Austin News


SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE turns 35 this month - See it on the big screen!

The story of how Superman made his way from the pages of comic books to the big screen is facinating.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE turns 35 this month - See it on the big screen!

True story: When Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind, the producers of SUPERMAN, approached Sam Peckinpah about directing the film, he pulled a gun on one of them and said "You gotta shut up, kid. What do you think you know about movies?"

The story of how SUPERMAN finally made its way to the big screen in 1978 (35 years ago, to the month) is a fascinating one. This was long before superhero movies were in fashion or even considered a solid bet.

Warner Brothers owned DC Comics and could have, at any time, set up production of a Superman movie but why would they want to? At the time, Warner Brothers was making films such as DOG DAY AFTERNOON and ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE - and they were making serious dough doing so. The studio had no interest in taking a risk on what seemed like a children's film. Given the success of SUPERMAN – it was Warner Brothers’ highest grossing film for decades - one could argue that SUPERMAN paved the way for Warner Brothers becoming the blockbuster-heavy studio it is today.

Once the Salkinds managed to obtain the rights to Superman from DC Comics, the father/son duo brought in a multitude of writers to tackle the script. One of those writers was Mario Puzo, author of THE GODFATHER. Puzo, who had once shared office space with a fledgling Marvel Comics and used to tease Stan Lee, didn’t make loyalty to the source material a priority. The villain was named Luthor Lux and there was room for a Kojak cameo when Superman went searching for his bald nemesis. Puzo’s vision for the film definitely landed in the camp category and his contribution to the final script is almost non-existent – that was OK for the Salkinds, though – they were happy to sell the film on Puzo’s name regardless of how much of his script stuck.

Meanwhile, the search for directors was on. Names such as Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin and George Lucas were all considered. Guy Hamilton, director of GOLDFINGER, was almost brought on board to direct SUPERMAN but production had to be moved from Rome to England because Marlon Brando had a pending arrest warrant for sexual obscenity and Hamilton was avoiding London because he was a tax exile.

Actors who were considered for the role of Superman included Paul Newman (who allegedly vomited upon hearing how much Marlon Brando was making for the film), Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, James Cann, Bruce Jenner and Clint Eastwood. When director Richard Donner was brought on board the film, the decision was made to look for an unknown for the role. The casting net was thrown wide – even the producer's wife’s dentist was flown in for a scene test.

Filming went on for over two years - the producers had experienced success releasing a remake of THE THREE MUSKETEERS as two films and decided to preemptively shoot SUPERMAN as two films. This decision may have had something to do with the trouble the Salkinds got into when they transformed THE THREE MUSKETEERS into two films - the Screen Actors Guild actually named a clause after the producers (The Salkind Clause) that stipulated that actors must be told upfront how many movies they were filming and paid accordingly.

During the lengthy shoot, the cast and crew became - perhaps a bit too close. Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder became very tight as friends and found their sexual chemistry evaporating during filming. Kidder revealed in interviews that she would imagine Reeve as Harrison Ford in order to channel her lovesick school girl giddiness.

Upon its release, the film was huge success - even with its then astronomical price tag. The producers had gone into some shady dealings to finance the film (essentially running Ponzi schemes) and when it came time to collect the money, the cast and crew often had to turn to lawsuits. Puzo had the producers served legal papers at the film's premiere!

Even 35 years later, there is something magical about SUPERMAN and the film that, against all odds, was created. It is definitely the root for most (if not all) modern superhero movies. It took a serious (for the time) look at characters that had been mostly relegated to children's stories and brought them to a larger audience. It used cutting edge effects to tell a story and tell it well. And of course there was Christopher Reeve - a man who, the older I get the more confident I become in saying, will forever embody Superman in media.

Join us this December for several screenings of SUPERMAN. Regardless of your feelings on the Superman movies that have come since, I think you'll be surprised on just how magical SUPERMAN still is 35 years later.

Monday, December 2 at 7:30 PM - Vintage Park

Wednesday, December 4 at 7:30 PM - Mason Park


blog comments powered by Disqus