Superman Lives (Tim Burton film)

Looking at unmade science fiction, fantasy, horror and superhero films, television shows and episodes.

Tim Burton, a man proud not to read comics.

Tim Burton, a man proud not to read comics.

Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage were paid not to make a Superman film.


  • In the years after the failure of Superman VI: The Quest for Peace, many attempts were made to make a new Superman film, including Superman Lives a script by Kevin Smith.
  • Smith suggested Batman (1989) director Tim Burton be hired.  Burton didn’t like Smith’s script…


  • Burton hired Wesley Strick to rewrite Smith’s script.  Being replaced upset Smith (who’d rewritten Poirier’s script that the studio had been happy with) saying: “The studio was happy with what I was doing. Then Tim Burton got involved…”


    Claimed design for Doomsday.

  • Strick didn’t understand Smith’s script (but later said it made more sense after reading the comics).
  • Tim Burton signed on with a $5 million pay-or-play contract, with Nicolas Cage signing on to play Superman with a $20 million pay-or-play contract.
  • Art designer Sylvain Despretz said that Jon Peters brought children in to evaluate the toy potential of designs.
  • Entered pre-production in June 1997 with production to begin in early 1998.


“Eradicator suit.”

  • Strick’s script had Superman as an existentialist and an outsider on Earth, who fights Lex Luthor and Brainiac – who end up amalgamated as “Lexiac.”
  • After Superman is killed he is resurrected by “the power of K” a natural force representing the spirit of Krypton.


  • Warner Bros rejected Strick’s script as too expensive, with an estimate for sets at $190 million.
  • Dan Gilroy was brought in the rewrite the script, reducing the cost to $100 million but Warner again rejected to the script for financial reasons.

    Portrait Shoot Of Jon Peters

    Jon Peters (Potential toy salesman in the background)

  • Burton and Cage received their contracted $25 million for not making the film, with other preproduction costs, Superman Lives cost $30 million with nothing to show for it.  (These cost, along with other abandoned Superman film costs would end up being counted towards the production costs of Superman Returns.)
  • Burton took his $5 million and moved on to make Sleepy Hollow.
  • Gilroy’s script was offered to directors Ralph Zondag, Michael Bay, Shekhar Kapur, Martin Campbell and Brett Ratner who turned it down.
  • In June 1999 (with Cage still attached) William Wisher Jr was hired to write a new script.  After Cage dropped out in June 2000, Oliver Stone was offered Wisher’s script to direct and Paul Attanasio was paid $1.7 million to write a new script.
  • During this period Alex Ford submitted a new script titled Superman: The Man of Steel, the first film in a 7 film series and Keith Griffen pitched a 17 page treated for a Lobo vs Superman film.  Griffen’s treatment was rejected, but until creative differences caused them to part ways, Alex Ford’s script was seriously considered by Warner and Peters.
  • Giving up on Attanasio’s script, Warner hired JJ Abrams who wrote a new script called Superman: Flyby.

~ Dug.



  1. Pingback: Batman vs Superman | Unmade Speculative Fiction

  2. Pingback: TIMELINE – Superman IV to Superman Returns | Unmade Speculative Fiction

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