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Why Americans Don't Play Superheroes

ANALYSIS: The Internet is one contributing factor to the increased number of foreigners -- including Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Reynolds and new Superman Henry Cavill -- who are taking iconic roles from Yankees.

Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Reynolds
Getty Images

In the late 1970s, David Prowse, the imposing actor who physically portrayed Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, was told he couldn’t audition for the role of Superman when Richard Donner was casting his now-classic film. The reason? Prowse was not an American.

How times have changed.
 
British actor Henry Cavill, who has just been cast as the iconic -- and very American -- Superman, is the latest in a string of foreigners who have been chosen to play key movie roles by Hollywood. But since Superman is so quintessentially American, this latest casting has triggered a wave of soul-searching as yet another sought-after part has been outsourced.

“This casting is fundamentally anti-American,” wrote one commentator on Ain't It Cool News. “It's disgusting casting to the highest degree, and I will never ever see a movie with a Brit as Superman.”

But British, as well as Australian and Canadian actors, appear to have cornered the market on most of the leading action roles in the Hollywood movies that will be rolling out this year and next. They will be portraying the kind of caped crusaders and take-charge guys that once belonged to men bearing the “Made in the USA” label.

Andrew Garfield, raised in Britain, is portraying Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Brit Christian Bale is about to start his third Batman movie. Australian Chris Hemsworth will be seen as Thor this summer, following in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Hugh Jackman (prepping for a new outing as Wolverine) and Eric Bana (who played Bruce Banner in Ang Lee's Hulk). Not to be left out, Canada is represented by Ryan Reynolds, who will patrol space sector 2814 as the Green Lantern.

Australia’s Sam Worthington has claimed the lead in movies ranging from Terminator: Salvation to Avatar to Clash of the Titans. And the casting British actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in the upcoming Steven Spielberg biopic could cause a crisis of confidence among American actors. [Pictured clockwise from top left: Bale, Worthington, Garfield and Reynolds]

A similar invasion is occurring in TV, with lead roles in AMC’s comic book adaptation The Walking Dead, NBC’s superhero show The Cape and ABC’s medical drama Off the Map all going to non-Americans.

Despite a 3-1 population advantage -- America’s 308 million easily outnumber the combined 107 million population of England, Canada and Australia -- accented actors currently enjoy an edge.

“America doesn’t produce strapping actors anymore,” said one Oscar-nominated producer, who declined to be named, pointing out that American action stars at this stage consist of thespians with more boyish appeal such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who fought his ways through dreams in last summer’s Inception, and Shia LaBeouf, palling around with giant robots in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

“I hate to say it: They’re better actors,” added one talent rep who had a client in the early running early for the Superman role.

NEXT PAGE: CHRISTIAN BALE ON FOREIGN SUPER-HEROES.