Interview: Brandon Routh reflects on Superman Returns and Scott Pilgrim‘s longevity

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s…Brandon Routh!

As one of very few actors to play Superman on film, and part of an even more exclusive club who have portrayed two heroes in the same universe, Brandon has thrilled audiences with Superman Returns, had adventures across time as The Atom in Legends of Tomorrow and the Arrowverse, and has shown us all the true psychic power of a bass playing super vegan in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World!

As he soars into Melbourne for Metro Comic Con (taking place this coming weekend, July 13th and 14th, at the Melbourne Showgrounds), where he’ll take place in such events as guest panels and VIP fan functions, Brandon took time out to chat with our own Peter Gray about his time as the Man of Steel, if he’s surprised at Scott Pilgrim‘s longevity 14 years after the film’s release, and how feels as a straight actor taking on queer roles.

Coming to conventions such as this, a role like Superman would be one of the main draws, but do you find yourself surprised by anyone talking to you about another role of yours?

Yeah, yeah.  I think One Life to Live, the soap opera.  That, and Partners, because we only ended up airing, like, nine episodes in the US (of that).

When it came to Superman Returns, there was such hype built around it, but we are living in a much more scrutinised, digital age.  With social media, how do you feel like you would’ve handled that pressure?

Well, there was no social media then, so I didn’t worry about any of that.  I think it’s good that there wasn’t social media.  I think it’s probably good that there wasn’t because, I think, I was a little bit too demonstrative about some of my feelings about justice and what’s right.  My ability to be passionate without saying too much…I can’t even give you an example right now, but in world issues and politics, I would have been on the right side of things, but said too little or too much, you know?

And with the role of Superman, you reprised in the Arrowverse crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earth.  Did you ever think it would be something you would return to?

I have definitely continued to think about the possibility of it since Superman Returns.  The longer time went by, the less it actually seemed possible.  I was very surprised to have been asked, (but) very honoured to have been asked.  It was pretty shocking.  I leave a lot of possibility out in the world, but that was one thing that I definitely thought, “I love it, but it’s probably not going to happen again.”

You mentioned Partners earlier, and we’re seeing this discourse on queer actors taking straight roles, and straight actors taking queer roles.  In addition to Partners you have your role in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, as well as a guest spot on Will & Grace.  I feel like there is more public chatter and “offense” surrounding this than is actually the case.  Did you feel any pressure in taking these roles? Or is there a certain elation in experiencing something that might not always come your way?

Great question.  I think that in my recollection of that time, the early 2000s, that it was straight actors playing gay roles, and gay actors playing straight roles.  The conversation wasn’t “You have to be to do”, in my mind.  I don’t know, I was also that naive kid from Iowa, but that was the information in my ears, and I never witnessed or heard much flack about (it).

Certainly with Zack and Miri I was a little bit trepidatious, just because of the humorous aspect of it, you know? Poking too much fun.  Whether that was a choice I made at the time – the right choice – I hope I didn’t offend anyone, and if I did I certainly understand.  For Partners, that felt right, because Max (Mutchnick, creator) felt it was right.  I think we were treating (that) with as much love as possible.  And Michael Urie is so wonderful.  The thing was with all those characters, I wasn’t playing “gay”.  I think because romance wasn’t involved, there was no overt sexuality to it.  I felt comfortable playing a guy who loves a person.  That’s something I can connect to.  And (Wyatt, my character in Partners) was just a puppy dog.  So innocent, Amish who forsook his religion and moved to the city and became a nerd.  Just a loving puppy dog.

That’s truly it, that there wasn’t playing into a stereotype.  You were just funny in those roles! You and Justin Long playing off each other in Zack and Miri is hilarious, and as a gay man, I look at you in these roles and I just think it’s awesome that Superman is playing that.  I felt happy with the representation that you embodied.

That’s awesome.  An unexpected boon.  And it’s funny we’re talking about this because I look at my character in the animated Scott Pilgrim series (Todd) and that he has sparks with Kieran’s (Culkin) character.

On the mention of Scott Pilgrim, I feel like that movie in the years since has really taken on its own life force.  It wasn’t necessarily embraced when it was first released, but we see it maintain this longevity.  Has that surprised you in any way?

I’m not surprised.  I mean, I guess we were surprised at how long that it has continued.  But it was a fantastic movie.  Edgar Wright is a genius filmmaker, a fantastic person to work with, and a lovely human being, and it’s a real masterpiece of film and technology, as far as I’m concerned.  I just don’t think it was marketed…I think it could have been marketed differently.  People weren’t ready for it.

With the animated series, and all those actors, everybody’s gone on to do so many great things.  And there’s more superheroes out of (the film), so there’s something there, right?  Bryan Lee O’Malley created such great characters and a unique world that captured enough different groups and different generations in pop culture.  A crossover? I guess it’s a crossover movie for the generations.  I don’t know if generational crossover movie is a phrase (laughs), but I think it’s the best of both worlds.  It’s got a great message.  It’s fantastic.

I mean, it’s always good to look back at something that has generational impact.  So many actors never get to have that moment, and with both Scott Pilgrim and Superman Returns, which I feel like has had much more a re-evaluation in the years since, you have that honour.  It was such a pleasure talking to you, and, again, the respect in that representation was something I as excited to talk to you about.

Thank you, and thanks for sharing your experience of that, and that it has been of service.  That’s beyond entertainment anytime that can happen.  I’m happy about that.  More joy and love in the world.  And that’s why I like doing comedy more than anything else.

For more information on Brandon Routh’s Metro Comic Con availability head to his official appearance page here.  For ticketing and general information about Metro Comic Con, taking place at the Melbourne Showgrounds across July 13th and 14th, 2024, visit the official website here.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.