Casting kryptonite surrounds role

With Paul Walker the latest to drop out of the running to play the title role in the Brett Ratner-helmed “Superman” at Warner Bros. (Josh Hartnett turned it down earlier), a question comes to mind: Isn’t this supposed to be the role actors would die for?

Not if you talk to talent agents. Frequently suspicious, they are rarely superstitious — and yet, some raise the Curse of Superman as a reason the picture seems to be having trouble finding the Man of Steel.

What is the curse? While everyone knows the misfortune that came to paralyze Christopher Reeve, the nervous breakdown suffered by Margot Kidder and the multiple sclerosis that struck Richard Pryor; many others connected to “Superman” have suffered.

Kirk Alyn played bit parts and minor supporting roles in several low-budget films before getting his big break playing the title role in the 1948 serial “Superman.” But after the serial ended, he couldn’t sustain a film career and retired to Arizona.

George Reeves, who played the role of Superman in a TV series and several movies in the 1950s, was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head in 1959. The cause of death was listed as suicide, though controversy swirled around the death: Reeves’ prints were never found on the gun, and he’d been having an affair with the wife of MGM exec Eddie Mannix.

The first cartoon “Superman” was voiced by Bud Collyer from 1941-43. He went on to have a fine career in TV, creating and hosting “To Tell the Truth.” But he returned to the role to voice “The New Adventures of Superman” for CBS in 1966 — and three years later, he was dead of a circulatory ailment.

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