Nearly two months to the day after Henry Cavill declared on Instagram he was back as Superman — “I wanted to make it official,” he said in the Oct. 24 clip — the actor was forced to acknowledge that no, he will not be back after all as new DC Studios bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran chart a new course for the Man of Steel in a movie to be written by Gunn, which will feature a younger actor in the lead role.
“I will, after all, not be returning as Superman,” Cavill said in a new post on Instagram on Dec. 14, “After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life. The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that. James and Peter have a universe to build.”
The sunsetting of Cavill’s time as Superman was the clearest indication yet that Gunn and Safran are mounting a substantial overhaul of DC, a reboot that will cut significant, if not most, ties to the previous regimes that handled DC movies for Warner Bros. Cavill also shot a cameo in The Flash, one of four DC movies set to release in 2023, but sources say that cameo, along with that of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, is now being cut given that the studio chose to not go forward with director Patty Jenkins’ version of Wonder Woman 3.
Cavill found himself in a confluence of different headwinds at the studio. Dwayne Johnson pushed for his return via the much-hyped cameo in Black Adam and a potential linchpin for Johnson’s own DC universe franchise. But Black Adam has grossed $389 million worldwide, its soft performance calling into question Johnson’s much-touted plans for a sequel and an eventual Adam vs. Superman movie even before Gunn’s decision. The studio had its own plan as new film co-chiefs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy wanted to make a Man of Steel sequel, having Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight to write the treatment. (Classic character Brainiac was to have been the villain of that piece, a source says.)
“In the end, he was a pawn in Dwayne’s failed attempt to control a piece of DC,” one insider observers.
Cavill, sources say, did not have a deal in place to return as Superman, only a verbal agreement that the studio would develop future projects. He was paid $250,000 each for his cameos. The actor in recent years had a resurgence thanks to starring in Netflix’s popular fantasy series The Witcher, which saw him earning $1 million per episode. Cavill left the show this fall, although it’s unclear if the promise of more Superman appearances were behind his exit.
Gunn and Safran are well aware of the sensitivities behind axing the popular Justice League cast by Zack Snyder as well as the sensitivities of parting ways with high-profile and popular talent. Forgoing a call to agents or producers, the executives met with Cavill to discuss their plans and seemed to indicate a potential new role down the road. The pair have also made overtures to Ben Affleck, aka Batman, asking him to direct a DC film for them while Jason Momoa — who may be done as Aquaman — has met with the duo as well, possibly about playing a new role.
Cavill has already lined up another franchise, Warhammer 40,000 at Amazon.
As for Gunn, he responded to a fan who accused Warner Bros. and DC of stringing Cavill along to goose Black Adam’s opening weekend. Said Gunn in a comment on Instagram this week: “Everything with Black Adam happened before I was around.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.