There was a time when Muhammad Ali could have been Superman.
The legendary boxer was part of DC’s shortlist for viable actors who could portray the Man of Steel in the 1978 comic book movie, according to a new article by The Hollywood Reporter. The info was included in the commentary track for the home release of the 40th anniversary edition of Superman.
On the track, producer Ilya Salkind talks about Ali and other actors who were considered for the role. He said he had to make a list of actors for DC Comics to approve.
“I had made a list…that was absolutely hilarious because they had to approve people like Cassius Clay [Ali’s name before his adoption of Islam] then, they had approved Al Pacino, they had approved Dustin Hoffman,” he said. “They had approved them, they could play Superman.” Hoffman was also considered to play the villainous Lex Luthor.
As we now know, the role of Superman went to the then-unknown Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman portrayed Luthor. But Ali’s potential role as a superhero can be seen as a foreshadowing of how Hollywood would develop later on. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see Black actors as superheroes, including Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Ali would be proud.