Superman: Flyby Photo Shows Josh Hartnett in Costume for Brett Ratner Movie

Hartnett turned down the project, which ultimately evolved into Superman Returns.

A new photo is circulating online, purporting to be a wardrobe test for Brett Ratner's cancelled Superman movie and featuring Oppenheimer actor Josh Hartnett in costume as the Man of Steel. The costume is notable for featuring the red logo against a black background rather than yellow -- something that has been done in media before, notably in the Max Fleischer cartoons, but which doesn't "pop" the same way in a still photograph, making the Superman: The Movie-inspired S shield more difficult to make out on the suit. It's likely any final version of the suit would have addressed this problem in the way Man of Steel did, by having a more textured sigil so that the "S" is more obvious.

The costume test was from Superman: Flyby, based on a screenplay by JJ Abrams. Eventually, Abrams exited the project, but his script was still going to serve as the basis for a movie by Ratner. A number of different actors were considered for Superman, including Henry Cavill and Brandon Routh. Hartnett was offered the job, but ultimately turned it down. Matthew Bomer was hired for the role, but not long after that, Superman: Flyby fell apart entirely.

You can see the image below, via filmmaker Ryan Unicomb, who has a long history of digging up material from unmade or unreleased productions.

After Superman: Flyby was cancelled, Warner Bros. brought in Bryan Singer to make the movie that ultimately became Superman Returns, recasting the role of Superman with Brandon Routh. Ratner moved to Fox, where he directed X-Men: The Last Stand. This had the effect of Ratner turning the Superman franchise off to Singer, and Singer turning over the X-Men franchise over to Ratner, even though that wasn't intentional on the part of anyone involved.

"I was at that time of my career, where a lot of people were asking me to do those types of movies," Hartnett explained in 2020. "I was having meetings with those directors and people were saying: 'Would you be interested?' I talked to them about what they were doing and I ultimately decided I wasn't, but that was a very privileged place for a young man to be in. I'm a little bit outside of the box and had the leverage to do that, and that's the direction I chose."

Around the same time, Hartnett had conversations with Christopher Nolan about playing Batman, but the two parted ways before any offer was ever on the table.