Screenwriter Spills Beans on Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton's Failed Plans for Superman

"It was all about the psychological trauma"

The Tim Burton/Nicolas Cage Superman movie that never quite managed to get off the ground in the 1990s has become enough of an object of spectacle and speculation that it’s even receiving its own documentary. New information about what that movie might have done to the last son of Krypton, courtesy of the project's screenwriter Dan Gilroy, suggests that the world might have been better for the movie remaining unmade.

“I was very much taken by Tim's approach, which was that Kal-El was not told by Jor-El, before he got put in the little spaceship, who he was or where he came from,” Gilroy told IndieWire about the project. “So poor little Kal-El, when he winds up on earth, he has no freaking idea where he came from. His biggest fear is that he's an alien.”

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So far, so good; every Superman origin story has that moment when he discovers his true origins, after all. But wait — Gilroy has more, and it’s not exactly something that fans of DC’s Man of Steel might find too exciting.

“Our Superman was in therapy at the beginning of the film,” he went on, saying this his relationship with Lois Lane is in trouble because “he can't commit because he doesn't know who he is or what is going on with him. He's hoping that he has some physiological condition that gives him these powers but that he's still human. It becomes very apparent, though, early in the script, when Lex Luthor uncovers the remnants of the spacecraft, he suddenly realizes – ‘Oh my god, I'm an alien.’ It was all about the psychological trauma of it. I loved it.”

Let’s be honest: nothing says “Superman” like “all about the psychological trauma.” But Gilroy remains confident in his take, arguing that Burton “would have created a Superman for the ages. I really feel that.”

The movie didn’t happen, he suggests, because of the failure of other Warner Bros. projects at the time. “Every big movie that was coming out was bombing and failing," he said. "When it came time to step up and bankroll our script, they didn't have the financial wherewithal or desire."

Gilroy's current project, Nightcrawler, is released Oct. 31.

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