''Superman'' director Ratner is out. Now he'll have time to do ''Rush Hour 3''

By Gary Susman
Updated March 20, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

First there were no actors. Now there’s no director. After trying in vain for six months to cast ”Superman,” director Brett Ratner has dropped out of the film, becoming the fourth director to take his name off the project since producer Jon Peters started trying to revive the franchise more than five years ago. It’s now back to the drawing board for the Warner Bros. project, which has a script, a budget north of $200 million, and an August start date, but no star and no shooter.

In a statement, Ratner said Wednesday, ”I have chosen to withdraw as director of ‘Superman.’ The difficulty of casting the role of Superman has contributed to my decision. I appreciate the efforts of Warner Bros. and the entire production team during this process.” According to Variety, that production team balked at Ratner’s choice of little-known soap star Matthew Bomer (”Guiding Light”) to play the Man of Steel, after several higher-profile prospects, notably Josh Hartnett and Paul Walker, passed on the role and the three-picture, seven- to 10-year commitment it required. It was the studio’s rejection of Ratner’s selection of Bomer over ”Mummy” star Brendan Fraser that finally led him to bolt the director’s chair, Variety reports. Warner production chief Jeff Robinov issued his own statement, saying, ”We have tremendous regard for Brett’s creativity and passion for this project and we understand that this was a very tough choice for him. We are disappointed but wish him the best in his future pursuits.”

A studio spokesperson said Warners is still committed to the film, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which said that execs were already considering ”Charlie’s Angels” director McG, who had been attached tot he project before Ratner.

But hey, at least Ratner now has plenty of time to direct ”Rush Hour 3.” Variety reports that New Line has already commissioned a script from Jason Richman (”Bad Company”). However, it’s not clear if Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, who starred in Ratner’s first two ”Rush Hour” movies, will be available for the third. Which means he could face a ”Superman”-style casting nightmare all over again.