Sure, looking back it might seem as if Christopher Reeve (RIP, Chris) was destined to play the Man of Steel in the 1978 film, but he actually beat out more than 200 other unknown actors for the job. And he only got the chance to play Superman after a lot of very well-known actors on Hollywood’s A-list either passed on the role or because someone at Warner Brothers decided they weren’t quite right for the part.
Your mission: See how many of these actors you can recognize from photos taken in the mid-1970s, around the time the film’s producers were on the hunt for their cinematic Superman. See below for the answer key; the name of each actor/celebrity is followed by some of the films they were famous for at the time.
1. Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, The Lords of Flatbush): lobbied hard for the role but didn’t get it; he later heard that Marlon Brando, who had casting approval, turned him down.
2. Charlton Heston (The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Airport 1975)
3. David Soul (TV’s Starsky & Hutch)
4. Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance, The Odessa File): lined up to play Superman but eventually let go by producers who felt he wasn’t right for the role.
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Hercules in New York, Pumping Iron): the bodybuilding champion had the right physique to be a superhero, but it was felt he didn’t have the right look or sound for the Man of Steel.
6. Bruce Jenner (gold medal decathlon winner at 1976 Summer Olympics): auditioned for the role, but didn’t have the acting talent to pull it off.
7. Charles Bronson (Death Wish, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen)
8. Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, King Kong)
9. James Caan (The Godfather, The Gambler, Rollerball): reportedly said “There’s no way I’m getting in that silly suit.”
10. Nick Nolte (TV’s Rich Man, Poor Man; Who’ll Stop the Rain): supposedly said he’d only take the part if they rewrote the script to make Clark Kent a schizophrenic.
11. Jan-Michael Vincent (Buster and Billie, Going Home)
12. Patrick Wayne (The Deserter, The Green Berets): he was cast for the role but had to drop out when his father, John Wayne, was diagnosed with cancer
13. Lyle Waggoner (TV’s The Carol Burnett Show, Wonder Woman)
14. Muhammad Ali (World heavyweight boxing champion)
15. Kris Kristofferson (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Star Is Born)
16. Sam Elliott (Lifeguard, I Will Fight No More Forever)
17. Ryan O’Neal (Love Story, Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon)
18. Robert Wagner (The Pink Panther, The Towering Inferno, TV’s It Takes a Thief)
19. Paul Newman (The Sting, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid): offered his choice of Superman, Jor-El or Lex Luthor, and he turned down all three.
20. Perry King (The Lords of Flatbush, The Wild Party, Mandingo)
21. James Brolin (Westworld, Skyjacked, The Cape Town Affair)
22. Christopher Walken (The Happiness Cage, The Sentinel, Annie Hall): among the many then-unknown actors who auditioned for the part.
23. Neil Diamond (Singer/songwriter; “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I Am, I Said” and “Song Sung Blue” were among his biggest hits in the ’70s): lobbied hard for the role, but was ignored.
24. Robert Redford (The Sting, The Way We Were, All the President’s Men): offered a large sum to take the role, but he felt he was too famous to pull it off.
25. Burt Reynolds (Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit): turned down the role.
26. Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry, Play Misty for Me, The Outlaw Josey Wales): claimed he was too busy to do it when offered the role.
27. Warren Beatty (Shampoo, Bonnie & Clyde, Heaven Can Wait)
28. Richard Gere (Baby Blue Marine, Looking for Mr. Goodbar)