It's a bird, it's a plane, it's … James Gunn's Superman!
The Guardians of the Galaxy director is hanging up his walkman and leaving the Marvel franchise behind after being hired as co-CEO of DC Studios. On top of overseeing the entire superhero franchise, Gunn will personally write and direct a Superman relaunch called Superman: Legacy, which is slated for release on July 11, 2025. He has described it as the "true beginning" of the new DC film universe.
While the project is still far away, Gunn has revealed a few tidbits about what fans can expect as the man of steel's return approaches faster than a speeding bullet.
The film follows Superman in 'an earlier part' of his life
Gunn confirmed in December 2022 that Henry Cavill won't reprise the role of Superman after playing the character from 2013's Man of Steel up to 2022's Black Adam. This, according to Gunn, is because the film will be "focusing on an earlier part of Superman's life." However, the director said it won't be an origin story. "He's not meeting the major characters for the first time, either," Gunn clarified. "He's merely younger." Superman will be working at the Daily Planet in the film and not living in Smallville, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Gunn also explained he initially turned down an opportunity to direct a Superman film before coming up with a take "centering around Superman's heritage — how both his aristocratic Kryptonian parents and his Kansas farmer parents inform who he is and the choices he makes." He "is the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way, guided by human kindness in a world that sees kindness as old-fashioned," DC also stated, and Gunn described Superman as a "big ol' galoot" whose "greatest weakness is that he'll never kill anybody," according to Slash Film. This suggests a divergence from Cavill's Superman, who controversially killed General Zod in 2013's Man of Steel.
Though Gunn was inspired by All-Star Superman, the film won't be a direct adaptation of that comic. "I don't think the movie would be worth making if it was just a redo of any other Superman adaptation," he told Variety.
The new Superman actor will be in his 20s or 30s
Cavill is 40 years old, so Gunn's comment about focusing on an earlier part of Superman's life sparked speculation that he could be looking for a much younger actor, maybe even someone in his 20s. In May, The Hollywood Reporter also said Gunn is planning to depict "20-something characters."
Gunn, however, confirmed the casting is "not limited to people in their 20s." But he said the new Superman will be "younger than in his 40s," adding that the new DC universe Batman, who will be different from the Robert Pattinson version, "might be a couple years older than Superman."
A search for the actor is underway
Though we may not hear an announcement for a while, the casting process is in its early stages, and Gunn confirmed in April he already has "some incredible choices." But in late March, he denied claims that he was very close to picking the actor. "Haven't had a single talk with a single actor about the role," he said. "Just making private lists, prepping material for auditions." Gunn also denied a rumor that his top choice is Logan Lerman, saying he has "never been part of a conversation about playing Superman."
By May 13, The Hollywood Reporter said the screen test stage of the audition process is likely to take place after Memorial Day or in early June, while Deadline said Gunn has "only just begun watching" audition tapes. Early preproduction on the movie began in April, though, and Gunn turned in his first draft days before the 2023 writers' strike began, according to The Wrap.
David Corenswet and Nicholas Hoult are reportedly being considered
David Corenswet is one of the top contenders to play Superman, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which also said Tom Brittney and Andrew Richardson were "in the early mix." Jacob Elordi has also been considered, Deadline reported, though the Reporter said Elordi "never submitted himself into the ring." Though the Reporter added that Nicholas Hoult "has been tipped" to play Lex Luthor, Deadline contradicted this, claiming Hoult is actually in the mix for Superman.
Additionally, Emma Mackey, Phoebe Dynevor, Samara Weaving, and Rachel Brosnahan are among the contenders to play Lois Lane, according to the Reporter, though the report added that Brosnahan, 32, "may be in the older range" given Gunn hopes to focus on characters in their 20s. In response to these casting reports, Gunn said he wouldn't comment on who was auditioning but noted "only one person has been CAST in Superman: Legacy, and it isn't any of the regular players in the Superman world."
Someone from Guardians of the Galaxy is in the movie, but Chris Pratt isn't Superman
Gunn has revealed a cast member from his Guardians of the Galaxy films will have a role in Superman: Legacy, though he didn't specify how substantial the part will be. It's possible he could be referring to Michael Rooker, who has appeared in every film that Gunn has directed to date. Before fans run wild with speculation, though, Gunn told Variety his Superman won't be played by Chris Pratt.
"If he was a few years younger, maybe," Gunn said of Pratt. Though this was an off-handed comment, if Gunn is taken literally on this, it would suggest an actor in his late 30s might not be too old for the role considering Pratt is 43. While Pratt himself won't be cast, reporter Jeff Sneider shared a rumor on the "Hot Mic" podcast that Gunn is looking for a "young Chris Pratt type."
Pom Klementieff, who plays Mantis in the Guardians films, told Variety she has talked with Gunn about a role in the DC universe, though it's not clear if that would be in Superman or another project. Justin Kroll of Deadline also reported that Gunn has been talking to someone from Guardians of the Galaxy for the role of Lex Luthor.
The film will be 'quite different' from Guardians
Some DC fans felt Gunn wasn't a natural choice to write and direct a Superman film based on the comedic tone of his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy and his prior DC efforts, The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker.
Gunn, however, told The Hollywood Reporter that Superman: Legacy won't be a comedy and that fans should expect a sincere portrayal of the character. "It's not like Superman is going to have exactly the same vibe as a Guardians movie, he told Rolling Stone. "It's actually quite different."
The new Superman will be somebody 'you want to give a hug'
When Variety asked Gunn what he's looking for in the next Superman, he said the actor should embody "all the humanity that Superman has" while also reminding us that he's an alien. "It's got to be somebody who has the kindness and the compassion that Superman has, and it has to be somebody that you want to give a hug," he added. This may suggest another divergence from Cavill's slightly more brooding take on the character.
The film will feature Jimmy Olsen and possibly Krypto the Superdog
Gunn confirmed that Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet photojournalist and friend of Clark Kent from the comics, will be in Superman: Legacy. After bringing Cosmo the Spacedog to life in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn also appeared to confirm in an interview with the Toronto Sun that Superman: Legacy will feature another famous comics dog: Clark Kent's pet, Krypto the Superdog. "I was hoping I could cast you as Krypto the Superdog," Gunn jokingly told Chris Pratt before adding the fact that Krypto will be in the movie is "a scoop, I guess."
Though it hasn't been confirmed which other characters will appear, The Hollywood Reporter said the film "will be populated by many faces as it will seek to introduce DC heroes that are already established in the movie's setting."
It might not be the only Superman film on the horizon
Ta-Nehisi Coates was revealed to be writing a new Superman movie in February 2021, which would reportedly star a Black actor. So when Gunn's Superman: Legacy was announced, some fans assumed Coates' project had been scrapped. But according to Gunn, it might still happen, in which case it would take place in a separate universe from the main DC continuity like Matt Reeves' The Batman and Todd Phillips' Joker. "If it comes in and it's great, which I haven't read the script, and if the timing is right, that could absolutely happen," Gunn told io9.