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Zack Snyder directing new Superman movie

Darren Aronofsky, Ben Affleck had expressed interest in gig

Zack Snyder has been chosen to direct the new Superman movie, which Christopher Nolan is producing for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

Snyder, who directed "300" and "Watchmen," had been on the list of helmers ensconced in meetings with Nolan and Warners execs, who in recent weeks have talked to Darren Aronofsky, Ben Affleck, Matt Reeves and Tony Scott. The job was so coveted that even Robert Zemeckis, retired to the world of performance capture, considered returning to live-action filmmaking for the gig.

The studio began negotiations with Snyder on Monday.

A new Superman movie is one of the studio's top priorities: Not only will it serve as linchpin for WB's line of DC superhero-based films but also because Warners wants to be in production on a Man of Steel pic before it potentially loses copyrights to the heirs of creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel. (That litigation is pending.)

Nolan, who revived Batman, teamed up with David Goyer for a new a way to revive the last son of Krypton. Despite grossing $200 million domestically, 2006's "Superman Returns" was considered a disappointment, and a hoped-for franchise never took off.

Part of the problem stems from Superman's classic comic book characteristics. For decades, he was an unyielding beacon for good, and his stories usually were painted in black and white. That rendered him unhip to many of today's fans, who come from a generation sold on graphic novels and prefer their heroes more morally ambiguous and drawn with tones of gray.

Goyer is writing the script, which, like "Superman Returns," is rumored to have a connection to Richard Donner's "Superman" films. In this case, it's the villain, General Zod.

Nolan is producing with his wife and producing partner Emma Thomas, along with Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder's wife and partner.

Zack Snyder, repped by CAA, has been one of Warners' favorite filmmakers since he directed the surprise smash "300," the adaptation of the Frank Miller comic book. He followed that up with "Watchmen," the adaptation of the seminal Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons miniseries, and is putting on the final touches on his original work "Suckerpunch," slated to open March 25.

Snyder just made his animated feature debut with "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole." The movie opened softly but is generating strong word-of-mouth, having fallen only 32% in its second weekend.

Because Nolan was godfathering "Superman," it initially was thought that any filmmaker coming aboard would be more of a mentee in a mentor-style relationship. Snyder, however, brings not only box-office clout but also, like Nolan, a reputation as a visionary.

Snyder, who told The Hollywood Reporter and Heat Vision that he was "psyched" about the gig, played down potential class differences.

"In the initial meetings, he's been super-amazingly smart and also amazingly kind, filmmaker-to-filmmaker," he said of Nolan. "I have great respect for him. The process has been amazing so far, and it looks like nothing but pluses."

Snyder first met with Nolan about a month ago, and though he didn't do any formal presentations, "I definitely expressed my love for the character and interest in seeing him treated right."

He added: "The character deserves to be loved. It's his time."

The director said he and the movie's makers would work on the script a little bit before jumping to the next stage.

"We're moving quick," he said.