Matt Bomer says he lost out on Superman role due to sexuality

Matt Bomer signed a three-picture deal to play Superman in 2003, but believes he was dropped because he is gay

Matt Bomer says he lost out on Superman role due to sexuality
Matt Bomer Photo: Emma McIntyre

Between 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and 2006’s Superman Returns, there were several attempts to get a new Superman franchise off the ground. In the early 2000s, Warner Bros. had a script by J.J. Abrams and a few directors attached to the project at various times. When Brett Ratner was brought on as director, he cast the relatively unknown actor Matt Bomer, then starring on the soap opera Guiding Light, as the Man of Steel. Bomer recalls getting the job—and losing it under suspicious circumstances—in a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast.

“Basically, I went in on a cattle call for Superman, and then it turned into a four-month audition experience where I was auditioning again and again and again… flying out to LA and doing chemistry reads, flying back to New York, flying back to LA to do a screen test,” he says. “And it looked like I was the director’s choice for the role. This was a very early iteration of Superman written by J.J. Abrams called Superman: Flyby, I think is what it was called. It never came to light.”

Over on Guiding Light, an executive producer decided Bomer’s character would be the town’s serial killer to free him up to take on Superman. “[He] said, ‘Hey, you’re going to be the killer. We’re writing you off the show; go with my blessing.’ So… I guess I basically got fired, but in a generous way,” Bomer remembers. The move seemingly paid off, because he got the part. “I signed a three-picture deal at Warner Bros.,” he reveals.

Bomer does seem like the perfect Clark Kent: Handsome, square-jawed, statuesque, with a perfect wave of dark hair. But his version of the character would never make it to the screen. Though the actor didn’t come out as gay until years later, he says it’s his “understanding” that his sexuality cost him the role. “That was a time in the industry when something like that could still really be weaponized against you. How, and why, and who, I don’t know. But yeah, that’s my understanding.”

The story behind Superman: Flyby is a murky one. Given the production issues that plagued this franchise for so many years, there’s a good chance this movie never would’ve been made regardless of this awful behind-the-scenes gossip. However, Bomer’s sexuality being a factor first made headlines when author Jackie Collins dropped the tidbit on Gaydar Radio in 2012: “Someone didn’t like him and told [the producers] he was gay,” she shared (via Advocate). But a competing source claimed to E! News that Bomer was dropped because Ratner left the project: “Matt was Brett’s Superman,” the source said. “He would never have not cast Matt because he’s gay. Brett knew Matt was gay. They’re good friends. Matt not being Superman had nothing to do with his sexuality. It was because the director changed.”

Except, according to a 2003 Entertainment Weekly report, Ratner said in a statement that “The difficulty of casting the role of Superman has contributed to my decision” to leave the film. A contemporaneous Variety report cited by EW asserted that the production “balked at Ratner’s choice of little-known soap star Matthew Bomer” and wanted a bigger name like Brendan Fraser for the part. (Ratner was later accused of sexual assault and harassment by multiple women during the #MeToo movement; at the time, Elliot Page said the director made inappropriate and homophobic remarks when they worked together on X-Men: The Last Stand.)

Given Ratner’s statement at the time, it’s not hard to imagine that Ratner left the project because of the studio’s interference in the casting process. The studio may not have been sold on a relative unknown, but homophobia could very easily have been part of the reason that producers tried to interfere with the process in the first place. Fortunately, Bomer has gone on to have a fruitful career in the years since. He’s in Emmys contention for the recent Showtime miniseries Fellow Travelers and is set to return for a revival of his beloved USA procedural White Collar.

Join the discussion...