Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Is Superman British?

That's British actor Henry Cavill in a still from the upcoming Tarsem Singh  film, Immortals. Cavill plays Theseus, a warrior king from Greek mythology (and A Midsummer Night's Dream). Cavill has been in Tristan & Isolde; Stardust and the Nazi-themed horror movie Blood Creek, as well as the HBO series "The Tudors." He's very good-looking and as you can see from the picture, quite fit. He has also just been announced (via) as the new Superman in director Zack Snyder's upcoming reboot for producer Christopher Nolan.  I am a huge fan of both Nolan and Snyder, despite continued claims that Snyder's films are homophobic (personally, I think some people read too much into his movies, particularly Watchmen, but that's just me) but I think Cavill is just a completely bone-headed choice.

I have no problem with Cavill as an actor. I've only actually seen him in Stardust, where he played douche, and he was quite good at doing so. My issue is that Superman is a distinctly American creation. Indeed, he stands for "Truth, Justice and the American Way." So why the hell is he being played by a Brit? Don't get me wrong - I'm all for casting the right actor in a role, but what's wrong with Brandon Routh? Bryan Singer's Superman Returns may not have lived up to everyone's expectations but at least everyone agreed that despite the film's shortcomings, Routh was perfectly cast as Clark Kent and his super-powered alter-ego from Krypton. 

Okay, maybe Routh was unavailable or uninterested. What about "Smallville" star Tom Welling? He's been playing Clark Kent longer than any other actor who's taken on the part. Surely he has some insight into the character. And he was born in New York City -- Metropolis, itself. It doesn't get much more American than that. "But he's a terrible actor," you might be saying. Personally, I've never seen "Smallville," so I can't say. But if that's so, then find an unknown American actor, just as Richard Donner did when he cast Christopher Reeve in 1978's Superman: The Movie. Casting Cavill in the role is just as ridiculous as casting a Brit as another distinctly American superhero like Spider-Man. Oh, wait. they did that, too... Skinny, creepy Andrew Garfield will be playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the upcoming reboot (as if that needed to happen in the first place) directed, ironically, by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer).

Now before you label your Uncle P an Anglo-phobe, I happen to love British actors. Patrick Stewart; Colin Firth; Ian McKellan; Helen Mirran; Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett are all geniuses. And while several of them have played Americans with great aplomb, none of them have had the audacity to take on iconic American characters. My guess is that both Garfield and Cavill will be spectacular failures at playing these two oh-so-American characters and while I truly hope I am wrong, I will revel in a bit schadenfreude should these films crash and burn.

And just as a reminder, do you remember when you fell in love with Reeve as The Man of Steel? I do...

Still, I suppose we should at least be glad that this never happened. Your thoughts?

More, anon.


Jono said...

Does it really matter where the accent comes from? Spider-Man's being played by a half-Brit, Batman's now Welsh, we can keep going down the list. Snyder and Nolan know what they're doing; I think this is enough of an "unknown" to make it work. It's not like he's been in anything iconic yet. And while Superman USED to be an archtypal American figure, he sort of belongs to the world, now. And that's due, in no small part, to Richard Donner.

Prospero said...

Jon - Can you imagine the uproar in England if an American was cast as James Bond?

Jono said...

Remember when a "half" American was cast as Harry Potter, and the uproar that caused?

Supes is sort of Canadian anyways. And Jewish, if we're tracking it all the way back...

Prospero said...

Actually, I don't remember that... =)

Stephen said...

Not to quibble, but Cate Blanchett is an Aussie.

I'm not sure about your stand, It seems to me that a good enough actor with a believable American accent would do just fine.

I thought that Christopher Reeve really got it right in 1978.