Before Ben Affleck became Batman in the DCEU, there was a time where he almost played Superman back in the 90s according to director Kevin Smith in a recent interview with Yahoo! Entertainment.
After the success of the Tim Burton Batman films, Warner Bros. had their eyes on rebooting the Superman franchise several years after Superman IV: The Quest of Peace flopped at the box office and panned by the critics. Kevin Smith, who was fresh off the success of Clerks and Mallrats, was in talks with the studios for another project and, several meetings later, he eventually got hired to write Superman Lives based on the crossover story event The Death of Superman.
But then Smith has to collaborate with producer Jon Peters, who has the final say to the project since he owns the rights to Superman. Peters made suggestions that Smith found baffling. First, he didn’t want Superman in his traditional red and blue supersuit because he found it “too pink.” He also didn't want him to fly because “that flying s**t looks cheap to me.” Lastly, he wants him to fight a giant spider during the third act.
Smith said regarding the suggestions, "So there were weird parameters. But for me, it was like, ‘OK, I’m going to make it work. Because I always had the ability to walk away from it at the end of the day. So whatever they threw at me, I was like, ‘Great.’ As long as I could make it work in my head and heart as a comic book fan, I could kind of go with it."
However, when it comes to the casting of Superman, that is where the two clashed. Smith wanted Ben Affleck on the role while Peters has his eyes on Sean Penn. "I was writing it for Affleck," Smith said. "Ben was heating up. Like he was there. I think he’d been hired for Armageddon. Affleck, he’s a f**king giant, like he's built like a superhero, built like a giant action figure, particularly with the height. And then he puts on the muscles there too. So in my head and heart, it was always Ben and Michael Rooker, which was a weird Mallrats reunion.”
Peters was insisting that Penn should be cast as Superman. "He goes, ‘Look in his eyes in that movie, he’s [got] haunted eyes, the eyes of a killer,’" Smith recalled. "And I was like, ‘Dude, it's Superman. You know, that's not how most people think of Superman.' But he wanted to reinvent it. He wanted something gritty, graphic, and grown-up. He essentially wanted like what Zack Snyder eventually did [in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League, which coincidentally featured Affleck as Batman opposite Henry Cavill's Superman]."
None of the two actors received an offer for the project. The project was also eventually scrapped before it was taken over by Burton with Nicolas Cage attached to the role which also didn't move forward. The entire making of the project became the subject of the 2015 documentary The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? directed by the late Job Schnepp.
Years later, Affleck starred in the film Hollywoodland where he played Adventures of Superman star George Reeves in which he donned the Superman suit playing the actor. Then, of course, as well know, he eventually played Batman in the DCEU. As for Smith, he had a full-circle moment as he directed an episode of Supergirl titled "Supergirl Lives" a few years ago. While for Peters, he eventually produced a Superman film years later with Superman Returns and served as executive producer of Man of Steel. He is also now a character played by Bradley Cooper in the new film Licorice Pizza (which also co-stars Penn).
It is interesting to hear that Affleck was considered to play Superman in the 90s and he would have been great on the role if he did star in it. However, as we all know, he eventually got to play a DC hero years later with Batman and things still worked out at the end even though it's a different character. Affleck also became beloved as the Caped Crusader despite the fact that he didn't star in a solo film and he is set to play the role for the final time later this year on The Flash.