Warner Bros.' long-gestating attempt to revive the ''Superman'' film franchise seemed fatally stalled a year ago, but Variety reports it may yet take flight, with a production date as soon as this fall. While the studio hasn't officially given the film a greenlight, it's in the process of hiring new producers, and director McG (''Charlie's Angels''), while not officially signed, screen-tested six actors last week as potential Men of Steel.
To shepherd the film into production, the studio is in talks with producers Neal Moritz (who's proven adept at handling action-movie logistics on such projects as ''The Fast and the Furious'' and ''S.W.A.T.'') and Gilbert Adler (who's overseen for Warners such franchise-ready films as ''Starsky & Hutch'' and the upcoming ''Constantine,'' which, like ''Superman,'' comes from a DC-published comic book series). Their job will be to keep costs below $200 million, up to $50 million less than the proposed budget back when Brett Ratner (''Rush Hour'') was on board as director more than a year ago. They'll still be working from the screenplay by ''Alias''' J.J. Abrams, in which Superman fights both traditional nemesis Lex Luthor and a mysterious enemy from his home planet of Krypton.
One thing that will keep costs down is the casting of a relative unknown as Clark Kent, something the studio balked at doing when Ratner proposed it. (His choice would have been ''Guiding Light'''s Matt Bomer, who went on to costar this season on ''Tru Calling.'' The studio wanted a name actor like Josh Hartnett, Brendan Fraser, or Jude Law, but they all turned the project down because they didn't want to be tied to a three-picture deal.) Among the actors McG auditioned last week are Jared Padalecki (Dean on ''Gilmore Girls''), Jason Behr (''Roswell''), film newcomer Michael Cassidy, and British actor Henry Cavill, who played Jim Caviezel's son in ''The Count of Monte Cristo,'' and who was reportedly on Ratner's shortlist as well.