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Earth, your new Superman has landed.

Brandon Routh, a 25-year-old actor of minor note and credits, was officially named Friday as the big screen's next Man of Steel.

The announcement by Warner Bros. was more formality than revelation. Routh's secret identity was blown days ago by the previously unheralded movie-scoop Website LatinoReview.com.

In a statement, director Bryan Singer said it was always his intention to cast an unknown in the iconic superhero role, last held by the late Christopher Reeve.

"Brandon is an extremely fine actor who possesses the physical qualifications of Clark Kent/Superman," Singer said of the 6-foot-2 Iowan. "But he also embodies the legacy and history of this character in a way that makes me certain he's the right choice."

Routh will go before the cameras early next year when production begins in Australia. Though billed across the Web as Superman Returns, Superman Reborn or Superman Lives, the movie remains untitled.

Superman (Whatever It's Called) is slated for a summer 2006 release.

The film will be only Routh's second. He recently completed a supporting role in the thriller Deadly. That movie, starring Laura Prepon, is to be released next year.

Prime-time viewers have seen Routh, if they paid attention, in episodes of Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls and Cold Case. Daytime soap fans have seen Routh, albeit briefly, on ABC's One Life to Live.

Routh is as obscure as Reeve was when the latter snagged the title role in 1978's Superman--The Movie. Like Routh, Reeve was young (24 at the time he was cast), a soap alum (Love of Life) and game for making his first impression on audiences in blue tights.

In an interview published in the Chicago Sun-Times this week, screenwriter Dan Harris, who wrote the new movie with Michael Dougherty, said the Superman screen tests made by more established actors never quite worked.

"The biggest problems is that the known actors bring the baggage of their own personas," Harris said.

Stars whose names were floated as possible Supermen in recent years included (in alphabetical order): Jason Behr, Hayden Christensen, Brendan Fraser, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Hartnett, Asthon Kutcher and Paul Walker.

Oscar winner Nicolas Cage was the highest profile almost-Superman--just weeks away from suiting up in 1998 when Warners pulled the plug on the production then headed by Tim Burton.

Soap actor Matthew Bomer was the Brandon Routh of last year--perhaps just weeks away from suiting up when Warners reportedly nixed then director Brett Ratner's choice as too low profile.

The way Harris described his screenplay in the Sun-Times a new Superman, and the new movie to go with him, may have been worth the wait. (It's been 17 years since the Reeve era petered out; it's been nearly 10 years since Warners began its quest to revive the franchise.)

Harris said the new movie will not rehash the origin legend from the '78 Superman or the current WB series Smallville, instead taking its jumping-off point from 1980's Superman II (and ignoring the two lesser Reeve sequels, 1983's Superman III and 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace).

"[Superman] will begin in his late 20s," Harris said in the Sun-Times. "He lost his powers in Superman II and now he has the powers back. But something has happened because he's been away for a long time."

Now that he's back, Routh becomes the fifth actor to inherit the cape and "S" emblem after Reeve, Kirk Alyn, who starred in the Superman movie serial of the 1940s, and George Reeves, another Iowan who patrolled Metropolis in the 1950s TV series, The Adventures of Superman, and Dean Cain of ABC's 1993-97 series Lois & Clark. (Smallville's Tom Welling only plays a Superman-in-training.)

With Routh installed as Superman and, in turn, Clark Kent, speculation has turned to which actress will be entrusted with Lois Lane's Daily Planet notepad.

Cinescape.com said this week that six actresses, including The O.C.'s Mischa Barton, Star Wars' Natalie Portman and Felicity's Keri Russell, reportedly were on Singer's list.

A list that just got one name--and one key job--shorter.