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Robert Downey Jr. Nearly Played Lex Luthor in McG’s Superman

Wedged between Tim Burton’s unrealized vision for Superman Lives and Bryan Singer’s much-criticized Superman Returns in the storied on-screen history of the Man of Steel is Superman: Flyby, a planned origin story that turned out to be another false start for the superhero franchise.

With a script by J.J. Abrams in hand, director McG eyed Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane and Shia LaBeouf as Jimmy Olsen. For the lead role, he screen-tested several relatively unknown actors, including the current Man of Steel Henry Cavill. But who did he want to play Superman’s arch-nemesis ?

While making the rounds for his new action/romantic comedy This Means War, McG revealed to The Playlist that he’d secured Robert Downey Jr. ahead of the actor’s Hollywood comeback. “We had Robert Downey Jr. locked up to be Lex Luthor, which I think would have been extraordinary,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Flyby fell apart, primarily because McG’s fear of flying prevented him from going to Sydney, Australia, where Warner Bros. wanted to shoot the bulk of the film.

“J.J. wrote the script, and we got that to a really good place in the end,” he said. “But I’m to blame for [the film not happening].”


  • kalorama

    A Superman film directed by a guy who was afraid to fly? I think we dodged a bullet on that one (or two bullets, if you consider the fact that it was “McG”).

  • Paul

    Kalorama you beat me to it:  Dodged a bullet, definitely.

  • Joe Teulon

    J.J Abrams on the script, and that cast? How is that a bullet dodged? This film could have been incredible! 

  • Anonymous

    Wasn’t this the screenplay where Luthor was an FBI agent?! That makes sense with RDJ casting but I would agree this film was a bullet dodged.

  • Rollo Tomassi

    Scarlett Johansson as Lois Lane?!? She would’ve been like 16 years old at the time.

  • Mulligan-d

    The JJ Abrams script has Krypton not being destroyed, Luthor was a Kryptonian, and a lot of it was based on The Phantom Menace in terms of how Krypton was to be portrayed

  • Bret

    How did we dodge a bullet? We already got locked in a room full of explosives with Superman Returns. I’d rather take my chances with this one over the one we actually got.

  • Paul

    Gee, he did such a great job with Star Trek, it’s hard to see how he could have turned a beloved franchise into pointless explosions and fake banter.

  • Herbert

    It would have been AMAZING if Downey Jr. played Luthor. Especially now that he’s Stark. Having Stark and Luthor be the same actor would have been incredible. 

    Also Shia as Olsen would be great, but only if he got his own spin-off movie based on the Silver Age Olsen comics. 

  • MVDC

    I don’t believe a word of this. First off, Shia LaBeouf and Scarlett Johannson weren’t that popular around this time, and RDJ was just coming off Gothika at this point. Wasn’t this around 2003 when they were talking of doing Flyby?

    I don’t believe a single word of this. 

  • Adam Walker

    I remember Matthew Vaughn having said similar of why he turned down X-Men: The Last Stand.

    …interesting that McG still stands to “their” official reason of why that movie never came to happen :D

  • Joe Teulon

    SERIOUSLY!? In that case, I retract my previous statement. With that cast, and J.J Abrams on the script, this COULD have been incredible, but if that was the direction, would have been awful.

  • Joe Teulon

    Is that sarcasm? Trek was fantastic.

  • Guest

    find out more about real Scarlett by typing Scarlett Johansson clone in Google search bar and you would see much more then in The Island movie..

  • Pkcast

     This desperate-for-attention hack is a total liar. I’m disappointed that this site isn’t treating this like the joke most other sites are treating this “story” as.

  • I just wandered in here

     Ironically his Superman is not faster than a speeding bullet and fails to dodge one.  Okay I’m lying.

  • JD

    lex luthor is similar to the Iron man.