Tag Archives: salkinds

Superman 1.84: Overtime

So they actually did try shooting the eagle sequence, where Superman is messing around in the sky when he meets one of those friendly midflight eagles that you don’t run into very often, and they loop and dive around each other in close formation, illustrating the beauty and poetry of flight or whatever.

I figured they would have cut that sequence very early on as obviously impractical, considering how difficult it was just to get the guy credibly off the ground in the first place, but the Making of book informs me:

“The flying unit was now working with some natural-born experts: a golden eagle, two Lanner falcons, and a Saker falcon, which were being used to film a majestic sequence of Superman soaring through the sky with an eagle. The Saker falcon was the one finally used and the scene went well; conditioned to fly toward the lights and then return to its trainer’s arm, the bird performed beautifully.”

The amazing thing about that postcard from Pinewood is that they were still having open-casting aviary auditions in February 1978, when it was way too late for them to be dicking around like that.

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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 1.4: The Kojak Moment

ALEXANDER SALKIND is proud to announce the engagement of MARIO PUZO (The Godfather — The Godfather II — Earthquake) to write the screenplay of SUPERMAN

it said, in enormous type.

This was another one of the Salkinds’ full-page ads in Variety, in March 1975. That was the whole thing, a one-line engagement ring with no further information. That was enough, back in the days when they thought Puzo would deliver a decent script.

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Superman 1.3: Brando and the Money

From “Godfather” to “Superfather”? Marlon Brando has been offered a reported “unprecedented” salary to play the father — or older brother — of “Superman” for Alexander Salkind. (Variety, June 30, 1976)

The two Superman films, to be lensed simultaneously, will ring up a super budget of $25-30,000,000. Of that figure, $2,700,000, goes to Marlon Brando who plays papa to “Superman”. (Variety, Dec  27, 1976)

Even Brando, long-famed for his temperament, posed no problems. Perhaps even he could hardly believe the money he was being paid for his 12 days — $2.5 million, the most expensive salary on record. (LA Times, July 31, 1977)

We’ve read that white-wigged Marlon Brando, for just 12 days of work as Jor-El, Superman’s father on the planet Krypton, snagged $2.7 million or $3.7 million or $4 million. (New York Times, December 10, 1978)

There are a handful of stories that make up the core mythology of Superman: The Movie — the dinner in Paris, the lollipop, the dentist, the workout, the flying unit, the extra director. But the most important and enduring story — the thing that everyone is sure to mention when they talk about the movie — is Brando and the money.

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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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