You'll Believe a Man Can Fly!
Superman(Stylized as)The Movie Superman
The 1978 superhero film was directed by Richard Donner and supervised by Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler. It was written by Mario Puzo and Leslie Newman and Robert Benton and based on a story by Puzo that is based on the DC Comics character with the same name. It is the first instalment of the Amazing Spider-Man series. Superman Film series. International co-production between the United Kingdom and Panama, Switzerland, Panama, and the United States. The film stars an ensemble cast that includes Gene Hackman (Marlon Brando), Christopher Reeve, Jeff East and Margot Kidder, Glen Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, as well as Trevor Howard, Marc McClure and Terence Stamp. Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty. Jack O’Halloran, Maria Schell and Sarah Douglas. It focuses on Superman’s childhood, including his time as Kal-El the Kryptonian (Brando) and his youth in Smallville. He is disguised as Clark Kent and has a gentle disposition. He also develops a relationship with Lois Lane (Kidder) while fighting the evil Lex Luthor.
Ilya came up with the idea for a Superman movie in 1973. After a long and difficult process with DC Comics, the Salkinds & Spengler purchased the rights to the character the next year. Before Richard Donner was hired as the director, several directors were involved in the project, including Guy Hamilton and screenwriters Mario Puzo, Leslie Newman and Leslie Newman. Tom Mankiewicz was hired to rewrite the script. He was also given a “creative consulting” credit. It was decided that Superman II (1980) and its sequel Superman II (1977) would be filmed simultaneously. Principal photography began in March 1977 and ended in October 1978. Tensions developed between Donner, the producers, and it was decided to film Superman II (1980) simultaneously, with principal photography beginning in March 1977 and ending in October 1978.
The most expensive film made up to that point, with a budget of $55 million, Superman was released in December 1978 to critical and financial success; its worldwide box office earnings of $300 million made it the second-highest-grossing release of the year. Reeve’s performance was praised, as well as John Williams’ music score. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Sound. It also received a Special Achievement Academy Award in Visual Effects. This film is a landmark in science fiction/fantasy storytelling and special effects. The Library of Congress’s National Film Registry selected Superman for preservation in 2017.
Jor-El, the Kryptonian high court, discovers that Krypton will be destroyed if it orbits towards its supergiant sun. His claims are dismissed by the other members of the Council. Jor-El saves Kal-El’s infant son by sending him on a spaceship to Earth. His dense molecular structure will give him superhuman strength and other abilities. Krypton is then destroyed.
The ship lands in Kansas near Smallville. Jonathan and Martha Kent discover Kal-El, who is now three Earth years of age when he lifts his truck. They decide to adopt him and name him Clark, after Martha’s maiden name. Jonathan informs the boy that he was sent to Earth “for a reason”.
Clark, 18, hears a psychic call and finds a glowing green crystal within the spacecraft’s remains. He is compelled to go to the Arctic to find a Fortress of Solitude that resembles the architecture of Krypton. A hologram of Jor-El explains Clark’s true origins. After twelve years of teaching him about his purpose for being sent to Earth, and his powers, he leaves Fortress in a blue and white suit with a red cape, the House of El family Crest on his chest, and a red suit. Clark is made a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis and develops a romantic relationship with Lois Lane, his coworker.
Lois is in an accident with a helicopter. Clark uses his power publicly to save Lois, a feat that stunned the crowd below. After he defeats a jewel theif who tried to climb the Solow Building, he captures fleeing officers and deposits their getaway cabin cruiser at Wall Street. He also rescues a girl from a tree and saves Air Force One when a lightning strike destroyed an engine. Lois visits the “caped wonder” and becomes an instant celebrity. He then takes Lois to her penthouse apartment for a flight and allows her to interview him for an article that she calls “Superman”.
Lex Luthor, a criminal genius, learns about a joint U.S. Army-U.S. Navy nuclear missile testing. He purchases hundreds of acres of desert land that is worthless and reprograms one missile to explode in the San Andreas Fault. Superman can stop Lex’s plan. Lex discovers that a newly discovered meteorite is Kryptonian and radioactive to Superman. Luthor and Eve Teschmacher, his accomplices, retrieve a small piece. He then lures Superman into his underground lair, where he reveals his plan. It will cause everything westward of the San Andreas Fault, including the Pacific Ocean, to sink, making Luthor’s desert country the new West Coast of America. Luthor exposes Superman to Kryptonite, the meteor piece’s mineral. This weakens Superman as Luthor taunts Superman about the second missile that is heading east towards Hackensack in New Jersey.
Teschmacher is shocked that Luthor doesn’t care about Hackensack’s mother. Luthor abandons Superman to death. Superman is a good man, and Teschmacher agrees to help him on the condition that he stops the eastbound missile first. Superman frees the eastbound missile and diverts it into outer space. This prevents him from reaching a westbound missile before it explodes at the San Andreas Fault. California is hit by massive earthquakes that damage the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam. Superman seals the fault line to mitigate the impact of the explosion.
Superman is busy saving other people, but Lois’s car gets sucked into a crack by one of the aftershocks. It traps her in its midst as it becomes full of dirt and debris. Before Superman can reach Lois, she succumbs to her injuries. Superman, angry at not being able to save Lois, defies Jor El’s warning to not manipulate human history and instead listens to Jonathan’s advice that Superman must be there for “a purpose”. He speeds around Earth, travelling several minutes backwards in order to save Lois and undo the damage done by the earthquake and missile. Superman saves the West Coast and delivers Otis and Luthor to prison. Then he flies into the dawn for more adventures.
- Marlon Brando plays Jor-El, Superman’s biological dad on Krypton. The Council won’t listen to his theory about the planet’s explosion. His infant son is sent to Earth by his father to help him. He then dies when the planet explodes. Brando sued Warner Bros. and the Salkinds for $50 million. He felt cheated of his share of the box-office profits. Brando sent his infant son to Earth as a means of helping the child.
- Gene Hackman plays Lex Luthor, a scientist and businessman who is Superman’s archenemy. He is the one who discovers Superman’s weaknesses and devises a plan to put millions of people at risk.
- Christopher Reeve is Clark Kent / Superman. He was born on Krypton, Kal-El, and raised on Earth. He is an invulnerable being with immense power and strength who, once realizing his destiny, uses his powers and abilities to save and protect others. To protect his identity, he works at Metropolis. Daily Planet Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter for the newspaper. He changes into a red-blue, red-caped suit that has an S shield on it. Lois calls him “Superman”. Reeve was chosen from more than 200 actors who auditioned.
- Jeff East plays the role of Clark Kent as a teenage Clark Kent. As a teenager, Clark Kent is forced to conceal his superhuman abilities. This makes him less popular among his peers and frustrates his attempts to attract the attention of Lana Lang (Diane Sherry). After the death of his father, he sets out to find his Kryptonian heritage in the Arctic. Christopher Reeve redubbed East’s dialogue for the final cut.
- Ned Beatty plays Otis, Lex Luthor’s dumb henchman.
- Jackie Cooper plays Perry White, Clark Kent’s hot-tempered boss in the Daily Planet. Lois is assigned by him to find out the details of an unknown businessman who purchased large amounts of California property. Keenan Wynn had been originally cast, but he died shortly before filming began due to heart disease. Cooper was originally cast as Otis. However, he left the filming set due to heart disease shortly before shooting began.
- Glenn Ford portrays Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent’s adoptive dad in Smallville when he was a child. Clark learns from him the skills that will benefit his future as a farmer. Clark is later diagnosed with a fatal heart attack, which changes his outlook on his responsibility to others.
- Trevor Howard is the First Elder. He is the Head of the Kryptonian Council and does not believe Jor El’s assertion that Krypton has been doomed. He warns Jor-El: “Any attempt to create fear and panic among the populace must be deemed by us an insurrection.”
- Margot Kidder plays Lois Lane, a reporter at the Daily Planet who falls in love with Clark Kent. Lois was a liberated, hard-nosed and witty actress. Kidder was cast because her performance had a certain spark and vitality and because of her strong interaction with Christopher Reeve. Over 100 actresses were considered for the role. Margot Kidder, suggested by Stalmaster, Anne Archer and Lesley Ann Warren, were screen-tested from March 1977 to May 1977. Channing and Kidder were ultimately chosen, with Kidder winning the role.
- Jack O’Halloran is Non: Large and Mute, the third Kryptonian villain who is sentenced to isolation in the Phantom Zone.
- Valerie Perrine is Eve Teschmacher, Lex Luthor’s accomplice and girlfriend. After learning that Luthor had launched a nuclear missile towards Hackensack, New Jersey, her mother, she is already cynical about his grandiosity. Her romantic interest in Superman is implied by her fixating on her hair before she tells him and then kissing him after she saves him.
- Maria Schell portrays Vond-Ah. She is a top Kryptonian scientist but isn’t influenced by Jor El’s theories.
- Terence Stamp as General Zod, an evil leader of three Kryptonian criminals. He swears revenge against Jor-El and is sent to the Phantom Zone. His appearance was intended to make him and his associates the main antagonists in Superman II.
- Phyllis Thaxter portrays Martha Kent (nee Clark), Clark Kent’s faithful adoptive mom. She is a kind woman who cares about her adopted son and is fiercely committed to her husband, Jonathan. After Clark’s death, Jonathan’s loss devastated Jonathan’s son. Thaxter is the emotional support for her son. Thaxter was producer Ilya Salkind’s mother-in-law.
- Susannah York plays Lara: Superman’s biological mother on Krypton. After learning about Krypton’s fate, she has concerns about her son being sent to an unknown planet.
- Marc McClure portrays Jimmy Olsen, a teenage photographer at the Daily Planet. Jeff East, who portrayed the teenage Clark Kent, originally auditioned for this role but outranked following his portrayal of the teen Clark.
- Sarah Douglas plays Ursa, General Zod’s second-in-command and consort. She was sentenced to the Phantom Zone because of her unethical scientific research. Caroline Munro declined the role of Ursa in favour of Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me.
- Harry Andrews is the Second Elder: A Council member who encourages Jor-El to be realistic about plans to save Krypton.
Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn made cameos as Lois Lane’s parents in a deleted scene. This deleted scene was later restored in a later home media release. Neill reprised her role as Lois Lane in the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show.
Rex Reed and Larry Hagman also appear in cameo roles. Reed plays the role of an army major who is responsible for a convoy transporting one missile, while Hagman plays the role of an army major, and Reed plays himself when he meets Lois Clark and Clark outside of the Daily Planet headquarters.
Ilya Salkind was the one who first thought of a Superman movie in late 1973. After a difficult process with DC Comics in November 1974, Ilya, Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler purchased the rights to Superman. DC requested a list of actors who could be considered for Superman. The producers approved the choices of Al Pacino and James Caan as well as Clint Eastwood, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, and Steve McQueen. Ilya and Pierre Spengler purchased the Superman film rights. William Goldman was approached while Leigh Brackett was also considered. Ilya hired Alfred Bester, who started writing a film treatment. Alexander felt that Bester wasn’t well-known enough, so he hired Mario Puzo, who wrote the screenplay at a salary of $600,000. Peckinpah quit after he showed Ilya a gun. George Lucas declined the offer due to his Star Wars commitment.
Ilya wanted Steven Spielberg to be her director, but Alexander was sceptical and felt it best to wait until “Spielberg’s big fish opens.” Jaws was a huge success, and the producers offered Spielberg the job. However, Alexander was sceptical, believing it was best to wait until “Spielberg’s big fish opens.” Dustin Hoffman was originally considered for Superman.
Brando was offered a $3.7 million salary and 11.75% of the $19 million box office gross profit. Salkind was horrified when he suggested to Brando that Jor-El appear as a green suitcase with Brando’s voice or a bagel with Brando. But Donner used flattery and persuaded Brando to play Jor-El. Also, he refused to memorize his dialogue, so cue cards were created across the set. Hackman, a fellow Oscar winner, was cast as Lex Luthor a few days later. Because they were committed to other films, the filmmakers made it a priority that all Brando’s and Hackman footage was shot. Although the Salkinds believed that Puzo had written a strong story for the two-part film’s second part, they found his scripts to be too long, so they hired Robert Benton as well as David Newman to rewrite the scripts. Benton was too busy with The Late Show, so David’s wife Leslie was hired to assist her husband in writing the scripts.
The script was submitted in July 1976. It had a camp tone and featured Telly Savalas’ appearance as the Kojak character. Superman II and Superman II had scripts totalling over 400 pages. Pre-production began at Cinecitta Studios, Rome. Sets were being constructed, and flying tests were unsuccessfully attempted. Producer Ilya Salkind recalled that in Italy, they lost $2 million on flying tests. Marlon Brando was informed by Ilya Salkind that he couldn’t film in Italy due to a warrant for his arrest. He was facing a sexual-obscenity case from Last Tango in Paris. Production moved to England in late 1976, but Hamilton could not join because he was a tax exile.
Mark Robson was highly considered and was in discussions to direct. However, after watching The Omen, the producers hired Richard Donner. Donner had been working on Damien: Omen II before he was hired to direct Superman II and Superman III. Donner believed it best to start fresh. Donner wasn’t happy with the campy script, so he brought in Tom Mankiewicz for a rewrite. Mankiewicz claims that “not one word” from the Puzo script was used. It was well-written but still ridiculous. It had 550 pages. Donner continued, “You cannot shoot this screenplay since you’ll be filming for five years.” They had planned to shoot all 550 pages. 110 pages is a lot for a script. That’s why even two features were considered excessive. Mankiewicz had the idea of having each Kryptonian family sport a crest that resembled a different letter. Donner, however, gave Mankiewicz credit for his creative consulting work.
Before Richard Donner was hired to direct, it was decided that Superman would first be acted by an A-list actor. Robert Redford declined a large amount, feeling he was too well-known. Burt Reynolds declined the role. Sylvester Stallone was also interested, but it never happened. Paul Newman was offered his choice of roles as Superman, Lex Luthor or Jor-El for $4 million, turning down all three roles.
Casting director Lynn Stalmaster suggested Christopher Reeve as the next unknown actor when casting was finalized. However, Donner and producers thought he was too young. More than 200 actors were able to audition for Superman.
Bruce Jenner, Olympic champion, auditioned for the title part. Patrick Wayne was also cast, but he was forced to withdraw after his father, John Wayne, was diagnosed as having stomach cancer.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Neil Diamond both lobbied hard to be considered for the role but were turned down. Both Neil Diamond and Arnold Schwarzenegger lobbied hard for the role but were ignored.
Warren Beatty was considered for the role, but he declined.
James Caan claimed that he was offered the role but declined it. “I couldn’t wear that suit.”
Creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz recalled that “we found men with fantastic physiques who couldn’t act, or wonderful actors who didn’t look even remotely like Superman”. Producer Ilya Salkind was screen-tested by her dentist husband.
Stalmaster persuaded Donner and Ilya that Reeve should be screen-tested in February 1977. Reeve was stunned by the director and producers. However, he was instructed to wear a “muscle suit” in order to achieve the desired muscular physique. Reeve refused to do so, and he was forced to follow a rigorous physical exercise program led by David Prowse. Prowse wanted to play Superman but was turned down by the directors because he wasn’t American. Prowse also auditioned to play Non. Reeve weighed in at 188 pounds and 212 during filming. Jeff East portrays a teenage Clark Kent. Reeve overdubbed East’s lines during post-production. East said, “I wasn’t happy about it because they never told me what their intentions were.” It was done without my consent, but it turned out to have been okay. Although Chris did a great job, it created tension between us. Our differences with one another were resolved years later. ” east also injured several thigh muscles while racing alongside the train. He applied 3 to 4 hours of prosthetic makeup daily to facially resemble Reeve.
Principal photography began at Pinewood Studios on March 28, 1977, for Krypton scenes. It was the most expensive film ever made. Filming for Superman II was simultaneously taking place at Pinewood Studios. The filming took nineteen months and ended in October 1978. Filming was initially scheduled to take between seven and eighteen months. However, problems occurred during production. John Barry was the production designer. Norman Reynolds and Stuart Craig were the art directors. Les Bowie and Derek Meddings were both credited with being visual effects supervisors. Stuart Freeborn was a makeup artist. Barry, David Tomblin and John Glen were also responsible for making up, as well as Robert Lynn and uncredited Peter Duffell. Andre de Toth directed scenes from the second unit. Vic Armstrong was the stunt coordinator. Wendy Leech was Kidder’s double. Superman was also completed by Geoffrey Unsworth (cinematographer), who died in post-production while he worked on Tess, which was being directed by Roman Polanski. The Fortress of Solitude was built at Shepperton Studios, Pinewood’s Stage 007, and later distributed in North America. Warner Bros. also provided $20 million and acquired TV rights due to problems and complications during filming.
New York City was doubled as Metropolis. The New York Daily News Building also served as the headquarters for the Daily Planet’s offices.  New York City was used for Metropolis. The New York Daily News Building served as the location for the offices of the Daily Planet. Filming in New York took place during the 1977 New York City Blackout. The production moved to Alberta to film scenes in Smallville. There were scenes that were shot in the canyon at Beynon in Alberta. Also, scenes that featured high school football at Barons in Alberta and Kent Farm at Blackie in Alberta. Tom Mankiewicz, a creative consultant, said that Donner did not have a budget nor a schedule. He was always told that he was running behind schedule and over budget. He said to one point, “Why don’t we just schedule the film for two days and then I’ll have nine months?” Richard Lester, who was a co-producer on The Three Musketeers as well as The Four Musketeers with the Salkinds, was then hired to help Donner with his relationship with Spengler.
 Salkind thought that having a second director on the set would ensure that someone was available in case Donner is unable to fulfil his directing duties. Salkind acknowledged that “being there all the while meant he [Lester] was able to take over”. “[Donner] couldn’t decide his mind about stuff. Donner thought about Lester and said, “He had been suing Salkinds for money on Three and Four Musketeers which he’d never received. Although he won many of his lawsuits, he would move from one country to the next, from Costa Rica, Panama, to Switzerland, each time he sued them. Lester said to me when I was hired that I shouldn’t do it. They don’t want you to work for them. Although I was told not, I did it. Although I tell you not to do this, you will probably do it and then tell the next guy. Lester was a ‘go between’. I distrusted Lester and told him so. He replied, “Believe me, they’re only paying me the money they owe to me from the lawsuit.” Unless you ask me, I won’t be coming onto your set. I will never visit your dailies. Call me if I can help in any way.
Superman II was to be stopped, and Superman I was to be completed. Donner had completed 75% of the sequel. The filmmakers took a chance: Superman II would be a box-office bomb if it didn’t finish. Superman II’s original climax featured General Zod, Ursa and Non destroying the world, with Superman travelling back in time to repair the damage.
Donner said, “I decided that Superman will be a success, and they’ll do a sequel.” A cliffhanger isn’t going to bring them to Superman II if it’s not a success. ”
Superman contains large-scale visual effects sequences. The Golden Gate Bridge scale model measured 70 feet in length and 20 feet in width. The Krypton Council Dome and the Hoover Dam were also miniatures. Slow-motion was used for simulating the huge amount of water required to destroy the Hoover Dam. The Fortress of Solitude consisted of both a large-scale set and matte paintings. A mix of stunt drivers and models crashed the cars on the Golden Gate Bridge. Young Clark Kent executed a long-distance football punt with a wooden football that was loaded into an air blaster and placed in the ground. The Superman costume was to be a much darker blue, but the use of a blue screen made it transparent.
Three techniques were used to create the flying effects, as Roy Field, an optical effects supervisor, explains in the Superman movie DVD special effects documentary “The Magic Behind The Cape”.
Wire flying riggings were used for take-offs and landings. These were suspended from tower cranes on location, while elaborate rigs were suspended from studio ceilings. Some wire-flying was very daring, such as the penultimate shot in which Superman takes off from the prison yard. While stuntmen were employed, Reeve was the one doing most of the work and was suspended up to 50 feet high. To achieve flying motion, counterweights and pulleys were more common than motorized or electronic devices. Reeve’s thin wires that suspended him were usually removed from the film using rotoscope techniques. However, this was not necessary for all shots. In certain lighting conditions and when Superman is far away, the wires are more or less invisible.
Blue screen matte techniques were used for stationary shots in which Superman can be seen flying towards or away from the camera. Reeve would be photographed against a bluescreen. The cape flap of Reeve’s cape would give the illusion that he is moving, but the actor would stay still (aside from banking his body). Instead, the camera would make Reeve appear larger or smaller by using a combination of zoom-ins and outs as well as a dolly in/dolly-outs. After the background blue was removed photochemically, Reeve’s image would be “inserted” into a matted area on a background plate shot. Zoom-ins and zoom-outs will give the illusion of flying towards the background or away from it. These shots are characterized by the differences in lighting and colour between matted images and background plates, as well as the presence of black matte lines (where Superman and the matted area do not match up) and the somewhat unconvincing impression that movement is possible through the use zoom lenses.
The front projection was used in areas where Superman is flying (e.g., the Superman and Lois Metropolis flying sequence). The actors were photographed suspended in front of a background image that was projected from the front onto a 3M screen. This would reflect light back into the projector and camera. This resulted in a clear and vivid photographic reproduction of the actors and background plate with less image deterioration and lighting issues than rear projection.
A technique was developed that combined the front projection effect with specially designed zoom lenses. The illusion of movement was created by zooming in on Reeve while making the front projected image appear to recede. Reeve and actors were placed in various rigging equipment and photographed carefully to create scenes in which Superman interacts in flight with other people and objects.
The 3M material used to make the front projection screens for the Kryptonians’ reflective costumes is the same 3M material that was used for the Kryptonians’ reflective costumes. It was accidentally created during Superman’s flying tests. Donner said, “We noticed that the material lit up by itself.” We cut the material into small pieces and attached it to the costumes. This created a front projection effect on each camera. A little light was placed on each camera. It would project into the mirror, bounce off the lens and hit the costume. Millions of tiny glass beads would then light up the image and bring it back into the camera.
Donner’s The Omen was scored by Jerry Goldsmith. Superman was originally written by Jerry Goldsmith. Superman’s trailer featured portions of Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes work. John Williams was hired after he quit due to scheduling conflicts. Williams conducted the London Symphony Orchestra to record the soundtrack. The music was one of the last pieces to come into place. Williams’ “Theme From Superman (Main Title)” was released as a single. It reached #81 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #69 Cash Box.
Kidder was supposed to sing “Can You Read My Mind?” “, the lyrics were written by Leslie Bricusse, but Donner disliked it and changed it to a composition accompanied by a voiceover. Maureen McGovern eventually recorded the single, “Can You Read My Mind?” The song was not included on the movie soundtrack in 1979. It was a mid-chart hit for the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979 (#52) and spent three weeks at number five in the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart. It also made a few appearances on Canadian charts. It reached #93 on the U.S. Country charts but was a minor hit. Both McGovern and Williams’ singles featured theme music from the score. John Williams was nominated for an Academy Award, but McGovern lost to Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express score.
On February 15, 2019, La-La Land Records released the fully expanded restoration of Williams’ score as part of the film’s 40th anniversary.
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