Superman Lives began development in 1994 as soon as Warner Bros. reacquired the rights to Superman from the Salkinds. It was to be directed by Tim Burton, starring Nic Cage and written by Kevin Smith. This film never got going, or in Burton's words was "made in his head" but he made the error common in films that never get made in that he "forgot to film it".
The story was to be an adaptation of the immensely popular comic book Death Of Superman and Warner Brother's after chucking out various scripts went with Clerks writer/director Kevin Smith.
Smith seemed the perfect choice to write Superman Lives but had a formidable advisory in producer and former hairdresser Jon Peters who's obsessions with gay robot's, giant spiders, space dogs and Polar Bears would make Smith's work a little difficult. Peters had produced the first two highly successful Batman films and both he and the WB discovered that they made more in merchandising than from the actual movies themselves. Jonny boy's problem is that he wants Superman to be more like a trip to Toys'R'Us than a kick ass movie. So he added pointless contraptions, suits and doo-hickies to the film purely to make toys of them.
When Burton arrived one of his first acts was to trash Kevin Smith's script. He wanted to bring in all his own writers and thus began the Smith vs. Burton catfight. Smith threatened legal action in 2001 for Burton's 'Ape Lincoln' ending in Planet Of The Apes which he had done in a Jay & Silent Bob comic years before. Burton claimed not to read comics and never to have read anything by Kevin Smith. Now whenever Smith signs bootleg Superman Lives scripts he writes F*** Tim Burton. if anyone has one of these bad boys I'd appreciate it if they can scan it in and send it this way!
Nic Cage was cast as Supes - much to the dismay of pretty much everyone. Cage is a comic book fan and took the Superman gig with much enthusiasm and also came up with this quote which I thought I'd include as it's pure cheese "I hope I can still do this because I think it will be a very enchanted movie." Wanting to reach out to the kids Cage went on "It's OK to be different because Superman is different. If one child sees that and says 'maybe I'm Superman' then I've done my job." I actually quite like Nic Cage and enjoy his films it's just I think he was the wrong choice for this role - casting such a big name as Superman is generally a bad idea. The producers of the original Superman movie wanted Robert Redford to be The Man Of Steel but director Richard Donner wisely persuaded them to go with the then unknown Christopher Reeve. This decision was based on the fact that the audience would be seeing a star in tights and wouldn't believe the character. This is why Cage was a much loathed choice for the role, people just weren't ready to buy Cage as Superman.
Burton and Cage eventually left the project. With both saying it took "too long" and the were right. The film was to be based around the Death and Return of Superman comic book story arc. After Burton left various directors were linked including Oliver Stone and Robert Rodriguez but nobody committed. Scriptwriters came and went each writing screenplays that didn't do The Man of Steel justice. The WB eventually made a decision to put Superman on ice and go with the rootin' tootin' Will Smith classic Wild, Wild West as their big summer blockbuster. Things didn't go quite as planned and the Jon Peters produced western bombed. It seems giant spiders DON'T equal success at the box office after all!
Edward Gross Articles
SUPERMAN LIVES - Part 1: The Development Hell of an Unmade Film
SUPERMAN LIVES - Part 2: Writer Kevin Smith
SUPERMAN LIVES - Part 3: Nicolas Cage