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Why Russell Crowe Is Not the Best Choice to Play Superman's Pops, Jor-El

By Rob Payne | Industry | June 17, 2011 |

By Rob Payne | Industry | June 17, 2011 |

In college, I worked at an overpriced video store located mostly within shopping malls, and on any given painfully slow weekday, I could fantasy-cast movies with co-workers for an entire eight hour shift. The one actor/character combination we hit on that always felt like perfection to me, was Russell Crowe as the I’m-gettin’-too-old-for-this-shit version of Bruce Wayne/Batman in a direct adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Granted, eight years ago he would have needed some Benjamin Button level make-up effects, and even now he’s still at least ten years too young. The probability of it happening was never high, as Warner Bros. would never make that movie, and Crowe never seemed like the type of actor who would take on a role in a silly comic book movie.

It seems I was wrong about the latter part, as according to Variety, Crowe has joined the cast of Zack Snyder’s The Man of Steel. Not only that, but last year’s Robin Hood is apparently filling the silver pajamas of another actor who filmgoers, at the time, never imagined would be in a silly comic book movie: Jor-El, Clark Kent’s biological father, who was previously portrayed by Marlon Brando in Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman. Considering this means that my dream Batman movie is now deader than Jason Todd, I am having officially mixed emotions. After all, the probability of Warner Bros. making that movie, and Russell Crowe taking on, not just one but, two silly comic book movie roles is lower than convincing me that AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was actually any good, other than the pilot episode. (That’s extremely low.)

Crowe as Jor-El certainly continues the all-star quality casting of this new Superman movie, as he joins the ranks of Kevin Costner (Pa Kent), Diane Lane (Ma Kent), and Amy Adams (plucky lady reporter Lois Lane) - as well as the lesser known, but not unappreciated, Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon as Clark Kent/Superman and General Zod, respectively. In all honesty, giving Russell Crowe what amounts to little more than a cameo strikes me as fairly wasteful. I have no doubt that Crowe can fill Brando’s glorious white wig with gravitas and aplomb in equal measure, just as he expertly rode Glenn Ford’s saddle in the 3:10 To Yuma remake (also note that Glenn Ford played the original Pa Kent, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Christian Bale, was also in the new Yuma, and Nolan is producing The Man of Steel… so perhaps it’s all kismet). Still, since Snyder clearly seems to be doing a remake mash-up of both Superman and Superman II, I believe Crowe’s talents could be utilized much more successfully if he took them to South Beach Lex Luthor. Jor-El is a character he can do in his sleep, especially if he mimics Brando’s take, but he could sink his teeth into Luthor. Hell, he’d make a pretty impeccable, ferocious Zod, too. No offense meant to Michael Shannon, but Crowe excels at villainy. As a super villain, he would simply entertain.

But that’s all moot, as Snyder and Nolan clearly want an A-List star. Personally, Jor-El is a character I’ve never felt is worth all the time devoted to him in film and television. Then again, I’m not the average moviegoer, and the majority of you know him as Marlon Brando (or possibly Terrence Stamp’s disembodied voice from “Smallville”), so you expect someone larger than life. Fair enough. Russell Crowe fits that bill. Word on the Internet super highway is that they’re also looking for an A-Lister to play Lara, Jor-El’s wife. I’ve always thought Cate Blanchett would make an excellent, adult, Lois Lane, so why not her as Supe’s mother? She would be guaranteed to make an impression (see: The Fellowship of the Ring). Your move, Messrs. Snyder and Nolan.

Rob Payne writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, co-hosts the internet radio show/podcast We’re Not Fanboys, and hopes TK doesn’t send him to the Phantom Zone for playing in his sandbox.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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