Why Jon Hamm Isn’t Too Old to Play Superman

By  · Published on September 14th, 2010

This probably won’t even matter once the rumors die down, but for the moment, at least a few reputable sources are claiming insider information that Warners is “looking at” Jon Hamm for Superman. By that, I envision a room full of execs watching episodes of Mad Men with tiny craft paper-made Superman suits to hold up between them and the screen.

Still, there are voices out there claiming that Hamm, at the ripe old age of 39, is too old to play the Man of Steel.

It couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve got the math to prove it.

First of all, there’s the question of Superman’s age. On the one hand, he’s a fully functioning adult with a fairly difficult job to attain for a youngster. Becoming a beat reporter, and one of the most trusted on staff, takes time. It also begs the question of what Superman will do when newspapers cease to exist. Will new origin stories see him starting at the Daily Planet Online?

On the other hand, Superman is a superhero, which means he exhibits a certain strength and youthfulness that defies human aging.

It’s understandable that some fans would want to see a young Supes, but it’s not at all necessary, especially since Hamm seems to have the athleticism to pull off the action scenes. That being said, if something is truly lacking in the actor (and all actors that have played the part) it’s that he’s not a hulking mass of giant muscle like the comic book suggests.

The real argument, however, against Hamm being too old is the average age of people who have played the character thus far.

Kirk Alyn was 38 when he starred in the original serial. So was George Reeves when he starred in the hit TV show. Bud Collyer was 58 when he played the role for The New Adventures of Superman in the 60s. Youth for playing the superhero seems to be a modern invention. Christopher Reeve was 26 for the first film in the 80s. Dean Cain was 27 when he starred in Lois & Clark. Brandon Routh was also only 26 when he rebooted the franchise.

Doing the math on those actors, the average age turns out to be 35.5. Thus, it’s not really far off to imagine a Superman played by a 39-year-old. Especially when a 58-year-old did it.

The question is whether a modern audience will respond to him. Of course they will. No one dictated youth on Superman. There’s no rule that says he has to be a young guy. Plus, beyond the sheer numerical quality here, Hamm is exactly right physically (except for his lack of steroid use) for the part. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why find a perfect fit and then toss them out because they were born in the wrong year?

On a another casting note, one of the problems with Superman Returns was the age disparity between Routh and Spacey. Spacey was 48 when that movie came out, and his Lex Luthor looked like Professor Dumbledore going up against a grad student. It looked like he would have been more effective at luring Supes to his death with a Kryptonite iPhone.

Of course, the biggest concern regarding age is really about the longevity of the franchise. If it’s a hit, and Hamm stays in the picture, he’s looking at possibly seeing his 45th birthday in celebration of the third film. My direct argument for why this doesn’t matter?

Just For Men exists.

This isn’t meant to advocate against Brandon Routh, who would be fine in the role again. This is meant only to point out how misguided it is to worry about Hamm’s age for a role like this. It’s almost as big a misstep as trying to make Superman invincible. The production should take a cue from the comics and give Superman some true vulnerabilities.

Digressions aside, Hamm would be great in the role, and frankly, it’ll be nice to see a bit of experience and confidence in the character instead of the bright eyes of youth staring at the tough problems of the world. No matter what age of actor they go with, I have a feeling Hamm will remain a strong contender because he’d be great in the role, he’s a known entity, and he comes with pre-lubed hair.

What do you think?

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