The actor talks about playing the role, making the movie and the Superman curse
Brandon Routh seemed to come from nowhere to play the title role in one of the biggest (if the biggest) film of the summer, Superman Returns. Having mostly done roles on TV shows such as Gilmore Girls and Cold Case, Routh is in an interesting position because it appears that once Superman Returns opens on June 28th, 2006, this young actor's life is going to permanently altered.
A lifelong fan of the Man of Steel, Routh recently sat down to discuss the character, doing action scenes in water, working with such a strong cast and imagining the late Christopher Reeve when he read the screenplay.
Brandon Routh: There's a great legacy before me. Many, many fantastic actors, artists, writers have come before me and created this character. I'm very honored to be able to be a part of it.
Did you watch the DVDs of the early films to help you with the role?
Brandon Routh: I did watch some of the special features. It was fun watching the process of Chris being cast. It was quite interesting because it resembles our attempt as well. I was very familiar with the film beforehand; the first film. The other films I think I watched afterwards as well, but since our film doesn't have anything to do with those two films it was kind of just as knowledge to refresh my memory about the character again. While it was helpful to watch the film, I already knew it so much because when I was reading the script for the first time I was actually picturing Chris because he was my Superman. He still is my Superman. So yeah, it was very much on my mind.
It seems as though you made the choice in the movie to embrace what came before.
Brandon Routh: Absolutely. To go too much another way, for the sake of my ego in wanting to create something... in this situation is just wrong. Especially since we're continuing, in a sense, that story. The characters have to feel somewhat similar. What are you going to do with Superman? The world, and all the people that have created it, created him and have all kind of come together to make this image. Everybody kind of has the same idea of what it should be. So for me to go, "Okay, no, I think he should have a southern accent." Or something crazy, just doesn't make any sense.
What was the toughest stunt to do?
Brandon Routh: Basically, water in the film is the most difficult thing because you have to be able to clear your sinuses... I had a crash test course on scuba diving. I had to breathe through a regulator which was cool, but that mixed in with everything else I had to do and then... it was pretty insane. Water is a challenging thing to work with plus when you're in tights and a cape and boots that fill up with water and all these crazy things. And it was the end of the shoot so I was getting pretty tired by that time.
It must have been a pretty interesting experience seeing yourself in that suit for the first time?
Brandon Routh: Yeah, the first time I was on the set was actually something that I don't think is in the film right now. It was in the Daily Planet. Revealing the suit for the first time for the crew was pretty awesome because there was a build up. We'd been there for a couple of months and nobody had seen me really yet. Or, we hadn't filmed anything so there was certainly a great positive energy in the room. I hadn't really felt quite as in tune with the character until that day, because then, once people had seen me and people who didn't know me kind of accepted me just by seeing me walk around as the character. It was very helpful for me.
What's it like wearing that suit?
Brandon Routh: Really it's all about what's inside. How you feel about yourself when you put that on because it's very revealing and very imposing if worn with confidence, I suppose. The first time I wore it, I didn't have that as much. I hadn't really trained any, yet. I hadn't read the script, I hadn't really worked on the character at that point. And I was standing around with a room full of costume designers and everybody was judging me right away and going, "Don't make your judgment on it, if this is Superman quite yet or not," because I hadn't done all the work that I would later do. Then, I was able to track the process of my growth as the character as I did more work on the character and trained... and really did grow into it.
Did it take you a long time to decide to take the role?
Brandon Routh: No, not really. It's just an amazing opportunity that I was just really proud to be able to be a part of it. There's so many great things, as this character, that I will be able to do in my life as well. This character has such a great impact on the world that I'll take the positives over the negatives.
Is it true you talked to the Reeves before filming?
Brandon Routh: Not before filming. I never talked to Christopher but I did receive a very nice note from Dana Reeve halfway through filming, that kind of gave her blessing to the project and to me. She'd known Bryan, I think before, so he'd had a chance to talk to her and that was my first contact with the family actually. It was very nice to receive that.
How did Bryan find you? Can you talk about the screen-test process?
Brandon Routh: Well, Bryan had seen a tape of a previous audition... that I'd done with McG and was kind of intrigued but it was a different character so he wasn't sure if I was the guy for his. We had coffee at the Coffee Bean on Sunset, which is no longer there, and talked for an hour and half before he was about to go to Australia to go location scouting. He just divulged so much of the script and we talked about the character in-depth, and my background and my history so that we had a really good sense of each other. Then I did a couple of readings at the casting office at Warner Bros..
Then we did a screen-test and I had a feeling when we started doing the screen-test that it wasn't like the one I'd done before. I didn't have the sense that there was anybody else screen-testing. And people we're saying things that led me to believe, "I think I might be the only guy here. I'm not sure, I don't want to get too caught up in that but I feel pretty confident these people like me and want me to get this."
How important to you is it to do roles other than Superman?
Brandon Routh: It is important to get different roles and to be seen in a different light. I am an actor. To go too far one way what does that do to the character of Superman? All these things are thoughts in my head, but I'm an artist first and foremost, I guess, so there are great things out there. I've read some awesome things and if there's nothing there that I like I can always create something.
What was it like working with Kevin Spacey and Eva Marie Saint on your first big movie?
Brandon Routh: Well, maybe I'm a little spoiled already? And the opportunity to work with Bryan Singer in my first movie is quite amazing. I'm just very blessed to have worked with these people and to have experienced their energy... and the history that they have in this industry and the lessons that they've taught me. They've brought me aside and told me that I'm handling it well.
Do you have any idea about a possible Superman sequel? Do you fear the Superman curse?
Brandon Routh: I have no idea what the sequel would be about. I have ideas about what I want but I have no idea what they're gonna do. And people ask about the curse and I kind of usually say, "What curse?" I just feel that people have different lives and what happened to other people doesn't mean it's gonna happen to me. And I don't live my life in fear so, I just go and do what I'm gonna do and there's so many great things about this... to bring any kind of negative into it is not right.
Superman Returns opens nationwide on June 28th, 2006.