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SUPERMAN RETURNS

The Story And The Players
Since mysteriously disappearing from Earth five years before, Superman has traveled to the far reaches of space in search of his past and traces of his family, or others like himself. But, finding a radioactive ruin where Krypton once stood, the man who was born Kal-El returns home, crash-landing back at the Kent farm in Kansas.

According to Singer, Kal-El, whom the Kents named Clark, is very much a product of his upbringing. "People always ask, ‘which is the costume and which is the disguise?'” says the director. "But in reality both are identities he wears. There's a bit of showmanship in being Superman, in the way you present yourself. And there's definitely a character in Clark, a charade he's putting on to make himself awkward and invisible. But the true Clark Kent is the man who was raised on the farm by Martha and Jonathan Kent. I never wanted to lose that. Even at points when he is awkward Clark, the foundation of Superman is how the character was raised on the farm.”

Singer needed an actor who could embody all the qualities of Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman, who could handle the rigorous physical and emotional demands of the role, and who would be a worthy successor to the late Christopher Reeve. And yet from the beginning he was intent on casting an unknown actor. "However daunting that task may have been to fill the boots of Christopher Reeve, the actor to play Superman couldn't have the baggage of being a movie star,” says Singer. "I needed someone who represented and looked like the collective memory we all have of Superman.”

Richard Donner, who initially cast Reeve, faced the same challenge nearly three decades ago. Whoever plays Superman, says Donner, has "got to bring to life the son of Jor-El. He's got to bring reality and purity to this character. He's got to then evolve into a Super Hero. If in any way he is tainted with past references, it would be a major mistake. I think Bryan faced the same conundrum. The moment you associate the actor with another role, you lose the character. To make a man fly and believe it, it had to be an unknown then, and I think today it's even more true.”

Months of searching yielded a tape of an undiscovered actor who had auditioned for a previous Superman film in development at Warner Bros. Pictures. Twenty-six-year-old Brandon Routh had been one of those kids in Superman pajamas "flying” around his childhood home in Norwalk, Iowa. Even on his audition tape, Singer saw in Routh qualities that extend beyond his uncanny physical resemblance to Superman. "Just talking to him I got a sense of his mid-western upbringing and all the classic ideals that come from that sort of childhood, which are the same kinds of ideals that Superman embodies,” Singer says. "Then, of course, there is his physical presence. He looks like he walked off a page in the comic book. Pretty much at that point, he became my first and only choice because I felt confident he could handle all three roles – Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman.”

Though not formally told he had the part, Routh immediately began getting calls for costume tests and physical training. It wasn't until he found himself in Australia, on the Kent Farm set, that the experience became real. "Walking up to Clark's room, Kal-El's room, it was exactly as you would imagine it would be,” Routh says. "My first shot as Clark was walking across the farm yard and I felt it then too. It's such an all-encompassing experience, playing this character. It's a big responsibility to be true to Bryan's vision, and to embody someone that so many people around the world have seen in their minds.”

The director's faith in Routh gave him the confidence to reach deeply into his own character to play the role his way. "Bryan's passion and enthusiasm for this story was infectious,” says Routh.

The first time Routh wo

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