Superman Returns star Brandon Routh says that while his experience on the DC film was not quite what he had hoped for, reprising his role as the Man of Steel for The CW's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event was certainly vindicating.
In 2006, Routh starred as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman in Superman Returns, an homage sequel to 1978's Superman: The Movie and 1980's Superman II, both of which starred Christopher Reeve in the lead role. However, while the film earned a respectable $391.1 million at the box office and was met with mostly positive reception, it wasn't quite the career boost Routh had hoped for, with the planned sequel never coming to fruition.
Routh was given the opportunity to reprise his role as Superman in "Crisis on Infinite Earths," which aired on The CW from late 2019 to early 2020. In the Arrowverse crossover, Routh's Man of Steel sported the iconic alternate outfit the character wore in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' acclaimed Elseworlds comic book series Kingdom Come. In the interim, Routh had already joined the Arrowverse as another DC character: Ray Palmer, aka The Atom.
During a recent appearance on Smallville alum Michael Rosenbaum's Inside of You podcast, Routh was asked if he got emotional while donning the red and blue tights again. "Oh, for sure. Absolutely," Routh replied. "Thank goodness, also because... the first time was such a... so much pressure, that I was trying not to look at and also couldn't even conceive of. I was like, 'Oh, I'm gonna do this... and I'm gonna appreciate the next one... relax into the next one. I just have to kind of get through this...' I didn't have the awareness that I have now."
Routh further explained that he had "a lot of gratitude for having the opportunity to do this again, for all the parties that made it possible. I've told this story before, but the first day that I came on the set, I was shooting the Batwoman episode... it was the first time I was appearing as Superman in it. And I just was... I thought, 'I've already done it... Even if this was the only scene I'm doing,' the emotional wound or scar that was left by my experience on Superman Returns was mostly healed."
He elaborated, "Because all the lead-up to that -- the costume fitting... the wonderful, warm fan reaction, people were excited and appreciated having me return to the character -- was validating and healing in so many ways that being there... was the most magical of times. And I was able to kind of relax and appreciate the rest of the experience from that moment... There was nothing more to prove." According to Routh, having not played Superman for so long and sill being "thought of, I guess highly enough to reprise, even for that little bit, was a validation I didn't know that I needed, I guess. It was very healing."
Rosenbaum then asked Routh if he was given new direction for his Superman reprisal, of if he was told to just play the character like he did the first time. "No, there was definitely... some considerations to be made," Routh replied. "He is the same character, but he's gone through a lot since Superman Returns, having lost Lois Lane, and a lot of his other friends killed by the Joker. We were kind of mixing Kingdom Come storyline with the Superman Returns backstory... It's a different, older, more mature Superman and Clark, Kal-El. Then you had to play the angry, possessed Superman, which was not something I'd ever done before, so I had to tap into that and ground that. So, there was definitely some challenges to be had and tweaks to the character." Routh says having become a father and generally matured in his own life since Superman Returns helped with the process. "I was eager to bring that wisdom to the character."
It was during a previous appearance on Inside of You that Routh discussed the planned sequel to Superman Returns being shelved and the toll it took on his mental health, leading him to a World of Warcraft addiction. "There was no sequel, the movie was widely well reviewed, people liked the movie, but it, you know, made almost $400 million worldwide but that wasn't enough," Routh said at the time. "And it was a very slow fizzle out of the possibility of a sequel over the next two, three years and I did everything that I could do, that I thought, in my world to help make it happen." Fortunately, Routh eventually managed to get out of that funk.