Russell Crowe might play Jor-El in the new Superman movie. What this means for 'Man of Steel.'


Image Credit: Peter Kramer/AP Images

The producers of 1978’s Superman: The Movie famously hired a Marlon Brando — an Oscar-winning actor as famous for his offscreen shenanigans as for his indelible onscreen performances — to play Superman’s father Jor-El. Though Brando got top billing, his role in the film is really little more than a flashy cameo. Still, he’s a pivotal part of the movie — leftover footage of Brando was resurrected in Bryan Singer’s seriously-watch-it-again gem Superman Returns — and Brando’s participation in the original Superman gives some added resonance to the news, reported by Variety, that Oscar-winning Russell Crowe is currently in talks to play Jor-El in Man of Steel, next year’s Supes reboot.

Warner Bros., producer Christopher Nolan, and director Zack Snyder had no comment on the casting news, but it’s worth exploring what the news might mean for the movie. It certainly seems possible: Nolan is a particular fan of getting great actors to play supporting roles — think of Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon — and the small-but-pivotal role of Superman’s father might appeal to Crowe, who hasn’t taken a supporting role in anything in over a decade. Given that Jor-El classically appears only in Krypton-set prologues and then as a zombie hologram, it’s a role that could be shot entirely on a greenscreen, several continents away from the production.

As for the larger implications of this news: The mere fact that Jor-El will be in the movie indicates that Man of Steel will probably feature a Superman origin story. And it’s hard to imagine the producers hiring Russell Crowe just to imitate Brando’s voice-from-beyond stylings. One wonders if the film will more prominently feature the interaction between Crowe’s Jor-El and the character’s comic-book nemesis, General Zod. We already know that Zod is being played by Michael Shannon, and it’s hard to imagine that the producers wouldn’t feature at least a couple scenes of Crowe and Shannon staring each other down in a looming-powerhouse-actor face-off. Undoubtedly, Zod/Crowe enmity will become a more prominent part of the movie — similar, perhaps, to how Nolan’s Batman Begins connected Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins to the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents.

PopWatchers, are you intrigued by the news that Russell Crowe might be taking the Big Daddy role in Superman?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
‘Superman’: Michael Shannon set as General Zod
Amy Adams to play Lois Lane
The new ‘Superman’ speaks! An exclusive interview with Henry Cavill

Comments (96 total) Add your comment
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  • Esox

    Do we need another Superman origin movie? Who the heck doesn’t know this one already?

    • Esox

      Can I reply to my own post? After further thought, the presence of Jor-El DOES NOT NECESSARILY mean “origin movie.” At least I hope not.

      • DranFrescher

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      • Esox’s Aunt

        Here’s what they need to do. Reboot Krypton—make it super-alien-hitech-AI-cyborgy-almost complete loss of sense of humanity—thousands of years beyond primitive earth culture. Make Zod a reflection of that thinking. Make Jor-El the opposite. Make Superman somewhere in between the two, with the ability to be godlike and advance the culture of Earth to replace what he’s lost. But Superman’s exposure to primitive humanity brings out his father’s side in him. After all, Earth is NOT Krypton, it’s its own culture, and not to be tampered with. And use this as an opportunity to overlap with Braniac as part of the plot.

      • stevennal

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      • John

        Here is what they need to do, get originality. Just putting it out there. Just a friendly kind suggestion.

      • Mole

        So ironic that the constant attention-grabbing plead for originality is among the least original things posted on a comment board.

      • jank

        this is pure FAIL, Brando was the man – his chilling voice in the Superman Returns teaser trailer (the best trailer of all time) lead me to love Superman Returns which itself is criminally underrated

      • The Master

        What’s FAIL is that ZOD is the villain. AGAIN. Nothing says “Hey! This is brand new Superman REBOOT movie!” like reusing the same character created by hollywood for the films from 30 years ago.

      • Gupta


      • MysterWright

        Krypton should reflect our own society currently and Earth should reflect our own idealized planet the way we used to be hopeful for. Clark should be the guy who can go back like Marty McFly and correct the mistakes Krypton made by going the other way with it when those forks in the road appear. Kinda Quantum Leap except everyone can see what Clark really looks like. Until he puts glasses on. Haha! Like the reason for the fortress of solitude is to show history of Krypton and at the end of each history lesson, Clark is told a moral that resonates with Earth’s current threat. Foreshadowing! (Dun-dun-DUH!!!!)

    • Esox’s Uncle

      Your logic is true, youngling. The presence of Jor-El could also mean “incest movie.”

    • Yuu

      President Obama is a Marxist who intends to start an international revolution and destroy the moral fabric of the us

      • bob

        lol.. The only moral fabric the US has is torn, bloodied and sh*t-stained, nothing to envy or be proud of.

  • is

    One of the best actors of all time!

    • kls525

      Good actor, but I don’t know about all that best actors of all time stuff…

      • dmac2498

        Didn’t Crowe famously say he would never be in a comic book film? Make a few flops and that attitude changes.

      • John

        It’s like using a jaguar to go mudwomping but whatever.

    • Linda Andrews

      I think Russell Crowe is a rare talent and he reminds me of a young Richard Burton, whom nobody could deny was in a class all his own when it comes to acting.

  • Chelsea

    Wow, my faith in this adaptation of Superman just multiplied about a billion.

    • Chris

      Funny … it just went down for me by about the same amount.

      • Chelsea

        OH YES, because Russell Crowe is such a HORRIBLE actor. You’re an ass.

      • Maggie25

        Whoa! Chris just stated an opinion. He didn’t even say anything about Crowe’s talent as an actor.

      • Esox’s Uncle

        Oh PLEASE, Chelsea. Like you’re sitting around with baited breath because Hollywood is cranking out YET ANOTHER SUPERHERO MOVIE. But it’s okay, I’m sure this one will win the Oscar. Yes, I’m quite sure. It just has to. IT. JUST. HAS. TO. Doesn’t it?

      • John

        This doesn’t require faith. It’s a sure thing. Or at least that was the idea.

    • Brock

      OH YES, because Russell Crowe is starring and directing and producing and writing, so he’ll save this crappy movie. You’re an idiot.

  • kreert

    wow that’s great. Gee i wonder why this news leaked today?? probably to distract from those terrible GL reviews. but anyway, this is great. and hopefully they do something different than just an origin story. the fact that Nolan so actively got involved makes me think it is. nobody needs to same origin!

  • Ian

    Even people who don’t read comics know Superman’s origin. We saw it in the original Richard Donner film, and we just saw it for ten years on Smallville. It made sense for Batman Begins, since his origins hadn’t really been seen on television or film. We don’t need an extensive backstory for Superman. Again.

    • jennifer

      Did you miss the 1989 Batman movie? That was all about Batman’s origins. I thought Batman Begins was great, but the 1989 movie was great too. Jack as the Joker was amazing.

      • Ian

        That movie, and Batman Forever, only showed a few blips of his past, such as when his parents were killed. It didn’t really go in-depth to everything that led to him becoming who he was.
        And that, the process behind one becoming a superhero, is something we’ve already seen multiple times for Superman, which is why I disagree with them going back to his origins again for this upcoming film.

  • JRWolfe

    ANOTHER ORIGIN movie ? WTF ! We’ve had that in Richard Donner’s masterpiece and we had it again with ten years of Smallville. PLEASE JUST GIVE US AN ADVENTURE ! No more origin stories.

  • Chris

    Is he going to throw a phone at General Zod?

    • Esox’s Uncle


    • Austin

      Honestly! Who throws a phone?

      • Dawn

        I i payed as much as Crowe did a night to stay in that hotel i’d expect the phone to work.

  • Mr. Holloway

    It wasn’t that long ago that Crowe was widely recognized as the Marlon Brando of his generation, so this would be pretty perfect. Hope it happens.

    • Maggie25

      Really? Hmm…

    • Esox’s Uncle

      “Oh look, a pretty statement floating around in the sky. I’ll think I’ll pull it down, water it, and claim it as being fact.”

      • Mr. Holloway


        I know it’s easy to forget given that more people remember his phone-throwing antics these days than his movies, but when he was getting nominated for the Best Actor Oscars three years in a row, Crowe being the Brando of his generation wasn’t THAT far-fetched.

        Regardless, I honestly hope responding like an a$$ made you your day better.

      • Erin

        Right on Mr Holloway. On-screen and off he is Brandoesque. Though who said this was indeed a fact. What’s a fact is some of these comments are mighty douchey at best.

      • Mr. Holloway

        (Edit: *…made your day better.)

      • Summer Bay

        People are just jealous, particularly down under. Not everyone can look out their window & see the Opera House or own the football team they supported as a child.

  • kim in kentucky

    I could see it

  • Superman

    My new movie reboot does not need a another backstory. What it does need is a BRAND NEW movie nemesis! Enough with Zod. I’ve already kicked his ass enought times. If my father Jor-El has to be in the movie, I’d prefer the casting of Harrison Ford.

    • brando

      i am jor-el. harrison ford is indy. russel crowe is gladiator. the end. they should’ve done a braniac story.

      • Esox’s Uncle

        Yes, maybe Harrison Ford can sit around looking bored as Jor-El. That’s some inspired casting. All he needs is a perky young secretary to show him that life still has meaning.

  • Frank Malloy

    Do we really need another movie based on a comic book/TV show/remake of an older movie/song/video game?

    It has become increasingly clear – Hollywood is OUT of original ideas.

    Thank God for foreign movies which somehow manage to come up with unique, thought-provoking, emotional films…

    • brando

      world’s smallest violin. go drink your latte at the imdb page for amelie.

      • RyRyNYC

        Leave Amelie alone… that’s a good movie! lol – But I have to agree with others… why an origin story? – It’s not like the original Donner film isn’t well known or beloved – I remember watching it a couple times a year on TV while growing up (I’m 26, and people younger than me had the Smallville Series.)

    • John

      That means they would have to hire people who do cartoons to explain scripts to illiterate producers. Impossible!

    • Mitch Logan

      It took you 80 years to come to that conclusion? Idiot.

  • Justin P, Esq.

    Darren thinks the most recent Superman movie was a gem? Wow, is Darren on drugs??

    • nick

      Agreed. WTF. Luther was yet again a swindler real estate dope with dummy sidekicks. Frank Langella is too subtle and withdrawn for White. Super”man” was a soap opera boy imitating Reeve and in a dopey outfit. Lois Lane was in high school. Her kid? Who cares. Not one fight. EW should self-destruct for trying to paw that off. It sucked.

      • laxin


    • BrandonK

      He’s not alone…I thought it was really good and there was a lot of potential for stories going forward.

    • will

      Don’t be too surprised. Another guy at this magazine thinks Tom Cruise should be playing a 250lb 6ft 5in navy seal. Part of the Jack Reacher series. Genius loves company.

    • Elle

      I think there were some problems with Superman Returns but I agree that it’s very underrated. I thought Brandon Routh did a good job in the role. I don’t think he’s as charming or naturally funny as Tom Welling was on Smallville for 10 years. But I thought he was very good. Kate Bosworth was miscast as Lois Lane. She was too young (Lois is actually traditionally older than Clark) and she didn’t have the presence to play such an important role. The deeper symbolism with the movie was actually very poignant. It was a tragedy. The reality was that Superman had left Earth in order to look for his family and to figure out where he “belonged.” The tragedy was that while he was gone the woman he loved more than anything gave birth to their child. AND HE MISSED IT. The irony and climax of the film was that Superman had gone across the universe to find his “home” and he had real family on Earth. He had a child. The tragedy was that he couldn’t live the way he wanted with the woman he loved. Ideally, Lois and Superman wanted to be be together raising their child together. That was the tragedy of the film. That they couldn’t do that when despite everything between them—that’s all that they truly wanted–just to be together.

      • Elle

        It honestly makes me laugh when people complain about the film not having a “fight.” Superman is not a violent superhero. The sequence when he saves the plane is probably one of the greatest action sequences in films. His ultimate sacrifice in the end to save the world was beautiful as was the deeper meaning of his search for family and ultimately realizing that he was not alone after all. Don’t get me wrong–I have some issues with the film. As I said, I thought Bosworth was miscast. I also think the film dropped the ball on Lois/Clark by completely ignoring the modern canon and completely forgetting that CLARK and Lois had a true relationship/friendship in that universe. There was too little CLARK period in the movie. Clark is how we get insight to Superman. The movie didn’t focus on Clark Kent enough. But I still thought it had beautiful moments.

      • nick

        alright, lady, take it easy. superman is not macbeth. he’s not “tragic.” he’s profound, but not tragic. and yeah, he punches sh*t all the time. he’s the hulk with a better tailor. my comment was partly tongue in cheek, so look in your hanky to see if there’s a joke in there for you and try it on.

      • Elle

        No, Superman is not tragic. But some stories about him are. And Superman Returns was, in some ways, kind of a sad story. I personally found the ending to be sad because the guy went searching for something for 5 years and he wound up missing out on his family on Earth. I imagine you’re not a father. But ask any father you know if they would consider it a big of a tragedy to miss the birth of their only child and then watch their child be raised by another man while at the same time separated from the woman they love. Go ahead and ask a father how they would feel about that. And yeah, I think you’ll find that that is sad.

        And yeah, I read Superman comics. Yes, Superman punches things. But comparing him to the Hulk even in jest is one of the most uninformed things I’ve ever heard. Superman punches things and fights when there is no other option. His preference is always to avoid violence. Anyone who actually knows Superman knows that.

        Anyway, I was simply expressing my opinion. I’m not sure why I bothered since you are clearly so rude and immature. What are you like 12? Now I remember why I don’t often bother on these comments sites.

      • nick

        i’ve had 18 children and i’ve named all of them clark and hulk. lady, you take me far too seriously. i look forward to your swan lake version of superman.

  • Michael

    I hope its fun like GL we need more Movie like GL

  • luvzmesumtestosterone

    I’d totally pay to watch RC throw a phone, a fit, a spear, bit o’ kryptonite…In fact, I’d rather see his lusciousness stuffed in those tights than that pretty-boy they got to play SM last time around. sigh…a girl can dream…

  • Tim Brandt

    All you people need to get a life and stop reading this garbage….Losers!

    • General Zod

      You will bow down before me Tim Brandt, I swear it…no matter if it takes an eternity!!! You will bow down before me….both you…and then one day…your heirs!!!!

      • harry

        EPIC!!! Thank you!!!

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