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Nicolas Cage says his Superman cameo in 'The Flash' looked nothing like what he filmed, calls AI 'inhumane'

Oscar winner details his three-hour experience on the set of DC's troubled film, which featured various digitally created cameos.

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Nicolas Cage isn’t ready to go full Tim Burton on The Flash.

The famed filmmaker, whose ill-fated 1990s reboot Superman Lives starring Cage is one of Hollywood's most notorious movies that were never made, criticized Andy Muschietti’s June release for including a sequence with Cage suited-up as the Man of Steel among the movie’s many multiverse cameos.

“I’m in quiet revolt against all this,” Burton said in an interview with the British Film Institute. The Batman (1989) director also bemoaned the “misappropriation” of Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, who appeared in a large role The Flash alongside Ezra Miller’s title character.

For his part, Cage was more perplexed than angry with his Flash experience, as he told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview promoting his acclaimed upcoming film Dream Scenario.

“First and foremost, I was on set,” Cage explained, clearing up speculation over whether his appearance as an alternate version of the Kryptonian Kal-El was simply recreated from Superman Lives costume test footage that has been disseminated online in recent years.

“They did put a lot of time into building the suit … and I think [Andy] is a terrific director, he is a great guy and a great director, and I loved his two It movies. ... What I was supposed to do was literally just be standing in an alternate dimension, if you will, and witnessing the destruction of the universe. Kal-El was bearing witness [to] the end of a universe, and you can imagine with that short amount of time that I had, what that would mean in terms of what I can convey. I had no dialogue [so had to] convey with my eyes the emotion. So that’s what I did. I was on set for maybe three hours.”

But what Cage, 59, saw onscreen in the finished release was markedly different from what he filmed. Instead of the actor’s Kal-El/Superman simply standing and staring, Muschietti expanded Cage’s appearance to include an in-joke for fans incorporating wild ideas for Superman Lives producer Jon Peters had dreamed up for the reboot.

“When I went to the picture, it was me fighting a giant spider. I did not do that. That was not what I did. I don’t think it was [created by] AI. I know Tim is upset about AI, as I am. It was CGI, OK, so that they could de-age me, and I’m fighting a spider. I didn’t do any of that, so I don’t know what happened there. … But I get where Tim's coming from. I know what he means. I would be very unhappy if people were taking my art … and appropriating them. I get it. I mean, I’m with him in that regard. AI is a nightmare to me. It’s inhumane. You can’t get more inhumane than artificial intelligence.

“But I don't think it [was] AI [in The Flash]. I just think that they did something with it, and again, it’s out of my control. I literally went to shoot a scene for maybe an hour in the suit, looking at the destruction of a universe and trying to convey the feelings of loss and sadness and terror in my eyes. That’s all I did.”

Cage was happy, however, that The Flash featured Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood’s Superman suit that she created for Burton’s never-realized film.

“I do feel that the movie gave that beautiful suit that Colleen Atwood designed a chance to be seen, and I was happy about that because she put a heck of a lot of thought into that series,” he says.

Los Angeles Times via “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”
A still from the documentary The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? (via The Los Angeles Times)

In a separate Costume Designer’s Reel interview with Yahoo promoting her new film Pain Hustlers, Atwood talked about the awkward experience of finding out Superman Lives was being canceled the same day Burton and team were shooting the now-infamous test footage.

We did some pretty amazing stuff considering the time period that we were doing that in,” said Atwood, who has worked with Burton on 14 film projects, including Superman Lives and the upcoming Beetlejuice sequel. “We were really advanced for some of the ideas that we were playing with, so it holds up OK. We worked on it for nine months and the day of the camera test where they’re all excited to put the costume on to camera test it, and we get the news that the movie [was being canceled]. The production head of Warners came over and said, ‘You’re all going to go home now. We’re not going to make the movie.’ And it was just so weird, so weird. I think Tim found out while he was driving there, and I think he told me, I think Nic’s agent is how Tim found out they were pulling the plug on the movie. It was just the weirdest kind of [screeching sound] ever.”

Atwood, who also appears in the 2015 documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, explained how she attempted to differentiate Cage’s multiple suits from the costumes worn by Christopher Reeve in four Superman movies between 1978 and 1987.

“There was a lot of conversations about the shorts, the underpants as it were,” she said. “Where do you go with that? Do you want to do basketball shorts? And it just kept looking better. … We just make it less featured and sort of more an integral part of his physique. And that’s kind of where we went with it. And the emblem is very, very sacred. … So we really had to [research and develop] that in a way.

“But also in that script he had three costumes. He had the classic, and then a sort of a reinvention of it in the black, and then he had a healing costume, which no one’s ever really seen. … But it was a costume that was using the kind of lasers they used in rock shows, driving lasers through two layers of silicone with a clear plastic over it that looked like a light show, but without effects. It was really cool, and I was really excited about that costume finally getting to make it, and then it never happened. But it’s always been one of my favorite ideas that didn’t ever happen.”

Dream Scenario opens in select theaters Nov. 10, and wide Nov. 22. The Flash is streaming on Max and available for rent/download from major digital platforms.