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Henry Cavill out as Superman, character will be rebooted in new movie

James Gunn writing a script about a younger Man of Steel

Henry Cavill as Superman standing in the iconic blue and red suit standing in a black void with dramatic lighting illuminating the side of his face Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Just three weeks after announcing he was “back as Superman,” Henry Cavill has been forced to reveal that he won’t be playing the character in the future after all.

Instead, the Man of Steel will be rebooted in a new movie being written by DC Studios co-chief James Gunn, featuring the iconic superhero as a younger man.

Gunn announced on Twitter that he and his producing partner Peter Safran will be announcing the first projects in their new slate of DC productions at the beginning of 2023. “Among those on the slate is Superman. In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman’s life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill,” Gunn said.

Replying to queries from fans, Gunn revealed that he is writing the film (and has been “for a while”), that it won’t be an origin story, and that it doesn’t have a director attached yet.

Cavill posted about this abrupt turn in his fortunes on Instagram. “It’s sad news, everyone. I will, after all, not be returning as Superman,” he said, before making a mild dig at the chaotic decision-making at Warner Bros. in recent months as it works through its merger with Discovery and relaunches DC movies and TV under Gunn and Safran. “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,” Cavill wrote.

“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 had posted about his return to the role after Black Adam star Dwayne Johnson had successfully persuaded Warner Bros. executives to let Cavill appear in a post-credits scene for his movie. Cavill has reportedly also shot a cameo for next year’s The Flash, but it’s not certain this will be used in the film now.

It was also recently announced that Cavill will no longer be starring in Netflix’s hit TV adaptation of The Witcher; he will be replaced by Liam Hemsworth. In this case, the decision appeared to be Cavill’s. Some have speculated that he set Geralt of Rivia aside in order to return to the role of Clark Kent, while others have guessed at a difference of opinion with showrunner Lauren Hissrich.

Gunn indicated that there may yet be room for Cavill in future DC Studios projects, although he did not specify whether this would be as a different character, or as an alternative version of Superman (similar to Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck’s joint return as Batman in The Flash). “We just had a great meeting with Henry and we’re big fans and we talked about a number of exciting possibilities to work together in the future,” Gunn said.

Gunn also said that he and Safran had met with Affleck with a view to the former Bruce Wayne taking the directing reins on a DC project. “Met with Ben yesterday precisely because he wants to direct & we want him to direct; we just have to find the right project,” Gunn tweeted.

But he gave no indication of the status of the other Superman project that has been in development at Warner Bros.: a film about a Black Superman written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and produced by J. J. Abrams. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this project is not impacted by Gunn’s new film and Coates is still working on the script.

Before announcing the Superman news, Gunn took to Twitter Wednesday to rubbish a report that director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson’s version of Batman would be integrated into the wider DC Universe. “This is entirely untrue,” he said.

It has been a turbulent few months for DC productions as the new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has culled projects and installed Gunn and Safran with a mandate to consolidate and reboot DC movies and TV. A reportedly complete Batgirl film was shelved, and more recently a third Wonder Woman film from director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot was canceled.

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