Nick Nolte Sabotaged His Own Superman Audition

Nick Nolte says he ruined his chances to play Superman by saying he wanted to play the character as if he suffered from schizophrenia.

By TeeJay Small | Published

Nick Nolte says he was up for the eponymous lead role of the DC Comics superhero in 1978’s Superman, but he wound up sabotaging his try-out. The Cape Fear actor revealed that he wanted to play the Man of Steel as a character struggling with schizophrenia.

Superman is widely regarded as one of, if not the most, iconic superheroes of all time, portrayed by a litany of live action and voice actors throughout the past half-century. Every actor who takes on the mantle has been credited as giving the character their own unique flair, making each entry into the Superman franchise stand out. Perhaps that’s what Nick Nolte envisioned for himself when he auditioned for the role in the 1978 Richard Donner film.

Apparently the actor tanked his chances of getting the part when he suggested during his audition that he would only play Superman as though he had been struggling with Schizophrenia. In a recent interview with Insider Nick Nolte reflected on the possibility of portraying Superman, stating, “They were interested in me but I turned them off by saying that I would only do it if I could play him as a Schizophrenic.”

That certainly would have been a fresh perspective on the last son of Krypton.

Richard Donner’s final cut of the film, which stars Christopher Reeve in the title role, featured Superman depicted in a very faithful adaptation of the original comics, so it’s hard to imagine what Nolte’s flourish would have looked like on the silver screen. Perhaps in today’s age of gritty nihilistic Superhero films, played for intense realism, this direction could take hold and captivate audiences. However, it certainly seems like Nick Nolte should have known better than to suggest such a controversial take on the character to the film producers at the time.

In fact, Nick Nolte confirmed exactly that in the same interview, stating “That’s sabotage, it would have been very strange to play that.” He went on to say that he had set out to intentionally tarnish his legacy through self destructive acts such as this one.

nick nolte
Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs (1982)

Perhaps it’s for the best, as Nick Nolte rarely plays characters such morally unambiguous as Superman, often opting to portray toxic and messy antiheroes or outright villains. But we can’t say for sure a schizophrenic Superman leaping over tall buildings in a single bound wouldn’t have connected with audiences; perhaps that classic gravelly gravitas Nolte brings to the table would be just enough to sell us on the struggles of such a damaged hero.

If you’re feeling let down by the loss of the prospect of such a fascinating dive into the character, you may still have something to look forward to, as Henry Cavill has announced his return to the blue and red spandex after a long hiatus. Perhaps Nick Nolte will reverse his stance on big budget Hollywood flicks and return to the fray as a Superman villain?