Bodybuilder Frank Zane Was Cast as Marvel Superhero in Failed “Silver Surfer” Movie

Frank Zane was cast to play the Silver Surfer in a doomed Marvel movie from the 1980s.

The year was 1979, a 37-year-old Frank Zane was about to win his third Mr. Olympia title, and Marvel Comics was a company that few in the mainstream had ever heard of. But Marvel wanted to dip their toe into movies and their idea was a cosmic musical, co-written by Paul McCartney, and starring Zane as the Silver Surfer, a metallic alien who flies between planets on a surfboard.

Recent articles from Men’s Health and Digital Spy unearthed the fascinating tale of the failed movie and we decided you need to hear about it. It began when Lee Kramer, the executive producer of the Olivia Newton-John musical Xanadu, wanted to combine cosmic universe and rock music vibes.

Kramer wanted to Zane to play the Silver Surfer, and although a lack of funding meant nothing ended up hitting the big screen, an eBay listing of a poster that features Zane as the Silver Surfer is one of the few tantalizing pieces of evidence that the movie was put into development and Zane actually dressed up as the guy for what might have been an iconic film. Or, given how badly Xanadu fared at the box office, a memorable flop. Either way, we would have liked to have seen this happen.

silver surfer
Concept art by Lee Kramer, published in Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story”

The listing describes the poster:

“Silver Surfer test proof movie poster — original one sheet movie poster from 1979. This is a test proof movie poster of a film that was slated to be made but never reached fruition. The photo on the poster is of Frank Zane who was in pre-production starring as the Silver Surfer. With his body painted silver and holding titles such as Mr. America, Mr. World and countless others he was poised to play a great Silver Surfer. Due to legalities the movie never got made but this was the first attempt at a Silver Surfer being made in 1979.”

[Related: Watch Frank Zane act in a bizarre Olympic weightlifting commercial!]

Another notable name approached to be involved in the movie was Paul McCartney. The Beatles legend was asked to compose the movie’s music, and Digital Spy reported that he was very interested in the gig. Would-be producer Kramer described the film,

“We’re going to make an epic picture on the scope of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the kind of soundtrack that that film had, only using contemporary rock and roll (…) it’s even conceivable that the Surfer might have a chant or a fanfare made up of one thousand electric guitar[s]. Doing the Silver Surfer has always been a dream of mine, and now it’s going to be realized.”

The Silver Surfer is the herald of the planet-devouring Marvel bad guy Galactus; he zipped around the universe finding planets for him to eat. The film would have seen the Surfer head to Earth, betray Galactus, and then be lured back into Galactus’ fold by a golden counterpart-slash-love interest called Ardina — played by the star of Grease and Xanadu, Olivia Newton-John. Her workout anthem Physical would have featured prominently in the film.

The movie’s funding fell through and humanity would wait 27 more years to see the Silver Surfer on screen in 2007’s poorly received Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. There are rumors that Marvel wants to take another crack at a Surfer movie detailing his origins, but it’s unlikely it will involve Frank Zane or ’80s workout songs. If that’s what you want, the closest you can get is shelling out $1,350 for that eBay poster.

Featured image from @officialfrankzane on Instagram and Lee Kramer in Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” .