Seeing opportunity in the wake of changes to the next Superman film, Mark Millar offered to write the character’s next cinematic installment… for free.
Millar, a longstanding Superman fan, made the offer on Monday in response to news that Superman Returns screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were leaving the planned sequel.
The sequel to Superman Returns, tentatively titled The Man of Steel, has faced a number of problems. Director Bryan Singer left X-Men 3to direct Superman’s return to theaters. The film reportedly cost over $200 million but its box office disappointed industry watchers, leading to speculation that the sequel would have to be made for less money — an inversion of the case with the first X-Men film, which had a smaller budget but led to a larger one for X2. Singer talked publicly about his plans for a trilogy of Superman films, with the second to star Kryptonian villain Zod and to feature more action.
But news of Warner Bros.’s planned Justice League film indicated that The Man of Steel would be delayed to allow Justice League, featuring Superman but not directed by Singer, to come first. Not only will the screenwriters of Superman Returns not come back for the sequel, but it is rumored that Brandon Routh, who played Superman in Superman Returns and who was signed to a multi-film deal, might not even come back.
There is now speculation in Hollywood that Warner Bros. will reboot the franchise, if not with a hard reboot as with Batman Begins than with a soft reboot that uses a pre-existing Superman but simply makes no reference to previous films, including Superman Returns — though Warner Bros. denies these rumors. This suggests that Warner Bros. is at least toying with Singer’s original plot for the sequel, which was to have built on Superman Returns.
Millar’s plan would have been a reboot of the series and was culled together from his many notes for Superman, a character he has long loved but barely been able to write at DC.
On Monday, Miller contacted his representatives and arranged conversations with Warner Bros. He even announced that he was working on the proposal without a contract in place. The internet went wild for a day, with many fans eager to see Millar’s take. According to Millar, the positive fan press helped Warner Bros. to take the proposal seriously.
Today, however, we have learned that this is not to be — and that the reason is Millar’s exclusive contract with Marvel. In Millar’s words,
Well, sadly, I’m a Marvel guy and we were surprised to find out that WB couldn’t hire me for a DC property. They were incredibly nice and superbly apologetic about it, but when they discussed the matter seriously DC explained just how associated I am with Marvel Comics at the moment and it’s against company policy to hire the competition. It’s absolutely nothing personal. I spoke to some friends at DC and they explained this has happened with a couple of big Marvel writers in the last couple of years and I absolutely respect that. It’s a business after all and to have a guy writing Fantastic Four, 1985, Kick-Ass and another super-big project for Steve McNiven this year which would be mentioned in every article about a Superman movie is not only an insult to their own writers, but makes bad business sense. I have nothing but respect for the DC high-ups and, though obviously disappointed, can absolutely appreciate their position. They’re the custodians of these properties and they obviously know what they’re doing.
So no Millar-penned Superman movie at this stage, I’m afraid. That situation may change, of course. As a Warner chum said to me last night, the last Superman movie had a number of starts and stops and who knows what will happen over the next couple of years, especially after my Marvel contract expires. In the meantime, I’m keeping my 200 pages of notes and sketches on a slow boil, just in case. As for the next movie, I wish whoever does land this gig nothing but the best of luck. I wanted to bring my vision to the screen out of nothing but pure love and hope to be as thrilled as everyone else. They’re talking to a couple of guys with a better screen-writing track record and, like the rest of you, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this sequel to Bryan’s first picture all works out great.