They almost played superheroes

Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were eyeing the part of Superman.

Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were eyeing the part of Superman.

MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 PM ET

HOLLYWOOD -- Look! Up in the Sky! It's Christopher Reeve! It's Brandon Routh! It's ... who the heck is that guy, anyway?

Welcome to the ever-changing world of superhero movie casting, where one minute you're flying high and the next, you've been given the reboot.

By now you might have heard that one Henry Cavill will be donning the blue tights when Superman: Man of Steel begins shooting in Vancouver this summer.

Unless you're an avid viewer of The Tudors, in which Cavill plays the part of Charles Brandon, first duke of Suffolk, you may not yet be familiar with the handsome 27 year old, which is just how the movie's producers prefer it.

They're following in the Superman tradition of casting non-marquee names to sport the mighty S shield, but that doesn't mean a slew of A-listers weren't clamouring for the part.

Such as?

Such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Jenner.

Back in the mid-'70s they were all considered as the guy most likely to leap tall buildings before a 24-year-old TV soap opera actor called Christopher Reeve ultimately flew off with the coveted role.

Also in the running -- we kid you not -- were Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone, hot off the smash success of Rocky.

When it came time for the 2006 Bryan Singer relaunch, Superman Returns, Routh, whose previous experience including being an extra in Christina Aguilera's What A Girl Wants video, was chosen over a bunch of bigger names that had been making the rounds.

They included Nicolas Cage, Josh Hartnett, Keanu Reeves, Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser, Jim Caviezel and Will Smith.

Prior to the announcement of Cavill (the first non-American to be cast in the role) for the Zack Snyder-directed, re-reboot, other names being floated included Jon Hamm, John Cena, True Blood's Joe Manganiello and Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder.

From the Man of Steel to the Caped Crusader, when they were casting the lead of 1989's Batman, there was a little tug of war going on.

The studio wanted an action star while director Tim Burton preferred to go with an unknown.

They settled on the inspired choice of Michael Keaton, whom Burton previously directed in Beetlejuice, but along the lengthy road to development, those names being bandied about included Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Tom Selleck, Pierce Brosnan and even Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray.

Cut to the 2005 Christopher Nolan reinvention, Batman Begins.

Before they landed on Christian Bale to play The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. was eyeing the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson, Cillian Murphy and Billy Crudup to go the cape-and-cowl route.

So there you go -- despite the many muck-ups that have taken place in the painstakingly protracted comic book-to-big screen process, Hollywood has occasionally managed to actually get it right, with Keaton and Bale being among the smarter choices.

And while it remains to be seen whether or not the incoming Cavill has the right stuff, and the jury's still out on the late Christopher Reeve, just remember, at one point in time it could've been Stallone going up, up and away.

"Yo, Lois!"

Michael Rechtshaffen, a Canadian entertainment writer based in Los Angeles, appears Wednesdays and Sundays


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