Brandon Routh: How Being Superman Nearly Ended His Career

By Faith McKay | 5 months ago

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Brandon Routh is best known for his role in Superman Returns, where he became Clark Kent after Christopher Reeve. Though the movie was fairly successful, earning $400 million at the box office, a sequel never happened. Still, Brandon Routh has continued acting and remained open to donning the red cape again

Brandon Routh Is Chosen for Superman

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Though Superman Returns didn’t reach theaters until 2006, Warner Bros had been working on ideas to bring the franchise back to life for a decade prior. They’d discussed many big names to take on the part, including Nicholas Cage and Brendan Fraser. In fact, Henry Cavill, who would eventually become Superman in Man of Steel was considered at the time. Also part of the process was choosing a director. Some of the names thrown around at the time included Tim Burton (who’d done Batman at that point) and Brett Ratner. 

Ultimately, Bryan Singer was chosen to direct the movie. This made all the difference for Brandon Routh, since he was adamant that he wanted a face for Clark Kent that wasn’t yet known. Christopher Reeve had been unknown when he first picked up the cape, and this seemed fitting to Singer. 

Brandon Routh had the right look for the part. He’d been compared to Clark Kent by friends growing up. He was in his mid twenties and had only landed small parts in individual episodes of television programs up to that point. Superman Returns was his big break.

Superman Returns But Then That’s It

Brandon Routh Superman Returns

So, Warner Bros had been working on a Superman project for around a decade. They finally launch theirs, starring Brandon Routh. The movie earned $391 million at the worldwide box office. However, they spent $270 million on it. While those numbers are clearly still coming out ahead, they’re not as amazing as 2008’s Iron Man. The Robert Downey Jr. flick launched the MCU with a budget of $140 million and a worldwide box office of $585 million. 

The studio could have moved forward with a sequel. Brandon Routh clearly expected it. He was under contract for a sequel for a few years. When the contract ran out, he publicly stated that he’d be happy to play Clark Kent again when they made another movie. Instead, that never happened. In 2013, Man of Steel was released with Henry Cavill, and Brandon Routh seemed locked out of the role for good. 

Routh Turns to Video Games

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There have been several interviews where Brandon Routh has described the trauma of never having the opportunity to make a sequel to Superman Returns. 

Shortly after the movie was released, he was signed on to play a CIA Agent in the movie Without Remorse, which never happened. He landed a part in The Informers, and all of his scenes were cut from the movie as the story was changed. For the next few years, there were a lot of moments like this. 

world of warcraft

Recently, he discussed these times on the podcast Inside of You with host Michael Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum played Lex Luthor on the Superman-inspired television series, Smallville. During the March 3rd podcast episode, Brandon Routh talked about his video game addiction after Superman Returns. “Thankfully, I guess, I didn’t lean on drugs or alcohol,” said Routh. “There is no beating [World of Warcraft]. It goes on forever as it’s designed to do. And that was my therapy, air quotes. But it wasn’t helping me. It was a coping mechanism. It wasn’t until I had several experiences where I had to come to terms with that. Now I have a better understanding of what happened then. It took me way too long to get to that point.”

He credits his wife, actress Courtney Ford, for helping him through those times. “She knew me best then. She knows me best now, and so going through that whole trauma of the end of Superman Returns was a long, drawn-out process with me in denial for much of it.”

Some Roles Start Happening

scott pilgrim brandon routh

Brandon Routh did start picking up fun roles again. He played a small part in the Kevin Smith movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. He then landed a role as one of the seven evil exes in Scott Pilgrim. In 2010, Brandon Routh began playing Daniel Shaw in Chuck. He had a recurring part in a dozen episodes of the series. While these weren’t the superhero movie he’d been counting on, his career gained traction and he was acting again. 

Brandon Routh Joins the Arrowverse 


In 2014, Brandon Routh officially joined the Arrowverse as The Atom/Ray Palmer. His character started off during season three of Arrow and soon moved around The CW network’s shows. He was in a few episodes of The Flash. Eventually, The Atom became a big part on Legends of Tomorrow, where Brandon Routh appears in 75 episodes.

But then, his departure from the show happened in 2020. While he has said that he knew for months the end was coming, he was never clear on why. The character’s last episode felt abrupt. Again, Brandon Routh described the end of the series as traumatic. He said, “It was not something I was expecting. It was not well handled.”

A Resolution for Brandon Routh’s Man of Steel

brandon routh superman

In 2020, Brandon Routh saw the end of The Atom in the Arrowverse. Around the same time, he finally got a conclusion for his Clark Kent. In the special Crisis on Infinite Earths, Brandon Routh’s Superman officially joined the Arrowverse. His character appears as an older Superman, now the chief at the Daily Planet. Fans are given a rich history of details for everything that’s happened to Clark Kent since the movie Superman Returns, including the tragic passing of Lois Lane. 

While it wasn’t the sequel movie Brandon Routh had been waiting for, it was a resolution of sorts. Finally, his character had an ending. Finally, he got to tell the rest of the story of the Clark Kent he’d started at the very beginning of his career. 

Hopefully, the resolution will free him up for whatever comes next.