Why was Superman Lives cancelled? Nicolas Cage's The Flash cameo explained
The actor makes an unexpected appearance in the new DC movie.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Flash, which is out now in UK cinemas.
It's already no secret that The Flash – which was released in UK cinemas on Wednesday – includes several big-name cameos and nods to previous eras of DC history, with the likes of Ben Affleck and Micahel Keaton both reprising their roles as Batman.
But perhaps one of the more surprising cameos (at least, for those that hadn't heard director Andy Muschietti's earlier comments) is that of Nicholas Cage, who briefly appears as a version of Superman in the film's lengthy climactic sequence, facing off against some sort of spider.
Of course, while this appearance may seem especially unexpected to some viewers, devoted fans of the franchise will know that there's a very good reason for Cage to be playing the Man of Steel.
The star was previously slated to portray the character in a film called Superman Lives back in the '90s, which was set to be directed by Tim Burton following his success with Batman and Batman Returns, and would have also boasted Chris Rock, Sandra Bullock, and Christopher Walken among its star-studded cast.
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Ultimately, however, that film never ended up happening – read on for everything you need to know about why we never saw Nicolas Cage in Superman Lives.
Why was Superman Lives cancelled?
Superman Lives originated from a script by Clerks and Dogma filmmaker Kevin Smith, who first pitched the idea in 1996 and wrote the screenplay after being told of certain conditions by producer Jon Peters.
The initial plan had been to release the film in the summer of 1998, with Burton and Cage both having signed on as director and star respectively, and pre-production began in the summer of 1997.
But that's where the problems began. Burton wanted his Batman Returns collaborator Wesley Strick to work on a rewrite of the script, which annoyed Smith, and Strick reportedly wanted to impose several major changes to what Smith had originally proposed.
A number of other issues then began to emerge: the art department was disillusioned that decisions were being made based on merchandising potential rather than artistic reasons, while Warner Bros deemed Strick's rewritten script too expensive to shoot and so brought in Dan Gilroy for another rewrite.
In 1998, the project was put on hold after Burton left to direct Sleepy Hollow, and a number of other directors including Michael Bay, Shekhar Kapur and Martin Campbell turned down the opportunity to replace him.
Cage eventually dropped out in 2000, and despite attempts to get Will Smith to replace him, the studio eventually decided to abandon the project. Later, in 2015, a crowd-funded documentary was released explaining the backstory, titled The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?.
Nicolas Cage’s The Flash cameo explained
Cage's brief appearance in The Flash is therefore a nod to what might have been had Superman Lives gone ahead – and indeed the fact that he is battling a spider-like creature is also crucial, given this was one of the plot conditions Peters had previously asked of Smith when he was writing the initial treatment.
Speaking about the cameo in an interview with Esquire Middle East prior to the film's release, director Andy Muschietti explained: "Nic was absolutely wonderful.
“Although the role was a cameo, he dove into it… I dreamt all my life to work with him. I hope I can work with him again soon.”
He added: “He is a massive Superman fan. A comic book fanatic."
Although Cage never did get to star in Superman Lives, he did actually end up voicing the character in the 2018 animated film Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, while he reportedly also passed up the chance to play Clark Kent again in the Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.
His devotion to the character is clear though – he even named one of his sons Kal-El in reference to Clark Kent's Kryptonian name.
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