The Week in Spandex – The Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises and The First Avenger

Presenting our weekly round-up of the biggest news stories from the world of movie superheroes…

Last week’s column came off the back of a dry patch in terms of decent superhero gossip (hey, when the biggest news story is the filming of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, you know times are tough) but things have really picked up over the past seven days courtesy of a mouth-watering selection of casting news and rumours from both Superman: Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, up until about midweek the headlines were pretty much dominated by Warner Bros.’ two heavyweight properties, although Marvel came back strong with some new images and the first poster from Captain America: The First Avenger, along with bite-size bits and pieces on Thor, The Avengers and The Wolverine.

Henry Cavill SupermanThe big story this past week is of course the casting of Superman, with director Zack Snyder catching everyone by surprise on Sunday by announcing that he’d found his Kal-El in the shape of up-and-coming English actor Henry Cavill (Tristan + Isolde, Stardust), who will slip into the famous red underpants for franchise reboot Man of Steel (2012). Best known for his work on the acclaimed TV series The Tudors, Cavill follows in the footsteps of Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh in bringing the Last Son of Krypton to the silver screen, having bagged the part against competition from the likes of Matthew Goode (Watchmen), Matthew Bomer (White Collar), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Joe Manganiello (True Blood) and Colin O’Donoghue (The Rite).

Cavill is no stranger to the franchise; he was first linked to the role back when Brett Ratner and McG were attached to Superman Returns and he also has a history with Man of Steel producer Christopher Nolan, having tested for the lead in Batman Begins before Christian Bale was cast as the Caped Crusader. Now I must admit I’m not too familiar with Cavill’s work but, if the numerous Photoshop images that seemed to pop the instant he was announced are anything to go by, it certainly looks as though he fits the bill [pick of the bunch comes courtesy of Ralph Damiana, who sent /Film that rather impressive mock-up you see at the top of this article]. On a side note, Cavill is also unfamiliar enough to audiences to go on and fulfil the Superman Curse, finding himself forever typecast as the Man of Tomorrow.

Of course, no Superman is complete without love interest Lois Lane and no sooner had Cavill bagged the role than rumours began flying around as to who would feature alongside him at the Daily Planet. What’sPlaying released a list of supposed contenders that included Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Malin Akerman (Watchmen), Dianna Agron (Glee), Jessica Biel (Blade: Trinity) and Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes), while other sources have mentioned Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy), Kristen Bell (Get Him to the Greek), Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League), Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), Rosamund Pike (Made in Dagenham) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). So in other words… it could be anyone, and if we name every suitable actress in Hollywood we’ll cover all the bases. Then, just to throw a complete spanner in the works, Variety went on to suggest that the female lead’s “identity hasn’t been disclosed — but it’s not Lois Lane”. Whaaaa? Well, if Latino Review are to be believed, the character in question is actually the villainous Ursa, which if true, means that Superman could be kneeling before Zod come 2012.

Chris Nolan Joseph Gordon LevittMoving on from Metropolis we head over to Superman’s World’s Finest tag-team partner, where Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises has also seen its fair share of casting rumours, beginning last weekend with the suggestion that Robin Williams was finally going to get to ham it up as a Bat-villain after being overlooked on two occasions (The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman and The Riddler in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever). However, a few days later just about every site under the sun was reporting that Inception star Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be reuniting with Nolan and Tom Hardy as Professor Hugo Strange, leaving Williams on a hat-trick of disappointments. Gordon-Levitt has been linked to the film pretty much since the day it was announced and I’d not be surprised (or disappointed) in the slightest if this turned out to be true, whereas personally I just can’t see Robin Williams working as a villain in a Christopher Nolan Batman movie.

In other Dark Knight news, Nolan had a few words to say about the highly anticipated sequel when he turned up at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to receive an award for Inception: “We’ve worked on it a long time – David Goyer and myself. We’re about 12 weeks away from shooting. We start in May.” Although Nolan would refuse to elaborate on whether Anne Hathaway would be appearing as Catwoman in addition to her alter-ego Selina Kyle, it seems that someone forgot to pass the memo on to cinematographer Wally Pfister. Mr. Pfister made a bit of a wally of himself in an interview with Bleeding Cool when he was asked whether he shot Hathaway’s screen test for Catwoman. His response? “She looks phenomenal in the wardrobe.” So, unless the four-time Academy Award nominee is a really big admirer of the casual look, I think we can assume Catwoman is heading to Gotham City. Could she be joined by Robin? I hope not, but rumours are circulating that the Boy Wonder could be in line for an appearance. I’d take this one with a pinch of salt.

Captain America: The First Avenger posterShifting on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the past week has delivered a host of new images from director Joe Johnston’s upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger, which is set to arrive in cinemas on July 22nd. First up was a nice look at Chris Evans in full costume courtesy of Empire (ComingSoon also posted scans of five new photos that will appear in the latest edition of the magazine), while the LA Times followed this with a shot of Evans alongside Sebastian Stan (Black Swan), who portrays Cap’s trusty side-kick Bucky. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the official teaser poster that was released yesterday, helping to ramp up anticipation for Cap’s Super Bowl ad spot, where we’ll get our first look at some footage from the movie. A trailer must surely be imminent.

In other Marvel-related news, Samuel L. Jackson appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and discussed his involvement in upcoming Marvel pictures, announcing that’s he about to complete a days shooting as Nick Fury on both Captain America and Thor. The purpose of course is to set up 2012’s The Avengers, which starts filming in April under director Joss Whedon. According to Jackson he’ll be screen testing this week with actresses for his as-yet-undisclosed female sidekick, who will join a growing ensemble that includes Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson). Man, those opening credits are going to be long. Anyway, Deadline suggest the sidekick in question will be S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, with How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders favourite to nab the part.

Elsewhere Hugh Jackman has been talking to the LA Times about his hopes for fifth X-Men outing The Wolverine from director Darren Aronofsky, while Mark Webb’s Untitled Spider-Man Reboot gets yet more spy photos from its shoot that you can check out here, here and here (if you’re really that desperate to see more of the same). Is it just me, or are these images all getting a little tiresome now?

Gary Collinson