILMING.

To help set the tone for his period drama, Hanson began selecting music of the early 1950s even before filming began, so he could play it on set as the actors went to work. Among his most interesting choices: When Jack Vincennes sits in a bar, staring at the money he’s just been bribed with, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face With Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” plays, a reference to both the character’s melancholy, and to Spacey and Hanson’s decision to base the character on Martin.

8. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY WAS INSPIRED BY ROBERT FRANK PHOTOGRAPHS.

To emphasize realism and period accuracy, cinematographer Dante Spinotti thought less about the moving image, and more about still photographs. In particular, he used photographer Robert Frank’s 1958 collection "The Americans" as a tool, and relied less on artificial light and more on environmental light sources like desk lamps.

"I tried to compose shots as if I were using a still camera,” Spinotti said. “I was constantly asking myself, 'Where would I be if I were holding a Leica?' This is one reason I suggested shooting in the Super 35 widescreen format; I wanted to use spherical lenses, which for me have a look and feel similar to still-photo work.”

9. THE FINAL STORY TWIST IS NOT IN THE BOOK.

Warner Bros.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the film, Jack Vincennes, Ed Exley, and Bud White are all chasing a mysterious crime lord known as “Rollo Tomasi,” who turns out to be their own LAPD colleague, Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Though Vincennes, Exley, and White are all native to Ellroy’s novel, the Tomasi name is entirely an invention of the film.

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.

To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters'] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I've long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Additional Sources:
Inside the Actors Studio: Kevin Spacey (2000)

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