Democracy Dies in Darkness

Comic Riffs

Henry Cavill might be out as Superman amid larger DC shift

September 13, 2018 at 10:00 AM

What’s the future of Henry Cavill’s Superman? (Warner Bros./DC Entertainment 2016/)

WARNER BROS. IS reportedly parting ways with its present Man of Steel, Henry Cavill.

Cavill, the British actor who has played Superman in three critically underwhelming films since 2013, will surrender the red-and-blue costume, the Hollywood Reporter was the first to report Wednesday, while noting that neither Cavill nor the studio had confirmed the exit. The Washington Post has put in requests for confirmation, as well.

“While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged,” a Warner Bros representative told The Post in a statement.

Variety, meanwhile, reported that “Cavill’s future as Superman in the DC Extended Universe is cloudy,” as Warner Bros. shifts “its attention to developing a Supergirl movie.”

This news would not be a surprise, of course. Once upon a development phase, as shepherded by director Zack Snyder, Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman were going to be cornerstones of the DCEU — essentially Warner Bros.’s version of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’s Captain America.

But as “Man of Steel” (2013), “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) and last year’s “Justice League” have come in for critical strafing and below-expectation box office, Warner Bros. has signaled that it will no longer bet on projects centered on Cavill or Affleck as its leading superheroes.

Domestically, none of Cavill’s DCEU films has topped $340 million at the box office. The most successful DCEU release in North America — as box-office champ and cultural phenomenon — remains last year’s “Wonder Woman” ($412.6 million).

Patty Jenkins’s hit is helping pave a way forward for Warner Bros.’s superheroes; her sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” is due out next year.

Meanwhile, the studio is also betting on the popularity of Harley Quinn, who was played by Margot Robbie in “Suicide Squad,” according to the trades. The Harley spinoff “Birds of Prey” is reportedly a priority.

WB/DC does still have hopes for “Aquaman” — starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman — due out this Christmas. None of Aquaman’s fellow “Justice League” members, including Cavill and Affleck, is mentioned in the credits.

The studio also has “Shazam!” due out next April, and according to the trades, Warner Bros. was not able to work out a Cavill/Superman cameo for that film.

Additionally at Warner/DC, Todd Phillips is continuing his Joker film project with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role.

Henry Cavill and friend: his “Mission: Impossible” mustache. (Instagram/)

Warner Bros. has also “shifted its focus” toward producing a Supergirl origin story, says the Hollywood Reporter.

A mustachioed Cavill, meanwhile, is finding better critical and commercial success in another action franchise, opposite Tom Cruise in the current Paramount smash “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” The film, which scores an “86” on and a 97 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, has grossed $735 million on a $178 million production budget.

Cavill is the third actor to prominently play DC’s live-action Superman on the big screen since Christopher Reeve reinvigorated the role in the ’70s.

On Wednesday night, Cavill shared a cryptic video on Instagram with the caption: “Today was exciting.”

Other social-media users have offered potential substitutes:

This post has been updated.

Read more:

Could ‘Justice League’ signal Ben Affleck’s departure from his Batman role?

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the Comic Riffs column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Washington Post's Book World.

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