The short answer is “no”. Everything you’ve been reading on the internet about Henry Cavill being out of a job as Superman is a hoax. The twist is that the hoax may have been the work of Warner Bros. Studios directly.
Here’s what’s actually going on.
Henry Cavill as Superman
Cavill, who played Superman in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League, has recently been cast in the title role in the new Netflix series The Witcher. A story in The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the burner that was keeping Cavill’s job as Superman on the boil has been turned off, or at least way down, due in part to their having shifted their attention to the new Supergirl movie.
Henry Cavill made a wonderful Superman, almost as though he’d been genetically engineered for the role. It’s not his fault that the post-Batman, Zack Snyder Superman was written as a dark, angsty character. He’s a fine actor, and could have been the Superman of the ages, standing shoulder to shoulder with the now legendary Christopher Reeve.
Warner Bros. purportedly balked during contract negotiations that would have put Cavill in the suit for a cameo in the upcoming Shazam! movie, which in turn led to rumors that he’d been completely sidelined from the DCEU. Since Warner Bros. normally sends out their news at 4 pm in the afternoon rather than in the early hours of the morning, we think this was Warner Bros. trying to show Henry Cavill – and his manager Dany Garcia – what the world would look like if Cavill wasn’t Superman.
We think we’re looking at weaponized PR as a negotiation tool. If this is true – and it looks like it is – this is one of the more mean-spirited things we’ve seen Warner Bros. do in quite a long time.
Warner Bros. and Dany Garcia are playing a game of chicken, with Cavill as the bargaining chip. The outcome will be determined by who blinks first. With Garcia’s sudden public backpedal, it may well be Team Cavill that does the blinking.
Superman is the centerpiece of the entire DCEU, just as with DC’s comics publishing empire, and to remove the character from the stage may let Warner give attention to other characters – but it would also creates a massive, massive vacuum. Would Warner Bros. lose out if Cavill doesn’t sign? Absolutely. But at the same time, there is a path forward without him.
Warner has always historically been terrible at planning things. Unlike Marvel Studios, they aren’t a company whose sole job is to create and manage their superhero universe. There is no master plan at work that stays put for more than three films at a time. For them to create a story arc that played out over three films (all Cavill vehicles) was, for them, a surprising accomplishment.
For evidence of this, one need only look back to the history of Batman in the cinema. Until 2008’s The Dark Knight, every Batman film after Michael Keaton’s Batman Returns in 1998 got progressively worse until Warner just gave up on the franchise altogether. Joel Schumacher was the final nail in the coffin, and it would take ten more years before they’d dare to try again.
Warner Bros. didn’t think of Batman as being valuable in the post-Schumaker era.
The bat-embargo did indirectly give us some great DC Universe stuff, though. We got Batman: The Animated Series out of it, and from that came Harley Quinn, who originated there, not in the comics; then we got more animated series based on Superman and the Justice League. All of these, though, were almost accidental successes. These mostly demonstrate what happens when you let creative people just do what they do best.
That said, at this juncture, if Cavill is really out, the Big Three as a thing on the silver screen is done. Ben Affleck as Batman is already out, leaving only Gadot holding up the tent. The thing that could have driven the franchise to glory is now toast, at least for the foreseeable future.
Could they just wipe the slate clean and reboot everything from the ground up?
Yes. And No. Whatever they do wouldn’t look like what they were probably planning.
Wonder Woman is so popular that they can’t afford to replace Gal Gadot. Jason Mamoa is likely to be insanely popular in the upcoming Aquaman film as well. 118 minutes of Jason Mamoa with his shirt off will generate staggering box office. The popularity of both these actors in their respective roles means they can just restart everything and do it over. Nor do they have to do it right away. Wonder Woman 2 and Aquaman are both likely to do well, so there’s plenty of cash in Warner’s future even without Cavill.
Rebooting, Bond Style
Wonder Woman 2 is essentially a reboot itself, it doesn’t carry any continuity from the previous movie, and it points to one other possibility for reinvigorating the DC Universe: The Daniel Craig effect.
All the Daniel Craig films in the James Bond franchise have something in common: they’re all established in a completely new universe. The first Daniel Craig portrayal of Bond was an origin story, but retained Dame Judi Dench as M from the previous continuity with Pierce Brosnan, with no explanation given.
Warner could essentially do this, retaining Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa, hiring a new actor to play Superman, and rebuilding the DCU around them. It would be fairly jarring in terms of continuity, but it’s Warner’s best bet of seizing the day and taking full advantage of their franchise’s potential if Cavill isn’t in the mix.
In the James Bond franchise, they kept all the supporting players, M, Q, Miss Moneypenny, for what, 12 films? During which time Bond changed out no less than eight times. This is totally do-able.
But will they? We’ll see. Cavill’s agent is clearly trying to hold out for more money, but will Warner Bros. put up with it? Or will Cavill cave and dial back his expectations to something a bit more reasonable?
So It’s All Posturing Over Money?
Warner Bros. has released the following statement:
“While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”
They’re still talking contractual details, so it’s not over yet. One thing is certain – Henry Cavill has not been sidelined. Watch this space.