Quick Personal Note:
So I’ve been gone for a bit. I took an unannounced vacation with my family that had me off the grid from last week from Monday to Friday. Then I worked all weekend…and went on another mini-vacation with la familia until last night. I didn’t make a big deal about stepping away from the site (and the podcasts- which will now resume on their regular schedules!) because I honestly wanted to see how Revenge of The Fans would do without me. I’ve been extremely hands-on, and exhaustively involved with the day-to-day of the site since we launched on January 15, and I was curious to see if the site was strong enough to run itself without me.
I’m happy to report that Matt Vernier did a stellar job in my absence, as acting Editor-In-Chief, and the traffic without me around to beat the drum was pretty darn good. It’s great to see that the site has taken on somewhat of a life of its own, and that I can step away from time to time and the wheels won’t come off. Very encouraging, since I intend for this thing to grow and exist for years and years to come, and I can’t always be the only one pushing the boulder up a hill.
But okay, now I’m back, I’m catching up on all of the interesting stuff that happened while I was away, and I’m ready to dive into a subject that means the world to me: SUPERMAN.
“The State of Cavill’s Contract Negotiations To Stay On As Superman, And That SHAZAM Cameo…”
By Mario-Francisco Robles (@I_AM_MFR)
There’s been a great deal of optimism around Henry Cavill’s future as Superman in recent months, with most of the public discussion about his continued involvement pointing in a positive direction ever since Justice League. Around the time of the release of that film, Cavill was enthusiastically speaking in interviews about how excited he was to get to play a Superman who’s on the other side of all of the brooding and psychological heavy lifting he had to do in his first two outings as the Man of Steel. That kind of talk would continue into this year, where Cavill would tell anyone who’d listen about where he’d like to go with the character in the future.
This all coincided with things I was hearing (and sharing with you) from behind the scenes, about how the studio was feeling very confident about Cavill’s Superman and was starting to line up a future for the cinematic DC Universe that would feature him quite prominently. I even shared a scoop about plans to include his Superman in next year’s Shazam! back on January 25.
Then there was an explosion of positive signs in April, a month that featured Collider breaking a story about the studio’s plans for Cavill, and an onslaught of intriguing comments from Mission: Impossible- Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie, Cavill’s manager Dany Garcia, and Cavill himself. I summarized all of that, and added my own insights, in a piece you could read RIGHT HERE.
At the time, I had assumed this all meant that the contract negotiations between him and the studio were all completed. After all, why would all of the public lip service be getting paid to Cavill’s Superman future if they hadn’t already finalized a new deal?
Turns out we may have all been part of a shrewd negotiation tactic…
See, Justice League marked the third appearance of Cavill as Superman, for a contract that only included four. That left one additional contractually-obligated appearance for him, and with the studio trying to figure out what it’s future looked like post-JL, it became imperative for the two sides to reach terms on a new deal. But the two sides finding common ground on what the new deal should entail has been somewhat tricky.
There’s a sense that none of the film’s that included him as Supes fully lived up to their potential at the box office, which makes the studio somewhat unsure of what to make of him as an asset. Fair or not, the studio had hoped that Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League would all do much better than they did, and while they can’t blame Cavill for any of those movies not lighting up the mainstream’s collective imagination in a bigger way, it’s something the studio factors in when it prepares an offer.
To look at it another way, if those films had each done as good- or better– than expected, then we wouldn’t be talking about any of this today. They would’ve backed the money truck up to his house as soon as Justice League came out and announced a Man of Steel 2 (and a new deal) by January. They wanted to. But with JL falling way short of expectations, that meant the studio would be much more conservative in how they approached these sensitive discussions for a new contract.
Meanwhile, on the other side of all this, Cavill has been preparing to make a hard push into the A-List of Hollywood. Last year he hired Dany Garcia, the very same Dany Garcia who manages none other than Dwayne Johnson, and has been working diligently to raise his public profile- while ingeniously embracing the meme-worthiness of the mustache he had to grow for Mission: Impossible- Fallout, and the way he “reloads his arms” in the trailer. He and his team have been bracing themselves for what that film is expected to do for his rising star power. The film is already earning rave reviews, and is expected to be a big hit for Paramount.
That’s what makes things so tricky as both sides sit down at…
The Negotiation Table
On one side, you’ve got a studio that genuinely likes working with Cavill. Even more so, at a time where stability is important since so much has been re-thought about the cinematic DC Universe in the last two years, they like the idea of consistency. Rather than recast or reboot Superman, they’d love to keep the existing version of the character and just build on- and improve upon- the way he was portrayed in Justice League. But they’re also acutely aware that, with all three of his previous films falling short of expectations, they can’t just cut him a blank check.
On the other side, you have Cavill and his team led by Garcia storming the castle and saying “He’s your Superman, he’s about to become an even bigger star, so show him the money…or he’s out.” Beyond that, I’ve been hearing that he wants more than film appearances. Little birds have been telling me that his team is asking for something akin to what Ben Affleck got: A deal where he’s not only an actor, but also a producer, and where his voice carries weight on the creative end of things. While he doesn’t plan on directing a Superman film, Cavill definitely wants to have a voice in how the films are made and not just be a bystander the way he’s been so far.
That’s why I keep saying (over on the twittuh!) that both sides have very good points. I can easily see where both sides are coming from, and why they want what they want.
But you’ve got to hand it to Cavill’s team, because I think they’ve been using us (Yes, you and I) to help with these negotiations. Garcia knows exactly how powerful social media can be, seeing as how she comes from the DWAYNE JOHNSON SCHOOL OF HYPE. It’s plain to see that fans love Henry, and that anytime he drops any kind of hint about Superman, the internet lights up with tweets, retweets, likes, shares, etc.
That’s why I think Cavill’s been so chatty about Superman in recent months, and why he constantly stokes the flames, because it gives him leverage at these negotiations. “See? The fans love me. They want more of my Superman. Don’t mess with a good thing. Give me what I’m asking for and I’ll be the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs for you!”
And it’s smart, but it also forces Warner Bros. to be even smarter.
They can look at the hype generated by Cavill’s comments, and McQuarrie’s comments- which aren’t in any way accidental, by the way- and say, “That’s great. It looks like everyone loves you. That must mean that, with you being such a big part of Mission: Impossible- Fallout‘s marketing, that the film will do incredible business. So let’s see how that does before we finalize your offer.”
And that, essentially, is where we’re at right now. There were talks. Talks that got so close to being finalized that a trade reporter was working on a story that would outline the finer points of the new deal (!!!), and then they stalled out.
This is not at all unlike what happened with Matt Reeves and the very same studio we’re talking about right now. If you’ll recall, last year he was so close to signing on the dotted line that Variety’s Justin Kroll said it was all-but a done deal…then he exited negotiations! He took his ball and went home, forcing the studio to figure out how to get him back because this all played out very publicly and it made them look pretty foolish. Then two weeks later, they brought him back, gave him what he wanted, and he was lovingly welcomed into the batcave.
Something similar, albeit far quieter, seems to be happening here with Cavill. Things were THIS CLOSE, one side balked at the last second, and now we’re in a holding pattern.
In Reeves’ case, the big hold-up was creative control- he wanted to be able to make his Batman film his way, with no studio meddling, and without having to worry about the script Affleck had written with Geoff Johns and Chris Terrio. In Cavill’s case, the studio wants to internally weigh the PROs and CONs of keeping Cavill while also seeing how Fallout does to determine whether Cavill’s star really is about to ascend higher into the cosmos.
That’s why Fallout is such an interesting piece of the puzzle here, and it’ll be interesting to see- years from now- how a Mission: Impossible movie forever affected the cinematic DC Universe one way or the other. And there are many angles to pay attention to, too. If the film is a smash hit, and Cavill earns rave reviews for his turn as August Walker, that’ll have one impact. If it’s a smash hit, and everyone says Cavill’s turn was generic and forgettable, it’ll have another impact. If it’s a bomb, but people say he was one of the best things about it, that’ll do one thing. If it’s a bomb, and everyone says he was awful and dragged it down, it’ll do another thing.
All in all, I’m told Fallout isn’t the biggest deciding factor, but it’s definitely part of the conversation. So both camps are going to be keeping an eye on how Fallout does when it opens next week, then they’ll re-assess, and return to the negotiation table afterward with their final offers.
And don’t just take my word for it. I asked an insider about the state of things, and here’s exactly what they said:
“WB is curious how M:I plays out, just to get temperatures.”
When I asked if the situation is as Doom And Gloom as some out there would have you believe, they said:
“Bloggers perpetuate a lot of it. No offense.”
No offense taken. I get it. Bloggers love to trump up the doom and gloom because they know the more upset a particular topic makes you, the more likely you are to click on links to articles about it, comment on them, and share your concern with your friends. It’s just a sad fact that happy headlines don’t perform nearly as well as negative ones (which is probably why Revenge of The Fans has only earned a grand total about $150 since we began monetizing the site five months ago). So believe me, I get it.
But these comments should put your mind at ease, since it doesn’t sound like things are that bad- or that out of the ordinary- with these contract talks.
Both Sides WANT To Make A Deal
I’ve heard the Ben Affleck situation come up a few times lately, as a comparison to what’s now happening with Cavill (“He’s out, just like Affleck’s out. The studio dropped the ball again.”) But there’s a huge difference between the game of Bat and Mouse that Affleck’s been playing with the studio for so long, and what’s going on with Cavill. In Affleck’s case, both sides have gone back and forth, switching from hot to cold to hotter to colder, and that’s why there’s been an endless and dizzying amount of twists to that relationship. In Cavill’s case, both sides want a new deal.
That changes everything.
Cavill wants to keep playing Superman; The studio wants him to keep playing Superman.
Unlike with Affleck, the only hold-up is the contract itself and what it does or doesn’t include.
That’s why I’m not worried, and why I don’t think anyone should be panicking just yet.
But this all leaves us with one big question:
The Shazam! Cameo?
Since I’m the one who broke the story that an appearance by Cavill as Superman was in the cards for Shazam!– something that wasn’t altogether shocking, since Omega Underground had previously reported that there were spoken references to Superman in the audition tapes for the film- folks have been asking me how these latest contract developments factor in.
So let’s discuss that.
*SPOILER-ISH ALERT For SHAZAM!*
At the time of my original reporting on the subject, it wasn’t clear what the nature of his appearance in the film would be. Would it be a fleeting visual reference, like a glimpse of him on Billy Batson’s TV? Would he be an ongoing mentor type, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Homecoming? I had no answers to questions like those at the time, but I do now.
As I’ve alluded to on The Fanboy Podcast (formerly the El Fanboy Podcast) in the past, the Superman bit in Shazam! can best be compared to the scene where he races The Flash in the post-credits for Justice League. In other words, it’s a cute piece of fan service, and it would be between him and Batson in his 14-year-old normal form.
And it hasn’t been filmed yet.
That last bit is very important, because it all ties into the aforementioned contract talks. See, while Cavill still has a fourth appearance left on his old contract- which they could use for Shazam!– the studio is unlikely to proceed with it if a new deal isn’t put in a place. Which makes sense, because what’s the point of continuing to establish Cavill as Superman if he’s gone forever after Shazam!? That’s why it’s so important that they get all of this stuff figured out first.
Just weeks ago, Cavill was on Instagram posting a training video with the following caption:
“Working on the Super Buns! Whiiiiiiich if you vote for me in the Teen Choice Awards and I end up winning then you may or may not see them in a tight blue outfit much sooner!”
(See how he’s using social media to stoke the flames and force the studio’s hand? Very savvy move, I tell ya.)
That training was presumably for the Shazam! cameo, as the new deal was very close to getting finished. But now, just like the contract talks, the state of the cameo is in limbo until the dust settles and a new deal is reached.
There’s definitely one filmmaker who’d love for these talks to finish and for Cavill to be locked in, and that’s Shazam! director David F. Sandberg. As was revealed last night, his film has some very close ties to the existing DCU canon. If you take a close look at this new, official still from the film you’ll see that it’s littered with references to Cavill’s three Superman appearances so far in MOS, BvS, and Justice League. Yet Freddy Freeman’s head is conveniently obscuring the cover of the Daily Planet, since they’re not yet sure if they can show Cavill’s face as Superman just in case the role ends up getting recast:
It’s very clear from Sandberg’s twitter posts, too, that he has an affinity for the existing mythos. He proudly shared a close-up of the fake issue of Time Magazine seen in this picture which depicts the attack on Metropolis from Man of Steel, and it would appear that the death and return of Superman is very important Batson and Freeman. So one can easily extrapolate that the film would be made that much stronger by removing any uncertainty about Cavill’s future.
And yet, if we look at things through the eyes of the studio, you can see why they’d be gun shy about the cameo. If it gets filmed, and Sandberg pushes to use it, that would only give Cavill more leverage in these contract discussions.
So it’s all interwoven, it’s all complicated, and it’s all temporarily on hold.
But, again, I wouldn’t sweat it. First of all, as previously stated, I think a new deal will be reached. Second of all, cameos like that can be shot and added very late in the process. There are famous examples (The Shawarma Tag on The Avengers) of fan service add-ons shot and added mere weeks/days before the release of a film, and Justice League proved that they’re not afraid to add things at the last second- considering the Lex/Deathstroke tag wasn’t included until the final round of screenings for press.
What Does This Mean For SDCC And The Present?
There was once a ton of positive buzz around Cavill appearing at SDCC. I, myself, shared some bochinche (aka Word-on-the-Street Gossip) that Cavill would be the one to introduce the Shazam! footage that they’re prepping for the show. At the time, with the deal being so close to done, it even seemed like a possibility we could get an official announcement about a sequel to Man of Steel. But with things stalling out the way they suddenly did, I think we can put any such thoughts on ice.
While I’d be pleasantly surprised to see Henry pop up at SDCC, I don’t think WB/DC would allow that without a new deal in place. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see how it would make any sense to give him any additional leverage. If he were to pop up, have Hall H erupt, and get everyone talking about his Superman again, that would cripple the studio’s chances of striking a reasonable deal.
So, barring an 11th hour deal being reached in these next few days, I would not expect to see Henry on Saturday.
It’s a shame, but that’s what hope is for. And that’s fitting, after all, when you consider that so much about this iteration of Superman hinges on the idea of hope. While it would be great to have some certainty right now, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic and to keep looking to the sky.