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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Comic book crusader: Bryan Singer
Bryan Singer
Singer's success began with his award-winning debut Public Access
Director Bryan Singer is bringing the Man of Steel back to the big screen.

The New Yorker, best known for the X-Men film franchise and 1995's The Usual Suspects, is reviving the caped hero in Superman Returns.

Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth and newcomer Brandon Routh as Superman, the film is expected to become one of the biggest blockbusters of 2006.

Director Singer has come a long way since his modest debut in 1989.

Early buzz

Adopted and raised in New Jersey, the teenage Singer briefly enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in New York City to study filming.

He later transferred to the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television where he honed his skills, before graduating in 1989.

Lion's Den (1988)
Public Access (1993)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Apt Pupil (1998)
X-Men (2000)
X2: X-Men United (2003)

While studying, he directed the low-budget short film Lion's Den, starring childhood friend Ethan Hawke.

It gained enough buzz to grant him the opportunity to do his first feature-length production.

Teaming up with high school friend Christopher McQuarrie, Singer wrote and directed Public Access.

The film, about a drifter who disrupts a seemingly idyllic small town, went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival.

The pair collaborated again for the 1995 thriller The Usual Suspects.

The indie smash was inundated with accolades, including three Baftas and Academy Awards for McQuarrie and star Kevin Spacey.

Underlying prejudice

The film's success led Singer to be regarded as one of most exciting new directors in Hollywood.

However his follow-up, Apt Pupil, based on the Stephen King novella and starring Sir Ian McKellen, was critically panned and considered a box-office failure.

The offer to direct a major blockbuster based on the popular X-Men comics was his chance to return to form, despite initially declining the project.

Singer's X-Men debut  was one of the top-grossing hits of 2000
Singer's X-Men debut was one of the box office hits of 2000

He told Entertainment Weekly: ""I had no interest in it because I didn't know what it was. It was just a comic book."

But after delving into the story, Singer found he sympathised with X-Men's underlying tale of prejudice, due to his own experiences of growing up in a Jewish household and his homosexuality.

Despite a limited budget of $75 million (39.8m), the film became a blockbuster hit, amassing almost $300 million (159m) worldwide and making it one of the biggest box office hits of 2000.

2003's X2: X-Men United was also an international success, making around $215 million (114m) in the US alone.

With his reputation cemented, Singer branched out into television production with his company Bad Hat Harry Productions. The director is behind cult medical drama House and wrote sci-fi series Triangle.

Perfect choice

Many expected Singer to direct the third X-Men film, but instead he turned to another comic book venture, replacing Charlie's Angels director McG on Superman Returns.

Brandon Routh, an unknown actor,  has been cast as Superman
Unknown actor Brandon Routh has been cast as the new Superman

Singer told the trade paper Hollywood Reporter that he had always "dreamed" of directing a Superman movie, adding that the hero inspired his X-Men films.

He added: "I feel that Superman has been late in his return and it is time for him to fly again."

Given Singer's success with bringing comic book heroes to life, the director is widely considered the perfect choice - and a sequel has already been announced for 2009.

Of his decision to cast an unknown in the leading role, Singer said: "Superman is much larger than any actor.

"I wanted him to come just with the baggage of the superhero - that's enough history to contend with."

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