Tag Archives: production

Superman 1.62: Catching the Cat

Time Magazine — August 1, 1977:

“Even with the crane and wires, flying is not easy. Christopher Reeve, 24, who plays Superman, has to make a dozen or so passes 50 ft. in the air before he bags his cat, made suitably cooperative by the taxidermist. Every once in a while Superman is brought down for an adjustment of his ailerons. He has 25 different costumes and perhaps six different kinds of capes—for standing, sitting, flying and coming in for a landing. He is now wearing his flying cape, which is stretched out with wires so that it appears to billow in the wind.

“The changes made, he goes back into the air, accompanied by cheers from local residents who are hanging out of windows. “Hey, Supraman, why cantcha get the cat?” someone shouts in that rich blend of gravel and adenoids known as Brooklynese. “Thattaboy, Supraman!” yells another when he actually touches the dusty beast.”

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Superman 1.57: A Man Can Fly

So here’s a scene that we didn’t see in Superman: The Movie, straight from the shooting script:

The eagle bursts through a white cloud bank up once more into the clean blue air. After a short moment SUPERMAN does likewise, trailing the bird.

For a few moments we are privileged to witness this real beauty and poetry of flying as the eagle and SUPERMAN chase each other through the air doing banks, loops, and dives, swooping closely together like two beautiful fighter planes in tight formation.

The unspoken ceremony over, they silently acknowledge each other, then head off in different directions.

Obviously, that scene didn’t happen, because who has the time to choreograph eagles, but the interesting thing is that it made the cut all the way up to the shooting script. That says to me that they really didn’t know how hard it was going to be just getting Superman to fly in a credible way, without having to do a fucking raptor ballet on top of it.

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Superman 1.39: Chasing Lois

Now, according to the opening credits, the lead characters of Superman: The Movie are Superman’s dad, then the villain, and then Superman, the villain’s sidekick, Superman’s boss, Superman’s foster father, the leader of the Science Council on Krypton, and Lois Lane, which in my opinion is burying… well, the lead.

Personally, I think that the main characters of a romantic comedy are the people who are involved in the romance and the comedy, but, you know, I’m old-fashioned that way.

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Superman 1.36: When the Shooting Starts

Something odd!

wrote the LA Times, in July 1977.

Director Donner doesn’t know the exact budget of the film.

“Whatever it is, I’m not privy to it,” he said, sprawled in a chair. “That’s the way these producers work, apparently. It doesn’t make my life any easier, I can tell you. I’ve no way of knowing whether I’m going over budget or not.”

An unusual way to make a movie?

“I would say so. Yes.”

Continue reading Superman 1.36: When the Shooting Starts

Superman 1.35: The Dentist

Superman: The Movie was the first feature-length blockbuster superhero film, and at the time, it was hard to imagine what that would actually be like. Would it be a self-consciously silly romp, like the 1966 Batman film based on the campy TV show? What would it look like, once you put a guy in blue tights and a red cape, and strung him up on wires?

The producers, Alex and Ilya Salkind, were constantly announcing that they were spending the most money in history to make the grandest movie in history, but they were hucksters, and nobody knew if they could pull it off.

Co-producer Pierre Spengler’s negotiation with DC Comics for the film rights took two and a half months, because DC was concerned that the project could turn into an embarrassing flop, which would reflect badly on their marquee character. According to a Variety article, when they finished, it was “spelled out in the contracts that the performers signed to play both Superman and Lois Lane must have had no connection whatsoever with pornographic films.”

So that tells you how low DC’s expectations were, for this project. They actually thought it was possible that the Salkinds would hire porn stars to play Superman and Lois.

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Superman 1.30: After Brando

As the ground pitched and buckled, Jor-El and Lara moved together across the floor of the great hall of Kryptonopolis. There was nowhere they could go; Jor-El knew that better than anyone. He’d tried to warn them, and had suffered for it.

The dying planet was in its final spasms, rock and crystal crumbling around them. Sliding, crunching sounds, unimaginably loud. They were lost, all of them, irretrievably lost, but Jor-El and his wife ducked and flinched, as everything they’d ever known fell to pieces around them. They continued to move down the hall, looking for — what? shelter? a way out? No hope, no time, but still they kept moving. What else could they do?

The floor gave way. The population of Krypton, a proud and noble people, falling and crying and dying, every one. A great darkness. A final, splintering crunch, and then a burst of light and sound that no one was left to witness.

And then things really started to go badly.

Continue reading Superman 1.30: After Brando

Superman 1.5: The Discovery of Fire

Hang in there, folks; the credits are almost over. I’ve been using this journey through the opening titles to set up all the backstory before the film actually starts, and we’re almost there. But there’s one more piece of the story to tell, and it begins with a warning.

“Richard Lester had been suing the Salkinds for his money on Three and Four Musketeers, which he had never gotten,” said director Richard Donner. This is from a 1979 interview with the magazine Cinefantastique. “He told me he’s won a lot of his lawsuits, but each time he sued them in one country, they’d move to another — from Costa Rica to Panama to Switzerland. So when I took the picture, Richard Lester took me aside and said, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t work for them. I was told not to, but I did it. Now I’m telling you not to, but you’ll probably do it and end up telling the next guy.'”

But Donner didn’t listen; he agreed, and managed to direct about 75% of Superman and Superman II before they fired him. As it turned out, he didn’t have to warn the next guy, because the next guy was actually Richard Lester, signing on for another tour of duty with the Salkinds. On the whole, you should probably listen to harbingers; that’s what they’re there for.

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Superman 1.2: It Was Ilya’s Idea

“Hello, I’m Ilya Salkind,” the man says, “executive producer of Superman: The Movie, which actually I guess everybody by now knows was called Superman on the screen.” We are one sentence into this DVD commentary and already I have no idea what he’s talking about.

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