Superman was the most expensive film ever made when it was released in 1978. The movie cost $55 million to make, and it was seen as a huge risk as nobody had ever attempted to make a big-budget superhero movie before.
Luckily, the movie was a huge critical and commercial success, netting $300 million at the box office and spawning three sequels. It made stars of its its cast, including Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, and paved the way for superhero movies to become a genre in their own right.
Here we look behind the scenes of the movie, and catch up with some of the stars of the movie that made us believe a man could fly.
Reeve Was Nearly Turned Down Because He Was Too Skinny
It was the movie’s casting director, Lynn Stalmaster, who first suggested Reeve for the part of the movie’s title character. On seeing photos of the actor, both director Richard Donner and producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind said he looked too young and skinny to play the DC Comics hero. However, they agreed to let the actor do a screen test and were blown away with the results. Reeve was cast and piled on the pounds to fit the role, going from 170 to 212.
What Happened To Gene Hackman?
Hackman played the villain Lex Luthor in three of the four Superman movies. Hackman’s had a long and illustrious career, starring in heavyweight fair such as Unforgiven, Mississipi Burning and The Conversation, to funnier roles in movies such as The Royal Tenenbaums and Heartbreakers. Hackman retired in 2004 after completing his final movie, Welcome to Mooseport.
Marlon Brando Read His Lines Off A Diaper
Marlon Brando was notorious for refusing to learn his lines, instead using a series of cue cards when on set. Superman was no different. “If you don’t know what the words are but you have a general idea of what they are, then you look at the cue card and it gives you the feeling to the viewer, hopefully, that the person is really searching for what he is going to say—that he doesn’t know what to say,” he later explained. In one scene, where his character Jor-El is holding his infant son, Brando read his lines off the baby’s diaper.
The New York Daily News Was Saved By Superman
The New York Blackout of 1977 nearly scuppered the New York Daily News’s chances of getting out the morning paper until Superman came to the rescue. The crew were filming the movie in New York at the time of the blackout and lent the newspaper its generator-powered klieg lights so the journalists could finish off the paper and the printers could print it.
What Happened To Terence Stamp?
Seen only briefly in Superman, the villain of Superman II, General Zod, was played by the veteran British actor, Terence Stamp. Stamp has given many powerful performances over the course of his post-Superman career, most notably in the 1994 Australian comedy, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and 1999’s The Limey. In 2003, he returned to the Superman universe, voicing the charter of Jor-El in the hit TV show Smallville for eight years.
Reeve Was Trained By Darth Vader
To bulk himself up for the role of Superman, Christopher Reeve trained with bodybuilder David Prowse. Prowse had auditioned for the role of Superman himself, but was passed over because he was not American (and he also sounded like a comedy pirate). Prowse is best known, of course, for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.
What Happened To Marc McClure?
Marc McClure played photographer Jimmy Olsen in not only four Superman movies, but also the 1984 spin-off movie, Supergirl. McClure went on to play Dave McFly in all three Back to the Future movies, and he also appeared in That Thing You Do!, Freaky Friday and Frost/Nixon. He’s also popped up in later versions of Superman, such as an appearance in Smallville in 2007, and a cameo in 2017’s Justice League.
Superman Nearly Contained A Musical Number
Believe it or not, there was almost a musical number in Superman. In the scene where Superman flies Lois over the city of Metropolis, Lois’s ‘Can you read my mind?’ internal monologue was almost sung by the singer. The speech was originally a song that was supposed to feature in the movie, and singer Maureen McGovern had been drafted in to record it. However, Kidder was adamant that she should sing it instead. “It wasn’t bad, but it was an actress singing a song instead of a great singer,” Donner recalled. “So I said, ‘How about talking it through like you’re talking to yourself?’ She did it, and it was the best of all three, and that’s what’s in the movie. Plus, it came from her heart.”
What Happened To Sarah Douglas?
Like Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas makes a fleeting appearance in Superman, setting her up for her appearance as the villainous Ursa in Superman II. Sarah has had a long and varied career, appearing in the soap opera Falcon’s Crest for two seasons, as an evil queen in Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and as a scientist in The Return of the Swamp Thing. Douglas mostly does voice work, voicing characters in the animated versions of Iron Man and, of course, Superman.
Sam Peckinpah Pulled A Gun On The Movie’s Producers
Several directors were approached to take the helm of Superman before Richard Donner was hired. Alexander Salkind wanted Steven Spielberg, but thought his price was a little high. “Let’s wait and see how this fish movie works out,” he is rumored to have said, waiting to see if Spielberg’s Jaws bombed and he could negotiate the director down. Jaws was a huge success, and Spielberg’s fee rose. The Salkinds then went to see veteran director Sam Peckinpah, but Peckinpah got increasingly annoyed with the producers and eventually pulled out a gun on them, shouting, “You gotta shut up kid. What do you know about making movies?” After that, they went with Richard Donner.
What Happened To Jack O’Halloran?
Completing the trilogy of Superman II villains who made a brief appearance in the first movie is Jack O’Halloran. Former boxer O’Halloran was chosen to portray the towering Non thanks to his huge physical size. Since wrapping up duties on Superman II, O’Halloran has popped up in small roles in movies such as Dragnet, Mob Boss and The Flintstones. In 2010, O’Halloran’s book, Family Legacy, was published. In it, O’Halloran talks about his father, former Gambino crime family head, Albert Anastasia.
There Was Almost A Kojak Cameo
The original script of Superman was written by Mario Puzo, the man behind the script of The Godfather. Puzo had written the script as a comedy and had even included a scene where TV cop Kojak pops up and delivers his ‘Who loves ya, baby?’ catchphrase. “It was a parody of a parody,” Donner later recalled. “They were destroying Superman.” Donner rewrote the script and shot the movie minus the Kojak cameo.
What Happened To Valerie Perrine?
Perrine played Eve Teschmacher in both Superman and Superman II. Eve Teschmacher was the ditzy girlfriend of villain, Lex Luthor. Originally, the role of Eve had been offered to both Ann Margaret and Goldie Hawn, but both actresses demanded too much money. The role instead went to Perrine, who very much made it her own. After Superman II, Perrine starred in the Burt Reynolds / Roger Moore comedy caper movie, The Cannonball Run, and has since appeared mainly in small roles on TV.
The Screenwriter Gave Superman’s Crest A Back Story
Before Superman, there had never been any adequate explanation as to why Supes bears a big yellow ‘S’ symbol on his chest. It was screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz who came up with the idea that the crest was in fact a Krypton family crest, hence why you see Marlon Brando’s character sporting one as well in the movie. DC Comics loved this idea and formally wrote it into the Superman canon.
What Happened To Ned Beatty?
Ned Beatty played Lex Luthor’s hapless henchman Otis in both Superman and Superman II. The Deliverance actor had a long and distinguished career over the course of forty years, including roles in The Fourth Protocol, Hear My Song and Toy Story 3. He retired from acting in 2014 for undisclosed reasons.
What Happened To Marlon Brando?
Brando had already had many years of acting under his belt before he took on the role of Jor-El in Superman. The Godfather and Apocalypse Now actor was due to appear in Superman II (which was filmed back-to-back with Superman), but after suing the Salkinds over a profits dispute, his performance was cut and he was replaced with the actress Susannah York. After Superman, Brando appeared in just a handful of movies, including The Freshman and the disastrous The Island of Dr. Moreau. He died in 2004 at the age of 80.
Brando Suggested His Character Should Be A Giant Green Bagel
When Donner went to see Marlon Brando to talk about his role as Jor-El, the Oscar-winning actor suggested he should be a giant green bagel because, “Who knows what the people from Krypton are like?” Donner was having none of this. “Marlon, I think that people want to see Marlon Brando playing Jor-El,” Donner told the great actor.”‘They don’t want to see a green bagel.” Brando was eventually persuaded not to play the role as a bagel after seeing pictures of Jor-El from the Superman comics.
What Happened To Christopher Reeve?
The star of the movie was, of course, Christopher Reeve. Reeve struggled to emerge from the shadows of his most famous role, though it could be argued that he didn’t exactly help himself. Reeve turned down roles in movies such as Lethal Weapon, Romancing the Stone and American Gigolo in favor of playing Superman, even when that meant appearing in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace which, thanks to a drastically reduced budget, was mainly filmed in a shopping mall in the English city of Milton Keynes. Sadly, Reeve was left paralyzed from the neck down following a riding accident in 1995. For the rest of his life, he was a passionate campaigner for raising awareness of spinal cord injuries. He did make a return to the Superman universe in a 2004 episode of Smallville shortly before his death in 2004 at the age of just 52.
Margot Kidder’s Clumsiness Won Her The Role
Margot Kidder landed the role of feisty reporter Lois Lane thanks to being incredibly clumsy. “When I met her in the casting office, she tripped coming in and I just fell in love with her,” Donner recalled. “It was perfect, this clumsy behavior. She was one of the few actresses we flew to London to test with Chris. Anne Archer also tested. But they were magic together.” Kidder also lost one of her contacts on set, and as a result did her scenes wide-eyed as she could barely see. Donner adored her wide-eyed look, and requested Kidder shoot the rest of the movie without her contacts in.
What Happened To Margot Kidder?
Margot Kidder appeared in all four Superman movies as the feisty reporter and Clark Kent’s love interest, Lois Lane. Kidder was famously plagued with mental health problems throughout her life, but was still able to work fairly steadily throughout her troubled life, most notably in The Amityville Horror. She died in her sleep on May 13th, 2018.