Singer (left) on set with Brandon Routh as Clark Kent
After directing the first two "X-Men" films, Bryan Singer surprised many fans when he decided against working on the third installment and instead took control of the latest attempt to return Superman to the big screen. The project had languished in development--with multiple scripts, stars, and directors attached--for a decade. Singer succeeded in realizing his vision with "Superman Returns." In it, the Man of Steel comes back to Earth after a five-year absence, to find Lois Lane engaged and the mother of a 5-year-old son, and Lex Luthor again plotting massive destruction. Singer spoke with Beliefnet about Superman's power--and its limit--his spirituality, and how this movie compares with "X-Men."

Why a new Superman movie at this moment?

I've been a fan of Superman since I was a kid, from the George Reeves television series to the the first Christopher Reeve film that Richard Donner made in 1978. It's what inspired me to make the first two "X-Men" films. And so, from a "me" standpoint, I was available, and Warner Brothers was willing to take the first 10 years of development that they had put into other incarnations and push them aside and allow me to make the film I wanted to make. And so, when that opportunity was there, I just jumped at it because I'm such a fan.

How has our culture in America--or our reality--changed in the two decades since the last "Superman" movie came out, and how did that influence the way that you made decisions in creating this movie?I wanted to make him a more global superhero. I think he's always, in his heart, an American superhero. He was raised on a farm in Kansas. That's his background, besides his Kryptonian background. But in today's world, I felt he should be more of a global superhero. I wanted to really re-state the notion that he can be everywhere on the earth. He's Earth's greatest protector. He's not just America's greatest protector.

I think, during the height of Superman's popularity in the '40s, he was very much an inspirational mechanism for the troops overseas, but he never actually solved the problems in World War II. He left that to the real heroes, to the soldiers. He led more by example. And I wanted him to do that in the same way, but on a global level.

And did September 11th and our new understanding of the threat of terrorism influence you or have a role here?

I thought about it. You know, how can you not? In fact, there was a moment I put in an earlier draft of the script, which I was never going to shoot because it would have dated the film. I want the film to exist in a kind of timeless era, in a a timeless way. But, there was a moment that I at one point entertained where, after he was flying around solving problems by night, at dawn he'd be standing at Ground Zero, just standing there acknowledging something that happened while he was gone, something he couldn't--he wasn't there--to prevent. And yet, I didn't shoot the scene because I felt Ground Zero won't always look like it does today or tomorrow. It'll have buildings there, so, it would date the film.

But that spirit, that idea, was in my mind when I thought about the notion of a hero like Superman being gone--like having someone and then they're not there, and then what has happened in their absence? So, that idea had crossed my mind.

But I certainly didn't want Superman going across the globe solving terrorist problems, very much in the same way that in the Second World War, you didn't want to have him running around defeating Hitler. Because he leads by example. He does the right [thing], he doesn't solve your problems. He helps you solve your problems by just being supportive, helping every once in awhile.

It makes him sound like a buddy or a psychologist a little bit.

Well, no, because he's proactive. Quite the opposite, actually. He actually comes, and he can't police--it's not right for him. But, the greatest thing about him is that he has the power to do anything physically on earth. He just chooses not to do it.