WASHINGTON •Warner Bros reportedly is parting ways with its current Man of Steel, Henry Cavill (above).
Cavill, the British actor who has played Superman in three critically underwhelming films since 2013, will surrender the red-and-blue costume, the Hollywood Reporter was the first to report on Wednesday, while noting that neither Cavill nor the studio had confirmed the exit.
Variety, meanwhile, reported that "Cavill's future as Superman in the DC Extended Universe is cloudy", as Warner Bros shifts "its attention to developing a Supergirl movie".
This news would not be a surprise. Once upon a development phase, as shepherded by director Zack Snyder, Cavill's Superman and Ben Affleck's Batman were going to be cornerstones of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) - essentially Warner Bros' version of Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America.
But as Man Of Steel (2013), Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) and last year's Justice League have come in for critical strafing and box-office results that were below expectation, Warner Bros has signalled that it will no longer bet on projects centred on Cavill or Affleck as its leading superheroes.
Domestically, Cavill's DCEU films have not topped US$340 million (S$466 million) at the box office. The most successful DCEU release in North America - as box-office champ and cultural phenomenon - remains last year's Wonder Woman (US$412.6 million).
Patty Jenkins' hit is helping to pave the way forward for Warner Bros' superheroes; her sequel Wonder Woman 1984 is due out next year.
Meanwhile, the studio is also betting on the popularity of Harley Quinn, who was played by Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad (2016), according to the trades. The Harley spin-off Birds Of Prey is reportedly a priority.
Warner/DC still has hopes for Aquaman - starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman - due out this Christmas. None of Aquaman's fellow Justice League members, including Cavill and Affleck, is mentioned in the credits.
The studio also has Shazam! due out next April and, according to the trades, Warner Bros was not able to work out a Cavill/Superman cameo for that film. Additionally at Warner/DC, Todd Phillips is continuing his Joker film project with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role.
Warner Bros has also "shifted its focus" to producing a Supergirl origin story, says the Hollywood Reporter.
Cavill is the third actor to prominently play DC's live-action Superman on the big screen since Christopher Reeve reinvigorated the role in the 1970s.