Just as it seemed like Warner Bros.' long-stalled ''Superman'' was nearly ready to take flight, it's been grounded again for lack of a director. According to the Hollywood Reporter, McG has left the project. A studio spokesperson tells the Reporter that the parting was amicable, even though the ''Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle'' director and Warner Bros. could not agree on budget, casting, or location.
The budget, which the studio is trying to keep below $200 million, appears to be the biggest sticking point. Last month, McG reportedly screen tested several non-marquee-name actors for the lead role, a move that would have kept costs down; on the other hand, he reportedly wanted more expensive actors for the supporting roles, including Johnny Depp as villain Lex Luthor and Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane. (So said ''Holes'' star Shia LeBeouf, who told USA Today last week that McG had spoken to him about playing Jimmy Olsen.)
McG apparently balked at what could have been the biggest cost-saving move: shooting in Australia, instead of on location in Metropolis -- er, New York City. ''When I flew to New York to scout, I became enamored with our greatest American city,'' McG said in a statement. ''It was clear to me that this was Metropolis. As a filmmaker, I felt it was inappropriate to try to capture the heart of America on another continent. I look at Superman as a character that embodies all that is beautiful about America.''
This is the second time that McG has left the project. He and the studio failed to come to terms two years ago, and he was replaced with Brett Ratner (''Rush Hour''), who became embroiled in many of the same clashes over casting and budget before dropping out of the project last year. It's not clear who'll replace McG this time, especially with the studio trying to shoot as soon as this fall, but Internet rumors have centered on ''Pearl Harbor'''s Michael Bay (whose website inexplicably sported a Superman ''S'' shield a few days ago) and ''X-Men'' director Bryan Singer.