'Brightburn' Spoilers: One Fact About Superman "Never Came Up," Says Star
In the new horror movie Brightburn, a Midwestern farm boy named Brandon Breyer reaches puberty and discovers superpowers originating from his alien DNA. From producer James Gunn and director David Yarovesky, the film is basically a retelling of Superman’s origin story before making a hard swerve reimagining the Man of Steel into a malevolent avatar of the apocalypse.
Superman was undoubtedly an influence on Brightburn, but actor David Denman (The Office, Power Rangers), who plays Brandon’s father, Kyle, says Superman’s key relationship to his adopted father, Jonathan “Pa” Kent, never came up.
“That was never discussed in the connection,” Denman tells Inverse. “You know, there’s so many superhero genre origin stories that I think they were just really all about trying to do their own thing.”
One big debate among Superman fans, and even comic book writers, is whether his true identity is actually Superman or Clark Kent. But many agree that Superman/Clark Kent is only as pure and decent as he is because of his wholesome upbringing by the Kents.
Said comic book writer Marv Wolfman in a 2018 roundtable at Google: “Superman … came to Earth as an infant. All of his morality, all of his viewpoint, come from the Kents.”
As for Brightburn, Denman says the only major direction he had was in “the confrontation scenes” with Brandon, played by Jackson A. Dunn.
“They really pushed me to be a little more violent, a little more intense with him,” Denman says. “When you watch it from an audience perspective, it’s like, Maybe this is a little too much. But because we’ve seen him do all these horrific things, by the time I’m putting it together, the audience has also put it together. So they’re like, ‘He’s crazy! You gotta do something!*’”
“I think it was inspired on their part to go in that direction,” he adds.
Out in theaters on May 24, Brightburn tells the story of a barren married couple (Denman and Elizabeth Banks) who adopt an alien child when his pod crash lands on their farm. While the boy’s childhood is, quote, “normal,” he begins to awaken to horrifying powers after puberty.
In a key scene in Brightburn, audiences learn that Denman’s character, Kyle, was never totally on board with the adoption. The actor reveals that scene was changed from an earlier version to be much scarier and “surreal” than how it originally played as the film’s opening prologue.
“It’s very important, because you see how much apprehension Kyle has from the get-go,” Denman says. “It became this sort of surreal dream sequence: How much of it actually happened? There was a version of the script with that scene with a different ending. It was the beginning of the movie, where they go out driving in the woods, and they find the pod, and she’s [Elizabeth Banks] just like ‘Let’s keep it.’”
Denman continues, “I like this version much better. It’s creepy and scary, but it is also revealing of the dynamic of the two of them early on.”
Best known for his role as Pam’s ex-fiancé, “Roy,” in The Office, Denman is a SoCal native from Orange County who, like the Breyers in Brightburn, also lived on a farm in Washington. “I was like 9. We had pigs, chickens, horses, and cows. Just a little kid running around, having a blast.”
In his youth, Denman grew up with a special affection towards Superman, the DC Comics icon and the mold modern superheroes are born from. The TV series with George Reeves, Adventures of Superman, and Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, defined Denman’s childhood.
“I saw it as a kid, and I loved it,” he says. There’s a generational gap between himself and Jackson Dunn, the 15-year-old actor who plays Brandon/Brightburn. “It’s funny to see Jackson having grown up his entire life with the Marvel Universe. When I was a kid, the only movies would be Superman or Batman.”
Playing the father to Brightburn isn’t the first time Denman’s had to raise a superhero. In 2017, Denman played Sam Scott, the father to Jason Scott (aka the Red Ranger) in Power Rangers. Denman says the two characters have completely differing views on how they see their sons.
“They’re very different. In Power Rangers, he never knew his son was a Power Ranger,” says Denman. “There’s a moment of, Hmm, maybe, but he never puts two and two together. He’s looking for his son, not realizing his son is fighting the bad guys. Whereas in this [Brightburn], he realizes there’s something wrong, and we need to do something about it.”
He adds, “And he’s not a superhero. He’s a supervillain. He’s a psychopath that everyone just takes too long to realize.”
Brightburn is in theaters now.