Superman's secret identity is secret no more. On Thursday, Warner Bros. confirmed what Internet buzz had asserted for nearly a week: that the studio had placed the Superman franchise on the shoulders of unknown 25-year-old actor Brandon Routh. He'll inherit Christopher Reeve's cape in the still officially untitled new Superman movie (known informally as Superman Returns), which begins shooting in a few weeks in Australia for a summer 2006 release. No other casting for the film has been announced.
The studio said it had chosen Routh, best known for soap stints on One Life to Live and MTV nighttime drama Undressed, after an exhaustive search involving thousands of actors in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. ''Contrary to speculation, it was always my absolute intention to hire an unknown for this role,'' said director Bryan Singer (X-Men) in a statement. (Reeve, too, was an unknown 25-year-old soap actor when he landed the role of the Man of Steel in the 1978 Superman.) ''Brandon is an extremely fine actor who possesses the physical qualifications of Clark Kent/Superman. But he also embodies the legacy and history of this character in a way that makes me certain he's the right choice.''
In what may have been a response to the intense Internet chatter that has surrounded the project for the last few years, Warner Bros. production chief Jeff Robinov said in a statement, ''We respect and appreciate the intense interest that our fans around the world have in Superman, and we went everywhere in search of a talented actor who would represent his look, character and presence.'' He added, ''We think Brandon is a gifted young performer who can re-energize this iconic character and excite new audiences about the legend of Superman.''