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Ben Affleck to Play 'Superman'

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... Ben Affleck (search) in blue tights?

Affleck has signed to play George Reeves (search) — the tragic actor who died under mysterious circumstances after portraying Superman in the eponymous 1950s TV series — in a modestly budgeted indie film, "Truth, Justice and the American Way." (search)

It's only the second time that Affleck has gone before the cameras since his career began imploding in the wake of his failed engagement to Jennifer Lopez and a string of flops that included "Gigli," "Jersey Girl," "Paycheck" and "Surviving Christmas."

Since wrapping "Paycheck" at the height of the Bennifer media storm two years ago, Affleck dropped out of two big-budget films at Disney, the sports drama "Glory Road," in which he was replaced by Josh Lucas, and the romantic comedy "The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," which is being recast.

Insiders said Affleck, who was getting as much as $12 million for major studio vehicles, has opted to return to his roots in indie films — where he could be paid less than $2 million per role — as a form of career rehab.

"It's a great choice that's pretty critic-proof," says Affleck's pal Kevin Smith, who has directed him in four movies. "It's not the lead, and he's playing an actor whose career was in turmoil. Smells like Ben's comeback to me."

"Truth, Justice and the American Way" is set to be directed by Allen Coulter (search), the principal director of "The Sopranos," starring Adrien Brody (search) as a reporter investigating the death of Reeves, which was officially listed as a suicide.

Some believe Reeves, who became depressed after he realized he was typecast as the Man of Steel, was carrying on an affair with the wife (played in the film by Diane Lane (search)) of a jealous studio executive.

In the dark comedy "Man About Town," which recently wrapped in Vancouver after a low-profile shoot, Affleck plays a Hollywood agent with an unfaithful wife who faces a media scandal after a reporter finds his diary.

"This guy won an Oscar at 24 — he's 32 now. He needed to stumble," says "Man About Town" director Mike Binder. "He learned a lot from the last two years, trust me."