Geek Dave presents 10 things you may not know about 1980s Superman II.
The story of Superman II's controversial production is a tale of two Richards!
1. Production on Superman II began in April 1977, simultaneously with that of the first Superman movie. However, come October 1977 conflict arose between the director, Richard Donner, and the producers of the movie, Alexander & Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler. They were not happy with the long shooting schedule, rising costs and Donner's final cut privileges. So filming for Superman II was put on hold and Donner was instructed to concentrate solely on completing the first movie, with the intention of coming back to the sequel after Superman was released. At this time the Salkinds hired Richard Lester as a second unit director and an uncredited producer. On March 15th 1979, 3 months after the release of the first movie, the Salkinds replaced Richard Donner with Richard Lester. The Directors Guild Of America states that the person credited as director must have filmed over 50% of the movie, but by Donner's own account he had about 75% of Superman II in the can already, so Lester had to re-shoot many scenes so he could receive sole credit as director. Quite a slap in the face for Donner.
2. The decision to replace Richard Donner did not go down well with many of the cast and crew. Gene Hackman refused to return as Lex Luthor, however almost all his footage had been shot by Donner anyway so Richard Lester trimmed back Lex Luthor's part in the movie and used a body-double for the takes he had to re-shoot.
3. Marlon Brando, who had already been paid $3.7 million and 11.75% of the first movies gross profits for his 13
days work playing Superman's Krytonian Father Jor-El (nice work if you can get it!), successfully sued the Salkinds for an additional $50
million over grossed profits gained from the first film. In response,
the Salkinds cut Brando out of Superman II, replacing all of his scenes (filmed under Donner) with newly shot Richard Lester material featuring Kal-El's Mother Lara, as played by Susannah York, reciting the lines that Brando would've had.
4. With a gap in production of almost two years Christopher Reeve's appearance changes somewhat between the Lester and Donner
footage. In the 1977 Donner footage he is less muscular as he was still bulking up for the part. However, Reeve's physical change is nothing like that of Margot Kidder. In the later 1979 footage Kidder appears quite frail and gaunt, compared to her much slender 1977 look. Plus in several scenes that include both Lester and Donner material (including inside the Daily Planet and the end scene at the Fortress of Solitude) Kidder's hairstyle, hair color, and even
make-up are all different.
5. An early version of the Superman II script had four Kryptonian exile villains. Joining General Zod, Ursa and Non would've been
Jak-El. Described as "a psychopathic jokester, whose pranks and practical
jokes are only funny to him when they cause death and suffering to
others." Jak-El would've been the movies source of comic relief. Thankfully the character was never cast.
6. Jack O'Halloran, who played Non, was a professional boxer. He boxed between the years 1966 and 1974 under the name of "Irish" Jack O'Halloran. Undefeated in his first 16 professional heavyweight fights, he reached the ranking of 5th in the world.
7. Remember in the first film when Superman reverses time by flying round the world? Well that was to be the climax of the second film. Basically instead of Clark kissing Lois and making her forget his secret identity, Superman would reverse time and have the same effect. After Donner decided to use that nifty maneuver in the first movie he figured he'd work out a different ending for the second when he resumed production. Only he never got the chance!
8. John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff from Cheers) appears in both Superman: The Movie and Superman II. In the first film he's a Naval Officer in control of the nuclear missiles, in Superman II he's had a promotion and now works for NASA.
9. In 1984 the Salkinds edited together an extended 'television cut' of Superman II. They had a deal where the network paid them by the minute so they literally threw everything in. About 30 extra minutes of footage appeared, nearly all directed by Donner, and some of it having been cut from the first movie. One of the newly added scenes in the Fortress of Solitude featured Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor begging Superman for forgiveness.
10. In 2004 Margot Kidder revealed in an interview that Richard Donner had
shot enough scenes to make his own cut of Superman II, and that she was sure all the unused
footage was "somewhere in a vault". A petition began to release this version of the movie, and in 2006 Warner Bros. released a DVD featuring the newly reedited Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Where possible Donner's original conception for the movie is included, with 83% of the footage being Donner's (including a few newly shot sequences) and the rest being Richard Lester's theatrical footage, included to fill gaps in the story line.
10 things you may not know about Superman: The Movie
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