Although he had relatively few professional credits to his name, handsome and clean-cut actor Brandon Routh soared into the media limelight when he was cast as the Man of Steel in director Bryan Singer’s highly anticipated revival of the original superhero film franchise “Superman Returns” (lensed 2005).
Born Oct. 9, 1979, in Des Moines, Iowa and raised in nearby Norwalk (about 100 miles south of Woolstock, the hometown of TV’s original “Superman,” George Reeves), the strapping 6’ 2 ½ ” actor—known to his friends and family and sometimes professionally credited as “B.J.”—was a high school athlete who swam and played soccer, as well as starring in several theatrical productions. He attended the University of Iowa for a year before heading to Hollywood in search of his big break.
Routh got his first major role on a 1999 episode of the short-lived ABC sitcom “Odd Man Out,” followed by a four-episode stint on the third season of MTV’s sexually charged nighttime soap “Undressed” in 2000. He also was featured in pop star Christina Aguilera’s heavily rotated “What a Girl Wants” video. Along with an appearance on “Gilmore Girls” in 200, the actor earned steady work on the ABC daytime drama “One Life to Live,” originating the role of Seth Anderson from 2001-2002. His subsequent primetime credits include guest stints on the CBS crime drama “Cold Case,” the hit NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” and Fox’s brief-lived “Oliver Beene.”
Prior to Routh’s casting as Superman, Warner Bros had spent over a decade developing a plan to relaunch the franchise, with possible stars including Nicolas Cage and planned helmers including Tim Burton, Wolfgang Peterson, McG and Brett Ratner. Initially the studio reportedly considered a roster of name actors for the iconic role, including Josh Hartnett, Ashton Kutcher, Jude Law, Brendan Fraser, Jim Caviezel and “Smallville” star Tom Welling. But when Singer came aboard to direct the film, he insisted that a fresh face be cast in the part in the tradition of film’s most famous Man of Steel, Christopher Reeve.
Routh, then 25–who reportedly won a Hollywood Halloween costume contest in 2003 by dressing as Clark Kent with his shirt open to reveal the Superman “S” underneath—had previously auditioned for McG and was tapped by Singer after extensive casting calls in the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia. Impressed by his resemblance to the comic book icon and finding the actor’s humble Midwestern roots a perfect fit for the hero’s all-American persona, Singer anointed Routh as the next screen Superman. Within hours of the October 2004 casting announcement Routh’s name filled an endless array of Internet pages devoted to discussing his worthiness for the role. For his part, the actor kept a low profile to help build anticipation for the film. Curious movie audiences got a pre-“Superman Returns” introduction to Routh with his small supporting role in the low-budget thriller “Deadly” (2005), starring Laura Prepon and Misha Collins as a couple of real-life Canadian thrill-killers.