Exclusive: Director Richard Donner Talks SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II; Plus an Update on DAVE and the GOONIES Musical on Broadway

     May 31, 2011

Director Richard Donner interview SUPERMAN slice

With Warner Bros. releasing Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) on Blu-ray next week, earlier today I got to sit down with director Richard Donner to talk about the first two Superman movies.  While the last decade has seen some exceptional comic book adaptations, Donner’s Superman is still one of my favorite films and it’s definitely one of the best comic book movies ever made.  Even though it’s thirty something years old, the original Superman was the first time I believed a man could fly, and it’s a benchmark that every studio should look to when trying to bring a comic book to life.

Even though I could’ve talked to Donner for hours about what it was like to make the “Man of Steel’s” first two movies, with only ten minutes, I had to limit my questions.  We talked about how Superman and Lois got back to civilization after he lost his powers in Superman II, when he first knew they could make people believe a man could fly, his reaction to being asked to complete his version of Superman II, and what’s up with the Goonies musical and Dave on Broadway.  If you’re a fan of the first two Superman movies, I promise you’ll enjoy this interview.

Superman The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) Blu-rayAnd one last thing before the interview…I checked out the new Blu-ray box set and it’s amazing.  It’s absolutely loaded with some great behind the scenes footage, awesome extras, and extended and different versions of the films.  Absolutely recommended.  The list of everything included in the set is at the bottom of the article.

Richard Donner Time Index

  • :12 – When Superman loses his powers in Superman II, how do he and Lois get back to civilization? He says it happens during the dissolve.
  • 1:40 – When rewatching the film, does he see issues in it or is he able to watch it as “the great first film.” Says he doesn’t see issues in the movie anymore. He would still like to re-shoot it. The production was under tremendous duress, it was a rushed production and he was awestruck by Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. He doesn’t see the problems when re-watching, but he thinks “I wish I would’ve done this.”
  • 3:28 – Talks briefly about CGI use today.
  • 3:48 – Talks about first seeing the footage of Reeve flying and thinking “this will work.” When he first came in, they told him they had the flying figured out and they showed him a person on a board with wires. A flying unit was on board for a year before they filmed the first flying shot. Talks about shooting his first flying test using camera and rear projector tricks. One day the crew brought him down to the Fortress of Solitude set to show him a demonstration of Reeve flying across the set with wires, and he remembers Reeve flying towards the camera and banking. After that, he said they all knew they had it.
  • 7:23 – His reaction to hearing they had found all of his footage that he shot for Superman II. After they made the film with his replacement, they showed it to him and asked if he wanted to have his name on it. He declined, because he felt it had become a parody. After the fan-outcry of people wanting to see Donner’s cut of the film, they pressured the studio to release the footage and let him put it together. They dug up a lot of footage, but a lot of his scenes were never shot. They only exist on screen tests, so they cut together screen tests and put them in his cut of the film.
  • 9:41 – He talks about the Goonies musical and Dave on Broadway. “Dave is really moving fast. We were in there, Lauren and I, and she heard some of the music and the book and it’s sensational. And Goonies is moving at the beginning stages, like a year before Dave. We’re getting good outlines and good story from Tim…oh shit, this is terrible. He’s a wonderful writer. I’d say hopefully we’ll have a good script maybe by the middle of this year, around September or October we’ll have a script that we can go to from there. It’s a long process, Broadway, it’s amazing. It’s frightening in a strange way. But we only get great reactions from everybody, everybody wants to see it. It seems like a great idea, and we’ll persevere. A musical of Goonies on Broadway? But it’s gotta be irreverent, and it’s gotta be Goonies. A lot of people are pushing, ‘Oh rewrite it, do it for adults,’ I said, ‘No adults go to see Goonies, but it’s gotta be…’ Anyway, it’s a bitch (laughs).”


Disc #1
· Superman: The Movie, Original Theatrical
· Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)
· The Making of Superman: The Movie [1978 TV special]
· Superman and the Mole-Men [1951 feature]
· Warner Bros. Cartoons
Super-Rabbit [1943 WB cartoon]
Snafuperman [1944 WB cartoon]
Stupor Duck [1956 WB cartoon]
· Trailers
Disc #2
· Superman: The Movie, Expanded Edition
· Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Extended Version)
· Taking Flight: The Development of Superman
· Making Superman: Filming the Legend
· The Magic Behind the Cape
· Screen Tests
Lois Lane with Optional Commentary
· A Selection of Restored Scenes
· Additional Music Cues
Main Titles
Alternate Main Titles
The Council’s Decision
The Krypton Quake
More Mugger/Introducing Otis
Air Force One
Can You Read My Mind (Pop Version)
· Music Only Track (Donner Cut)
Disc #3
· Superman II, Original Theatrical
· Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)
· The Making of Superman II [1980 TV special]
· Deleted Scene
· First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
· Fleischer Studios’ Superman
The Mechanical Monsters
Billion Dollar Limited
The Arctic Giant
The Bulleteers
The Magnetic Telescope
Electric Earthquake
Terror on the Midway
· Theatrical Trailer
Disc #4
· Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut
· Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Donner Cut)
· Introduction by Richard Donner
· Superman II: Restoring the Vision
· Deleted Scenes
· Famous Studios’ Superman
Eleventh Hour
Destruction, Inc
The Mummy Strikes
Jungle Drums
The Underground World
Secret Agent
Disc #5
· Superman III Theatrical Version
· Commentary by Iilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
· The Making of Superman III (1983 TV Special)
· Deleted Scenes
· Theatrical Trailer
Disc #6
· Superman IV The Quest For Peace Theatrical Version
· Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
· Superman 50th Anniversary Special (1988 TV Special)
· Deleted Scenes
· Theatrical Trailer
Disc #7
· Superman Returns
· Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns
Pt. 1 Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing Superman
Pt. 2 The Crystal Method: Designing Superman
Pt. 3 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman on the Farm
Pt. 4 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in the City
Pt. 5 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in Peril
Pt. 6 The Joy of Lex: Menacing Superman
Pt. 7 He’s Always Around: Wrapping Superman
· Resurrecting Jor-El
· Deleted Scenes including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns
· Bryan Singer’s Journals – Video production journals
· Trailers
Disc #8 Additional Bonus Material
· Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman [Hi-Def]
· You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman
Pt. 1- Origin
Pt. 2- Vision
Pt. 3- Ascent
Pt. 4- Crisis
Pt. 5- Redemption
· The Science of Superman [Hi-Def]
· The Mythology of Superman
· The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve
· The Adventures of Superpup [1958 TV pilot]

Superman Christopher Reeve

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