At one point in Chris Rock’s career, he was all set to play Jimmy Olsen in a Superman movie from director Tim Burton, starring Nicolas Cage as Superman. If it had happened, Superman Lives would have released in 1998. Instead, by the time April of 1998 came around, the studio was ready to put the whole project on hold. Burton moved on to his next project starring Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow) and the strange movie would go on to be talked about for years. The movie was such a strange and interesting project that a documentary was even made about the production with The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?. Now, Chris Rock has opened up about the opportunity that almost happened, and he has regrets about missing out on that opportunity.
In a roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Rock spoke about his experience as a drama actor over his long career and brought up the opportunity he missed out on. Specifically, he shared that part of him has never let go.
I was cast in Superman 20 years ago, when Nic Cage was going to play Superman. I was cast; I had wardrobe fittings. I saw the miniature sets, and I was hanging out with [director] Tim [Burton], and the whole thing fell apart. There’s a part of me that’s like, where’s my superhero movie? I was this close.Chris Rock
While Superman Lives and the long legacy of strange things that would have happened in that story come up often, Chris Rock’s role as Jimmy Olsen doesn’t come up often. It can only be assumed that if Chris Rock was cast, he would have added some humor to the role of Jimmy Olsen and his relationship with Clark Kent. That surely would have been a hilarious part to the movie that only sounds stranger the more it’s talked about.
Superman Lives was originally written by Kevin Smith, but when Tim Burton took over as director, he started fresh but kept the first writer’s title. While a lot of details weren’t shared with people involved, in part because of the changing script, it sounds like Chris Rock got fairly far along in the project. Concept art was done for Tim Burton’s creatures, an important part of any Tim Burton film. It’s hard to imagine how Brainiac would have come to life on the screen with the visual effects of the late 1990s, but we can assume it would have been strange.
Today, Chris Rock is 56 years old. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late for him to appear in a superhero movie, especially with how many more of them are being made today. Michael Keaton played Batman decades ago, and now, as 70 year old man, he’s returned to the role. It may be too late for Chris Rock to play a young Jimmy Olsen working at The Daily Planet alongside Lois Lane and Clark Kent, but perhaps there’s room for a Superman project where Jimmy Olsen is an Editor at the paper now. There are enough Superman stories out there that it can’t be ruled out.
Even without appearing in a Superman project, Chris Rock has a full career that’s still going. He had an ongoing role recently on Fargo. He played Detective Zeke Banks in Spiral, the latest Saw film. Maybe, he’ll find his place in a superhero movie sometime soon.