Perhaps owing to the disappointment with Superman Returns, the “hypothetical Superman film”—the incredible Superman film so-and-so wanted to make, before the studio balked and settled—has nearly eclipsed Bryan Singer’s actual Superman film, seeing as these hypothetical films include things like Tim Burton directing from a Kevin Smith screenplay, another script called Batman Vs. Superman, and pretty much every actor from Ashton Kutcher to Jude Law to Nicolas Cage considered to play the lead. After all, drab reality can’t compete with that sort of weirdness and potential for folly.
Anyway, at least one of those hypothetical Superman movies, the J.J. Abrams-conceived origin story Superman: Flyby, belonged to McG, and McG is still talking about it—most recently with The Playlist, where he now reveals he had Robert Downey Jr. “locked up” to play Lex Luthor, which is a name that actually hasn’t been tossed around before, even after years and years of casting rumors. In fact, Shia LaBeouf—who was on board to play Jimmy Olsen—said at the time that McG was pursuing Johnny Depp for the role. That definitely would have made more sense in 2003, as this was during Downey’s low-key indie phase, and long before Jon Favreau took a chance on making Downey a comic-book movie star.
However, McG asserts, it was really he who first saw that sort of potential in Downey, an extraordinary prescience that’s also evident in McG’s subsequent avowing that he also “liked Henry Cavill a lot” for the role of Superman, a decade before he would play the part for Zack Snyder. Apparently McG just really, really saw something in Cavill’s tiny role in The Count Of Monte Cristo—one of his only two film credits at the time—and just believed, in his iconoclastic McG way, that he could build a blockbuster franchise around him. If only, as he claims, his fear of flying hadn’t prevented him from travelling to Australia to make it, both Downey and Cavill would have gotten an early leg up, and McG’s incredibly forward-thinking Superman film would exist outside this realm of the merely hypothetical. If only.