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Josh Hartnett Says He Turned Down 'Superman Returns' As Well As Playing Spider-Man And Batman

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist April 29, 2014 at 12:00PM

This spring Josh Hartnett returns to our collective consciousness in Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," and it has been a long time since we've seen him anything. The past four of five years has seen the actor drift with indies nobody saw ("Stuck Between Stations," "August," "Girl Walks Into A Bar"), genre fare that no one saw ("Bunraku," "I Come With The Rain") and troubled international blockbusters ("Singularity"). But perhaps his career might've been different, if he had made some different choices.
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August Josh Hartnett

This spring Josh Hartnett returns to our collective consciousness in Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," and it has been a long time since we've seen him anything. The past four of five years has seen the actor drift with indies nobody saw ("Stuck Between Stations," "August," "Girl Walks Into A Bar"), genre fare that no one saw ("Bunraku," "I Come With The Rain") and troubled international blockbusters ("Singularity"). But perhaps his career might've been different, if he had made some different choices. 

In an interview with Details, the actor is up front about turning down some major roles, including Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns," early in his career. "Spider-Man was something we talked about. Batman was another one. But I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me, and I didn't want that. I didn't want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger," he explained.

And to be fair, there is a kernel of truth to that. Christopher Reeve forever carried the Supes tag, Brandon Routh is still referred to as "that-guy-who-played-Superman," and right now, the only thing Henry Cavill can stake his name to is wearing the blue and red tights. But as you might guess, those around Hartnett in Hollywood didn't take kindly to his attitude.

"I didn't have those agents for much longer after that. There was a lot of infighting between my manager and agents, trying to figure out who to put the blame on. It got to the point where none of us were able to work together," Harnett said.

However, at age 35, Harnett has mellowed a bit, and if Warner Bros. came to him again (theoretically) to play Superman, he'd take a different approach. "I'd say, 'Let's talk about how it would be done, see if we can get on the same page.' Compromise doesn't scare me anymore."

Sometimes, life lessons are learned the hard way, but Hartnett seems pretty level-headed about it all. "Penny Dreadful" kicks off on May 11th.

This article is related to: Josh Hartnett, Superman Returns, Batman


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