SUPERMAN The Movies 1978-2013
“I’m here to fight for truth and justice and the American way.”
Directed by Richard Donner . 1978
Deeply impressed by the money made on the latest closed-circuit world championship fight, producer Alexander Salkind asked his producer son..
His son was no better, aiming for blond Robert Redford as Supie and Barbra Streisand as Lois Lane…The Way Superman Was! Did these founder-members of the Panamanian film industry live on Earth or Krypton?
They did not get Steven Spielberg or George Lucas to direct, either.
They were, quite simply, seeking A Name to give the project some kudos. And pre-production sales. Money! Once that was bagged, everything and everyone else - and even more money - would fall into place. They didn't get Redford. They didn't get James Caan... They got another name. Marlon Brando.
Superman/Clark Kent . "Mario Puzo wrote an hysterical script,"said Jimmy Caan, "with Superman doing loop-the-loops and shit. Marlon called me: 'C'mon, do it, too. I need some laughs.' I said: 'Yeah, but you don't have to wear the cape.' No way I'm getting into that silly suit." Warren Beatty agreed: having taken the suit home for the weekend to try it out in private. He decided he looked ridiculous in it. Robert Redford said:“Nobody is going to believe me flying.”Charles Bronson, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Duke’s son, Patrick Wayne, refused, point-blank. More like blankety-blank.
“They were looking for a bankable person and they had heard that I was going to get some attention for Coming Home,” recalled Jon Voight for The Guardian in 2013. “This was not one of the times when I was overly picky; I was being completely miscast. I’m thin, I have a broken nose, I’m not classically good-looking. I mean, if you put me next to…Henry Cavill, you would laugh, and ask: What’s that skinny guy doing next to Superman?”
Richard Donner never gave up. He asked him (like Beatty) to just try the suit on. “It does the whole thing for you.” And if it didn’t well, Donner knew an Austrian pumper of iron who could help bulk up the Voight body. Arnold Schwarzenegger!
So, Arnie called Jon, who does a great impression of the call. “Jon, take the job! In two months, I vill make you big as a house! Zis job is a great opportunity, you must do zis…”
Another body builder, Sylvester Stallone, was keen but was “too Italian.” Then, to everyone’s shock-horror, singer Neil Diamond was invited to try out. According to one insider, when Diamond left the meeting, “people were laughing like hell.” He wasn’t interested. “I make more money touring.”
Warners wanted security
ie. Clint Eastwood!
“I can remember,” and he did in a Los Angeles Times interview marking his 80th birthday in 2010, “when [Warner Bros president] Frank Wells came to me about doing Superman... I was like, Superman? Nah, nah, that’s not for me. It’s for somebody, but not me.I was also offered pretty good money to do James Bond! But I always liked characters that were more grounded in reality. Maybe they do super things or more-than-human things - like Dirty Harry, he has a knack for doing crazy things, or the Western guys - but, still, they’re not caped crusaders. [Pause]. The Sub-Mariner, that’s the one I always liked. I had all of those comics when I was a kid.”
Bryan Singer had access to all the auditions when he was looking for his own superhero in 2006. "Many famous people, trust me, and no, not in tights. But trust me, it would be fascinating for you to see. I don't want to say the names but seeing these really famous people pretending to be Superman, well, it just felt weird.”
Yeah, like when watching Brando playing Supie's daddy, Jor-El.
“Just something wrong about it,” James Woods lamented.
“The greatest screen actor inthe history of cinema perhaps -
running around with white hair and all that bit.”
Among those disbelieving a man should fly with his underpants over his tights or changing into long-johns in phone-boxes were: John Beck, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott, Perry King (the Salkinds had a penchant for blonds), Don Hoyle, Elton John (he wore glasses you see!), Steve McQueen (third blond), Nick Nolte (fourth), Ryan O'Neal, David Soul (fifth blond), Sylvester Stallone, Jan-Michael Vincent (sixth), Jon Voight (seventh!), Robert Wagner...even Wonder Woman's plastic TV boss, Lyle Waggoner.
Or worse, Mrs Ilya Salkind's dentist!
Who would believe that Robert Redford could fly? Or Warren Beatty... Bronson, McQueen or Burt] Reynolds? It had to be an unknown. And the most logical notion was America's 1976 Olympic Decathlon gold-medallist Bruce Jenner. He had the body - and the teeth. Just not the acting talent… Or not until we all found out he had been acting all his life. Playing Bruce - when inside him there was a woman waiting to come out. And at 65, he let her out in 2015… a super woman she called Caitlyn Jenner.
[courtesy Daniel Bouteiller/Telé Ciné Documentation]
A more logical notion was America's 1976 Olympic Decathalon gold-medallist Bruce Jenner. He had the body, not the acting talent - as proved when he joined the Village People in Can't Stop The Music. (Valerie Perrine managed to make both films). Yes, the same potential Superman who became a super woman called Caitlyn Jenner... He had, in fact, been acting - superbly - all his life. His greatest role was Bruce… when inside Bruce was woman called Caitlyn. At age 65, she revealed to 16.9m people watching his ABC interview with Diane Sawyer in April 2015 that “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.” And the new icon of the transgender movement. Bruce, she told Vanity Fair, was “always telling lies.” Caitlyn, she said, “doesn’t have any lies.”
Finally, the superhero was found and pictures shot around the world of 6ft 4ins day-time soap star Christopher Reeve in the blue long johns. And no one bothered to re-touch his under-arm sweat stains. Real class!
Chris' father, the poet Franklin D'Olier Reeve, was delighted with the news.
“Ah, Jack Tanner, it’s a great part, a great part!
Who’s playing Ann Whitfield...?”
“No, Dad, it’s not Man and Superman.”
The unknown Reeve, with only one other film and the TV soap opera to his credit, bulked up with a regime supervised by David Prowse, the man who in the Darth Vader suiot - and lightened up by studying Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby, 1938.
Lois Lane . Carrie Fisher, Jessica Lange Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, Christina Raines, Natalie Wood all passed. Jack's daughter, Holly Palance, was Lois in Chris Reeve's screentests.
Actually tested for Lois' "sweetness, a certain whimsy and a sense of humour" said casting director Lynn Stalmaster during March and April 1977 were: Anne Archer, Susan Blakely, Stockard Channing, Deborah Raffin And Lesley Ann Warren was the winner.. .until the way Margot Kidder shone through two tests on April 24, with Reeve as Supie and (in a Superman II scene) Clark Kent. (Reeve just got better and better in these screentests of the girls). In other auditions with cop Ray Hassett and a stuntman flying over their shoulders were (the still) unknowns Rohan McCullogh, Carintha West. Plus Hammer horror actress Dana Gillespie and a laughing Italian, Marilu Tulo.
Probably because she was later in the running for Wonder Woman, there were various late 90s' tabloid reports that Sandra Bullock was considered for Lois. Hmm, when Supie was being shot, Sandra was... 13.
Lex Luthor . The Name Hunt caused the first known example of the same role being offered to old buddies Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman. Gene won. Or lost, depending on how you feel about the movie. Character stalwart George Kennedy was also in the (less expensive) mix.
General Zod . “This was my comeback movie,” declared General Terence Stamp in a tale worth telling… “I couldn’t find work and I couldn’t bear waking up every day and the phone not ringing, or if it did, it was my agent telling me they were looking for a ‘young Terence Stamp.’ (I was 27). So I decided to travel instead of waiting around, and months became years. I didn’t do anything of any significance between ’69 and ’77, I was a swami in an ashram, with long hair and a beard, and I was in orange. learning all these metaphysical techniques and breathing and tantra and finally I got to an ashram in Pune and it seemed like the most beautiful women from every country in the world were there, and they were all totally empowered. I was learning to separate orgasm from ejaculation. I was rechanneling the lifeforce I thought no, I won’t go back to showbiz, this is my life now.
“Then I went back to this hotel for a weekend, and I must have sent my agent a postcard from there a year before, and as I come in the concierge hands me a telegram, and it’s addressed to “Clarence Stamp” and it’s dogeared and I don’t know how old it was. And he puts it in my hand and the psychic weight of this telegram! I knew my life was about to change. It was from my long-suffering agent: “Would you consider coming to London to meet with Richard Donner about Superman I and II,' you’ll have scenes with Marlon Brando. And on the way would you stop in Paris and meet with Peter Brook about a film of Gurdjieff’s book Meetings with Remarkable Men?" And it was like the universe was saying ‘You’re back in the market, son.’ So I was totally confident because I just didn’t care. I had let go of all of it. On the Monday I was General Zod and on the Tuesday I was Prince Lubodevsky - it was in the same studio! When I walked on the set, it seemed like everyone was asleep, but I was so, so ready. The only guy who was really up for it was Brando - he totally understood where I was coming from.”
Perry White . For The Daily Planet's editor, any character-actor who had previously worna green eye shade was considered. From the obvious Ed Asner (aka TV's Lou Grant) to Martin Balsam and Jason Robards (Washington Post editors in All The President's Men) plus Walter Matthau (The Front Page). Plus the sun-shaded Jack Klugman and Eli Wallach. Finally, Klugman was decided on a Monday, due to begin on Wednesday - until he balked.
Back-up choice Eddie Albert had his agent trying to renegotiate salary as a phone call clinched Keenan Wynn. Arriving in London, he mentioned his good pal, Eddie Albert, had cancelled his reservations on the same plane."Why was he coming to London?"
Perry White's first scene was by now two days behind schedule. Wynn, 61, rushed through make-up, costume tests, had pains in his chest and collapsed - heart trouble. Enter: Jackie Cooper. Still acting 47 years after Chaplin's The Champ, 1931.
Eve Tessmacher . Donner's first choices - Goldie Hawn, followed by Ann-Margret -asked too much. Valerie Perrine did not.
Ursa . The British Bond Girl and Hammer horror babe Caroline Munro turned down the role of Ursa - and Sarah Douglas picked it up.
Otis . Gailard Sartain, illustrator and comedic actor from Tulas, Oklahoma, was an early choice for the role won by Kentucky’s Ned Beatty.
Martha Kent . Illya Salkind wanted Joan Crawford -a decision made almost on the day she died. The role went closer to home. Phyllis Thaxter was Ilya Salkind's mother-in-law.
“The only reason I’m here,”
said Marlon Brando at Pinewood,
“is because I don’t have
the moral strength to turn down the money.”
Brando was being paid the then highest star salary of $3.7m, enabling him to bypass the first sequel. Hackman got $2m; Reeve's $250,000 was re-mixed to$900,000 for I and II)
Last word to Alexander Salkind: "Everybody made money except us."
"Good afternoon, Mr. President. Sorry I've been away so long.”
Directed by Richard Lester 1980 (and Richard Donner . 1978)
Basically, only the director was changed for the sequel. Richard Lester threw out most of Richard Donner’s already shot footage and totally changed the look of the film from American epic to comicbook. Not easy (for new cinematographer Robert Paynter) when all of Gene Hackman’s scenes came from Donner footage. (Donner had quit after rows with the producers). Lester never directed Hackman, merely a double in some shots and an impersonator for a few new lines.
Margot Kidder hated what was going on.
She always told the media that Donner
had filmed everything for the sequel
- “it’s now somewhere in a vault.”
Her claim proved correct when Warner finally released Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut in November 2006… including the Brando father-son sequence with Reeve that Marlon had refused to allow Lester to use. (Lester re-shot it as a mother-son scene with Susannah York). Some of Brando’s scene was used in Superman Returns, two years after his death.
Margot’s claim had been rubbished at the time as Dick Lester was seen to be shooting so much new material. Most of it was re-written scenes already helmed by Donner. For why? Because to have the sole credit, Lester would have to follow Director's Guild rules and direct more than half the picture. Donner's (almost) half included a never-shot scene where Lois tests Clark's true identity by shooting him. Lester simply used the scene as played in Margot’s 1977 screentest for Lois!
The President ofthe USA was played by EGMarshall after such thoughts as Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Henry Fonda and...the 38th US President (1974-1977) Gerald Ford!
“I ask you to kill Superman... you couldn't even do that one, simple thing.”
Directed by Richard Lester . 1982
Despite using a few shots from Donner’s first two shoots, Richard Lester finally took full control of the franchise - and killed it. He was, frankly, out of his depth. (He had never been allowed comicbooks as a kid in Philadelphia). "He was always looking for a gag," complained Christopher Reeve.
“Richard Pryor's gags
went over the top.”
Margot Kidder was punished for loyalty - moaning about the dumping of Richard Donner - and for not getting on with Lester. Her Lois was cut to less than five minutes of screen time - a mere twelve lines of dialogue.
The scriptwriters voted Alan Alda as an actor who could be ruthless and yet charming as Ross Webster. They settled for the ex-Man From UNCLE, Robert Vaughn.
Now… kneel before Zod!… For more insider insight from the great Terence Stamp... “They brought in this director, who was a very, very good director. But I was astonished that he’d step into another director’s shoes. I thought, that’s really beneath Richard Lester. He’s bigger than that. And none of us wanted to go back. And we didn’t go back, actually. It was only when Chris Reeve went back that we thought, well, who am I? I’ve been out of work for eight years. I can’t annoy the business, you know? So we all went back, but it was flat. Because it was without Richard Donner. And, incredibly, they replaced all of Brando’s stuff because he was trying to get a percentage that they had promised him. And to to weaken his case, they replaced Marlon with this English actress [Susannah York], as Superman’s mom. It didn’t seem possible. So it was very unhappy. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do much. We had to do the last sort of eighth of the movie, frankly.”
“The Dude of Steel! Boy are you gonna get it!”
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE
Sidney J Furie . 1986
Nine years down the line (way down) and the main actors stayed in character(s) as the franchise slipped down the food chain to Cannon (slashing a $35m budget to $17m). The superstarman made it clear. Chris Reeve not interested in another III-style farce.
He wrote the VI story when Cannon agreed to bankroll his Street Smart. Both Richards, Donner and Lester, passed - and Chris Reeve said he would direct the fifth, The New Superman, with, indeed, a new Supie star. Iff V did well. V did not.
“Mr Clark! I mean, Kent. Mr Kent! Welcome back!”
Bryan Singer . 2005
"There was just something about one of Brandon Routh's tapes that intrigued me. It wasn't until I met him and we talked at length that I realised I would cast him, but I didn't tell anyone. Two months later, I told him."
When they met in a coffee shop, Routh was nervous. Obviously. He stumbled, spilled hot coffee over the table. Hell, he'd blown it…! Singer laughed and said it actually helped him get the part. The incident convinced him that Routh (like: mouth) could pull off the clumsy, bumbling Clark Kent.
“Superman has to look and sound
as if he’s stepped out of your collective consciousness
of who Superman is: Christopher Reeve, George Reeves,
the comic book, the Fleischer animation, Smallville.
I needed somebody who could embody… all those things”
Moving Routh from zero to hero at 26 - same age as another soap actor, Christopher Reeve, in 1978 - climaxed a decade long Supie go-round as Warners shuffled through six directors (Robert Rodriguez didn't want his Superman "on the back of some kid's underpants"), umpteen writers (JJ Abrams, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Kevin Smith, Wesley Strick, etc) and millions spent on testing an endless line men of steel, from stars to wannabes…
Titles, as well.
Superman Lives aka Death of Superman . Warner gave the project (and $150m) to Tim Burton who had started the studio's Batman franchise so well in 1989 (before, as with Superman, it dissipated into mindless pap). Producer Jon Peters wanted Sean Penn but Nicolas Cage was the sole star in the mix. Of course, he was. Nic was a comic-book buff - he’s spent six figures on buying Action Comics #1 at auction. Even had his own bespoke Supersuit. So, he was not happy - despite $20m for the gig - when Burton decided his Supie wouldn’t suit up and - sacrilege! - wouldn’t fly!
Burton caved on those demands as Cage accepted giant spiders, polar bears and a gay robot (R2FO?) in the continually changing script (and suit - once black with a silver S). He intended to play Superman like “a beautiful freak” but after $50m had gone on flying tests and sets, and realising the budget would reach beyond $200m, Warner pulled the plug in 1998. Likewise Cage four years later, when he also sold off his comic-book collection. However, his Supie love-affair was not yet over. In 2005, he named his son… Kar-El.
Burton’s vision had also included Selma Blair, Courteny Cox or Cameron Diaz for Lois Lane, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen. Plus Kevin Spacey for Lex Luthor - which he was in Superman Returns, for his Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer.
Superman V . After his big hit with the big-screen Charlie’s Angels, 2000, McG arrived with Tim Burton's main man, Johnny Depp, on tap for Lex Luthor and/orJor-El. McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol) screened Scartlett Johansson for Lois Lane, Shia LaBeouf for Jimmy Olsen (he became Indiana Jones’ son in 2007, before falling out with Spielberg) ), Joel Edgerton for Ty-Zor and the bald Billy Zane as the bald Lex Luthor.
The McSupie was between unknowns Jason Behr (“Chris Reeve will always be Superman in my mind”) and Matthew Bomer (from All My Children). McG preferred to put Michael Cassidy into the McTV series, Newport Beach, and Jared Padalecki, from the Supernatural series (opposite another tall Texan, Jensen Ackles, second choice for the young Clark Kenti n TV’s Smallville in 2001). And, frankly, the 2 Fast, 2 Furious star, Paul Walker. was 2 scared 2 try. “It was just scary. It was a long term commitment - seven years of being Superman.”
Before he quit, McG's (and producer Jon Peters’) favourite was a handsome young Brit called… Henry Cavill.
Superman: The Lost Sonaka Flyby . Brett Ratner picked up the baton in 2002 with a JJ Abrams script. The studio suits wanted Keanu Reeves contre Anthony Hopkins as Luthor. The Matrix zillionaire had become second choice when the studio was furious at Josh Hartnett for passing (four times) on a (potential) $100m three movie deal.
Next: the ex-model and current TV star Ashton Kutcher. His test was “very, very good.” Yet he fled, very, very fast.
Ratner also thought of Matt Bomer (really too short) and then moved, inexplicably, towards Brendan Fraser but was far happier with Wentworth Miller (for, that is, his TV series, Prison Break). Also considered: Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and (shades off Muhammad Ali) Will Smith!
There was a (short) (or cheap) thought of of using Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, aka TV’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, before Lois went from Courteney Cox and Linda Fiorentino to Meg Ryan and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Jimmy Olsen was to be Jason Mewes and Steve Martin or Jack Nicholson discussed Lex Luthor. John Mahoney was asked to be Perry White, and his Frasier co-star, David Hyde Pierce, The Eradicator, with Jason Lee as Brainiac.
"No star wants to sign," wailed Ratner. His fault…! As he kept reminding them: "You'll live this character for ten years because I'm telling one story over three movies and plan to direct all three if the first is as successful as everyone suspects."
Did someone mention The Curse of Superman…
Christopher Reeve was paralysed in a horse fall in 1995, Margot Kidder had a nervous breakdown, Richard Pryor contracted multiple sclerosis and the original Supie, George Reeves,was found shot dead - suicide or murder, who knew - in 1959.
By now, Drew McWreeny, of the Ain’t It Cool website, had found acopy of JJ’s script and just shredded it under the September 23 2002 headline: YOU’LL BELIEVE A FRANCHISE CAN SUCK!! The scenario was, he said, a disaster of nearly epic proportions.It was set in Gotham City (!), Krypton doesn’t explode and Lex Luthor was a CIA agent in charge of the Special Operations Division. He is also a superpowered Kryptonian who flies and knows better kung fu than SuperKent… and takes over the White House…!
“I... I... sweet God, I hate this script,” dispaired McWreeney under his Moriarty alias. “I don’t want to hate Superman. I want to love Superman. Even if it’s not one of the things I hold dear as a fan, I have a respect for the character that stretches all the way back to the first time I read a comic book with the character in it, and the first time I sat in a theater as Donner’s film or the Fleisher cartoons played. I may not be nuts about Superman, but I know him when I see him. And this ain’t him
For once, Warners took note. Ratner walked…or was pushed… to complete his own trilogy, Rush Hour 3. The project’s original director McG (from Charlie’s Angels) was called back., And he called back Kutcher - to test opposite Keri Russell as Lois. She was fine. He felt he looked funny in the suit, took it off and took off. Again.
And then, there was...
Batman v Superman . Josh Hartnett was surprised to find he was still the studio’s #1 Batchoice for Wolfgang Petersen and the Se7en writer Andrew Kevin Walker’s idea in 2003. So, indeed, was a certain Christian Bale,... With James Franco as Bruce Wayne .Until Petersen went British choosing Colin Farrell for a Batman in “a Kryptonite-laced” Batsuit and Jude Law (still in talks when the project imploded) as Supie. And that was the trouble. Law was another comic-book fan and refused to give up his demands for approval of all sequel as scripts. Like, hey Jude - who do you think you are?
And so, it became… Superman Returns.
I know who you are, said Bryan Singer, to Jude Law, you’re General Zod… No, I’m not - and Zod promptly disappeared from thes script until Man of Steel rebooted the reboot.
Singer said that because - as you might remember after all this Memory Lane stuff - Bryan Singer had ultimately taken over rescuing Superman for Warner Bros. (He was a immediately dropped by Fox fromthe X-Men franchise for his pains). Singer was a fan of the Richard Donner movie - and of Brando in it - and used some Brando footage, lots of Donner’s panache, went back to basics and and still managed to drop the ball… As everyone had been doing since 1986.
Superman/Clark Kent . Singer dismissed James Caviezel as "too famous," due to The Passion of the Christ, 2004. Or was it because Singer had not yet forgiven him for reneging on being Wolverine in X-Men, 2000...
Also seen: TV Angel David Boreanaz (a Batman contender two years before), Matthew Bomer (seen again for Man of Steel), Hayden Christensen (too famous from Star Wars), Rupert Evans gave a good reading (and later joined Hellboy, 2004), Brenda Fraser (too weak), Jake Gyllenhaal, Jude Law, Jerry O'Connell Kip Pardue (Rule of Attraction, ER), the bodacious (and pricey) Keanu Reeves, Ian Somerhalder (JJ Abrams put him into Lost), Barry Watson from Warner's series, 7th Heaven.
"And yes," revealed that handsome Brit Henry Cavill, "it came very close." So did 007. He lost both. But by 2011, he was Man of Steel.
Lois Lane . Before Singer chose Kate Bosworth, actresses considered for the role of Jerry Seinfeld’s favourite woman included: Mischa Barton, Kate Beckinsale, Rebecca Budig, Elisha Cuthbert, Claire Danes, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kate Hudson, Keira Knightley, Evangeline Lilly (JJ put her into Lost, too), Maria Menounos, Natalie Portman, Keri Russel. Singer also gave a cameo to the 40/50s’ Lois, Noel Neill, at age 86; she'd also played Lois' mother inthe 1978 version.
Lex Luthor. Jim Carrey, Robert Downey Jr, Will Ferrell.Singer looked no further than Tim Burton's original choice of Kevin Spacey - who won his first Oscar in Singer’s The Usual Suspects, 1995.
Jor-El . Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley? No! Singer, a great fan of Richard Donner's version, used Marlon Brando footage from the 30-year-old film.
Jimmy Olsen . Shawn Ashmere (Singer's Iceman in X-Men), Adam Brody (The OC), Topher Grace, Eric Christian Olsen, Justin Timberlake. Sam Huntingdon became Jim... as the 1952-1958 tele-Jimmy, Jack Larson, played Bo the Bartender.
Perry White . Ratner chose Christopher Walken. Singer lost Hugh Laurie - and it was his own fault. The UK comedy star could not join the Australian shoot due to his LA schedule as the irascible House MD,a new hit TV series - from Bryan Singer's company. Frank Langella filled in.
Jonathan Kent was once set for Dennis Quaid. Singer utilised Clark's mum only, Martha - Eva Marie Saint.
“Welcome to The Planet”
MAN OF STEEL
Zack Snyder . 2011
Henry Cavill - a franchise superstar just waiting to happen (Warner Bros-Legendary Pictures-DC Entertainment 2013.)
Succeeding beyond the dreams of Brandon Routh some seven unhappy years ago, Henry Cavill became a bog hit as the Last Son of Krypton in the reimagining of the reimagining of the reimagining. He’s hardly ever called Superman in the script. And not in the title. Talk about rebooting!
Although director Bryan Singer and his discovery, Routh, figured they were a cinch for the next stanza (Singer had prepared several sequel ideas), the new version was in safer hands from Day One - the mitts of Christopher Nolan, man behind Batman’s new beginning with Christian Bale. (Chris beat Cavill to that job!)
This time Nolan was solely producing and creating the story with his Gotham scribe, David S Goyer. But who to replace him in director mode? There was talk of Ben Affleck or Duncan Jones, Jonathan Liebesman, Matt Reeves or Tony Scott. Nolan voted for Zack Snyder - another of the film-makers taken under the Warner umbrella (for 300 and Watchmen) by the canny Warner Brothers Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov. Had one helluva eye for box-office talent, did Robinov: Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann, Todd Phillips...
Mercurial every which way, Robinov first met Nolan after the release of Memento in 2001, when the Londoner was none too happy at the prospect of helming Troy. The boss’ question was obvious: Whaddyer really wanna do? They all say that, the suits. Robinov alone, it seems, usually made their things happen. (Ask Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann, Todd Phillips). Well, said Nolan, since you mention it, I’ve always been interested in Batman.
What you say? Lights, action, fireworks!! This was music to Robinov’s ear. The studio had not been thinking that hard of revamping ole Batty as Supermn was the more econimically urgent reboot. Nolan explained his version - “pain” - and studio chief Alan Horn flicked the greenlight switch. Batman began.
Then, during a story meeting some years later on The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan and Goyer delivered what Rubinov called “an incredible take” on Supie. “Great visual. Great aesthetic.” Not mention great timing - Warner had to have a Super-production happening by 2011 or risk a forfeit of tons of cash to the estates of Super-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Shooting began, under the code name Autumn Frost in Chicago during August 2011 (with. as per usual for film or TV, , the Illinois town of Plano representing Smallville). Robinov backed Nolan all the way… to smashing audience records and then… resigning following the infamous angry silence treatement from Warner Bros chairman Kevin Tsujihara.
But enough of Hollywood gangland politics… Back to casting.
Superman . Warner Bros, Nolan’s Legendary Pictures and Snyder cast a “wide net” across Los Angeles, New York and London during November and December 2010. Even though Supie is a jinx role (it was for actors in the R register: George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh) Henry Cavill went for it and won. He perfectly matched the necessary criterion: in the 28-32 bracket (ie younger at 30 than Routh was at 34), a TV find (Cavill displayed more panache than Jonathan Rhys-Meyes in The Tudors) and/or unknown… He was hardly that, having lost Batman to Bale and James Bond to Daniel Craig in 2006 (for being too young!).
Cavill was a franchise superstar
just waiting to happen
And he had been waiting since testing for Superman Returns (working title: Flyby) for the changing directors, Brett Ratner and McG before it fell (down) to Bryan Singer whose reboot went backwards (warmed over Richard Donner) instead of moving forward a la Nolan into the 21st Century). Cavill won a callback in January, 2011, leading to his first face meet with Snyder. Game over! Eventually, Jeff Robinov agreed. He saw the major tests and OKed Cavill - not that Henry or his CAAgents knew the good news for some days.
Apparently, Ryan Gosling couldn’t get out of contention fast enough. He was noticeably wary of comicbook characters (all those seqjuels!) Ryan I had already (very wisely) passed The Green Lantern to Ryan II(Reynolds) in 2010. A year laterr, he made the same move over Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role in The Dark Knight Rises.
Zac Efron’s name was also flung around (seriously?) and for some months, Superman all but belonged to Pittsburg’s Armenian-Austrian-German-Sicilian Joe Manganiello, aka the strapping Alcide in the True Blood series. (Co-starKristina Anapau was seen for Lois Lane). Joe was “a great guy” and certainly made the last two, revealed Snyder. What blitzed Joe was his HBO schedule. Despite being over the limit at 34, he was asked to audition. except the shooting of both the tests and movie clashed impossibly with his series.
“They took my measurements
but I never got to put the suit on!”
Manganiello’s pal since drama school, Matt Bomer, was also in the running. The White Collar TV hunk had (like Cavill) previously been in the market for Batman Returns. Sad to say, he may not have helped his cause by coming out as gay in February 2012. Yes, even in “liberal” Hollywood!
Matthew Goode was Cavill's closest UK competitor, particularly as he had been one of Snyder’s Watchmen comic book movie (he played the genius Ozymandias). So keen to rejoin Snyder, Goode retired from the hunt for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. (Wise man!).
Armie Hammer was the tallest candidate at 6'5" - and youngest at 24. Best known for playing the Winklevoss twins in the Facebook saga, The Social Network, Hammer had been in the mix for Batman in the Justice League moviethat Warner Bros chickened out of… allowing the studio to lose the first superheroes get-together by Marvel’s Avengers!The one-man Armie late tried to make up for The Lone Ranger with The Man From UNCLE.
The complete outsiders wereIrishmanColin O’Donoghue, from The Rite with Anthony Hopkins and an episode of The Tudors with Cavill… James Holzier, a Texan with just two films under his belt…and highly handsome Ian Somerhalder from The Vampire Diaries (and Lost) and on the cusp of 32.
Lois Lane . “There was a big, giant search for Lois,” reported Zack Snyder. “For us it was obviously a linchpin… a really important role. We did a lot of auditioning. What’s important to us is making Superman relevant and real… empathetic to today’s audience so that we understand the decisions he makes. That applies to Lois as well. She has to be in the same universe.”
The candidates were the usual suspects at casting rituals over the last few years. (Only Eva Green was missing!) It was, therefore, still the season for… Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre II in Snyder’s Watchmen), Dianna Agron (the Glee girl seen for The Amazing Spider-Man), Jessica Biel (she’d refused Wonder Woman in the Justice League project and Anne Hathaway’s role in The Dark Knight Rises), Londoner Alice Eve (she later won Men In Black 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness), Anne Hathaway, Diane Kruger, Rachel McAdams, British TV regular Charlotte Riley, Twilight’s Kristen Stewart. Oivia Tron Wilde and Bruce Willis’ Die Hard daughter: Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Kristen Bell and Lake Bell were also listed. They’re not related. Except in work. For example, they both provided voices for Seth Green’s demented stop-motion animation TV series, Robot Chicken, 2005-2013, which featured Superman among its action-figures and dolls.
And someone on the team had the hots for Black Swan. Three of the stars were considered for Lois: Kristina Anapau, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman. (Even their director, Darren Aronofsky, had been short-listed).
However, Lois was handed to… Amy Adams , who reacts on-screen how every girl does when the boy is better looking than she is. “I grew up with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane,” Amy said, “so I didn’t want to try and be that version. Zack said that he wanted more realism. There’s definitely still banter [with Superman]. She’s tough, modern, and more contemporary. There’s also a lot more action than I’ve seen in my career.”
Jonathan Kent . Kevin Costner won the only father Clark Kent ever knew from Michael Biehn, Bruce Greenwood (Batman’s voice in the Young Justice toon series). Also Dennis Quaid and Kurt Russell, back again from Christopher Nolan’s wish list for Commissioner Jim Gordon in Batman Begins.
Martha Kent . Another vital role, according to Snyder. “Her values helped shape the man we know as Superman.” Sela Ward was the oldest contender at 55, followed by Julianne More, 51, and Jodie Foster, 49. The youngest potential Mumsies, at 48, were Elisabeth Shue and Lisa Rinna (Mrs Harry Hamlin since 1997). Snyder was most thrilled by Diane Lane at 46. “She can convey the wisdom and the wonder of a woman whose son has powers beyond her imagination.”
Lara Lor-Van . The biological mother of Kar-El, aka Clark Kent aka Super… -well you know the back story… was won by the British Julia Ormond from Connie Nielsen. Julia then changed her mind. Ah, but was that before or after Zack Snyder met Israeli superstar Ayelet Zurer?
General Zod . Viggo Mortensen was nearly Zod as if anyone, anywhere, anytime, could come close to the not inconsiderable force of nature called Michael Shannon. “Zod is not only one of Superman’s most formidable enemies,” detailed Snyder, “but one of the most significant because he has insights into Superman that others don’t. Michael is a powerful actor who can project both the intelligence and the malice of the character, making him perfect for the role.” Shannon, from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Iceman film, bulked up for the role. Nor that you ever see it under his CGI suit.
“It’s not like you see General Zod
in his bikini at the beach or anything!”
“But if you're playing a general, you should probably not be a little pansy man.” This was his 56th screen role and he was unsure about acting in in a motion capture suit. “It takes a lot of faith, because the first day you wanna go home and cry, because you just think no one’s ever gonna take this seriously… Literally the first shot I did, I was supposed to be coming out of a spaceship, which was basically some wooden stairs they’d built and painted neon green. I walked down in my unitard, acting like I’m General Zod. After the take I walked over to the monitor and Zack was sitting there and I watched it back and smirked.
Snyder: What's wrong?
Shannon: That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life!
Snyder: Yeah, but two years from now, it’s gonna be one of the most badass things you've ever seen in your life.
Shannon: And it is!
As, alas, we can no longer go to the redoubtable wit and wisdom of Roger Ebert for an outside, critical view of a film, I have chosen to quote from Drew McWeeny’s review at the Hitfix site. It may read more like a studio release, but this guy is sincere. He was, after all, Moriarty at Ain’t It Cool News, when torpedoing not to say H-Bombing the JJ Abrams scenario of the proposed 2002 Supie reboot.
McWeeny much preferred the Nolanisation. “Snyder's film, written by David Goyer and starring an impeccably cast ensemble, is remarkable myth-making, a canny spin on the oft-told details that have defined the character over time.. the most interesting, emotionally-satisfying, richly imagined version of the story. Ever.
“I am blown away by the sheer scale of it. Marvel's biggest film so far, The Avengers, looks like a charming episode of the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk by comparison, and while size doesn’t always make something better, if you want to sell the idea that these are godlike beings battling, then the only way to truly sell that idea is to show what they would do to our planet in the process. No one has ever staged superhero action like this. No one.”
Says it all.