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Kryptonite for WB’s ‘Superman’

Pic delayed until script, budget receive makeover

Production on Warner Bros.’ troubled Nicolas Cage-starring “Superman Lives” project has been delayed yet again, with July’s start date scuttled until the script and budget achieve a necessary level of super-strength, the studio has confirmed.

“We have decided to postpone the start of ‘Superman’ till such a time as the budget is appropriate and the script realizes its potential,” said Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, WB co-prexy of production.

Cage remains committed to the project, Di Bonaventura said, as do producer Jon Peters and director Tim Burton. Sources confirmed Cage and Burton have pay-or-play deals on the film.

“We’re looking forward to introducing the world to the new Nick Cage Superman,” added Di Bonaventura. “He’s passionate about Superman.”

Others who were in talks for roles but were not attached included Kevin Spacey for the villainous role of Brainiac and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen.

WB considers the “Superman” franchise one of its most valuable properties, but this film has been fraught with delays and the studio was unwilling to pro-ceed with the $100 million-plus project until it felt the budget and script were nailed down tight.

The Peters-produced pic had first been skedded to start pre-production last fall. But it was delayed until January of this year, then continued sliding into spring and then the summer.

When Burton signed on for helming duties last year, he chose to write his own script, rejecting the existing version penned by “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” writer-director Kevin Smith.

Burton continues to work on the script with Dan Gilroy; and sources said the project could go in the fall but only if WB accepts their script and budget.

By then, Warner Bros., which has taken its knocks for such recent box office duds as “Sphere” and “Mad City,” will know whether the mega-budgeted “Lethal Weapon 4” will have proved worthwhile. The studio also has to put into production “Wild, Wild West,” starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline under Barry Sonnenfeld’s helm.

The postponement of “Superman” comes a week after Fox pushed back its Jan De Bont-helmed event pic, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” also due to budget and script issues (Daily Variety, April 13). Warner Bros. previously pulled the plug on its $100 million “I Am Legend,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger under Ridley Scott’s direction.