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Just Before His Tragic Death, Paul Walker Was the Frontrunner to Play This Iconic Role

 Paul Walker.
Paul Walker.

Before his untimely death at just 40 years old in a November 30, 2013, car accident, actor Paul Walker was the “frontrunner” to play Superman—but he likely would have turned down the part.

In the documentary I Am Paul Walker (and per People) Walker’s manager Matt Luber said Walker “was screen testing for Superman” at some point before his death. “I think it was a $10 million deal, and he was the frontrunner,” Luber said.

In the documentary, Walker’s stunt double and childhood friend Oakley Lehman said “I knew he was up for it. I knew he was thinking about doing it, and I knew he did not want to do three or four Superman [films] and be Superman for the rest of his life.”

Paul Walker
Paul Walker

In a phone call to Luber, Walker expressed that the part didn’t feel right to him: “‘I’ve got an ‘S’ on, I got a cape, boots, tights…this is not me,’” Luber recalled Walker telling him. “'I’m getting the f—k out of here. Gotta go. F—k you.’ And he was gone.”

Had he accepted the role, he would have joined other Supermans like Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh; Henry Cavill later played the part, beginning with 2013’s Man of Steel. In February 2023, Brendan Fraser revealed on The Howard Stern Show that both he and Walker were up for the lead in 2006’s Superman Returns, and that “everyone in town was reading for” the part around 2002 or 2003. “Of course, it’s a life-changing, amazing opportunity, but I had to reconcile with, ‘Okay, say you do get the job to be the Man of Steel,’” Fraser told Stern. “‘It’s going to be chipped on your gravestone. Are you okay with that? You will forevermore be known as the Man of Steel.’”

Walker himself commented on opting out of playing Superman in a Chicago Sun-Times piece from 2003, telling the outlet he “could have made a gazillion dollars on that franchise”—but he didn’t need it.

Paul Walker
Paul Walker

“My favorite brand of running shoes costs $23,” he said at the time. “I rarely pay more than $40 for my jeans. Throw in a T-shirt and that costs me $20 or $10 if I buy it on the beach. I don’t need a gazillion dollars to manage that kind of lifestyle.”