RICHARD DONNER ON THE MAKING OF SUPERMAN (1980)
This fantastic interview with Superman (1978) director Richard Donner was originally published in Cinefantastique just months after the film’s release. It’s an astonishingly honest interview from Donner on just how challenging making Superman really was, and this interview was taken just BEFORE he was fired from Superman II!
After five years of concerted effort and investor arm-twisting by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the long-awaited film version of Superman burst onto the screen last December. Fortunately for the producers, its box office legs survived the post-Christmas slump and proceeds on the multi-million dollar film have long since soared into nine figures. Much of Superman’s success must be laid at the feet of its director; Richard Donner was called in to do the ill-prepared Superman on short notice when the previously signed director, ‘Guy Hamilton, backed out (to direct Force 10 from Navarone)
With eleven weeks to prepare, Donner supervised an entire script rewrite, hired a new art director, scouted locations and selected an actor to play the lead role. Two years later, last-minute changes were still being made as the world premiere loomed heavily on the horizon. The following interview occurred in Donner’s home in January 1979, a few weeks after the premiere in December 1978.
Two years ago, you had just completed The Omen and were working on a proposal for a sequel. Then, about two weeks later, it was announced that you’d been signed to direct Superman; how did that come about?
I got a call one day from a European voice that said, “This is Alexander Salkind. You know who I am?” and I said, “No.” And he said, “I produced The Three Musketeers. We’re doing Superman now, and we’ve just seen The Omen – would you like to do it?” So I said, “That’s flattering, but I’d like to read the script first.” And his reaction was,: You don’t have to read it. Everybody likes it.” But I said, “Well, I’d feel better if I’d read it.” He was calling from Europe, but there was a copy of the script over here which they had sent over – and twenty minutes later, I was reading it. I mean, literally, that’s how fast it was here. I called him back later and said I would be interested if I could bring in a new writer and do a major rewrite. But they said they were very happy with the screenplay, and everybody liked it, so I said, “We had better just forget about it then.”
Meanwhile, though, they were also negotiating with my agent, and my agent called me and said, “Boy, have I got you a deal.” I told him I didn’t want it. Anyway, it went back and forth, and finally, they agreed. So I flew over to Paris and made the deal.
I went to work on the picture the first week in January 1977 – and eleven weeks later, we were shooting with Marlon Brando! They had prepared the picture for a year, but not one bit of it was useful to me. I brought in a new writer, Tom Mankiewicz, and a new art director, John Barry, and we started from scratch.
What were your basic objections to the original script?
It was a well-written script, quite honestly. But it was a ridiculous script. For one thing, here was this producer, a guy named Pierre Spengler, who was going to supervise making this film for the Salkinds, and he had a 550-page screenplay. Well, number one, I said, “You can’t shoot this screenplay because it would take five years to shoot!” And he said, “Oh, no. It’s fine.” I said, “that’s totally asinine,” but that was literally a shooting script, and they planned to shoot all 550 pages. For comparison, 110 pages is plenty for a shooting script, so even for two films, that was way too much.
See, they had gotten a fantastic screenplay from Mario Puzo. And they had a director – who was a good director – an Englishman named Guy Hamilton. And then they brought in David and Leslie Newman and Bob Benton to do rewrites. So you had European producers and an English director making an American fable. ANd nothing wrong with it, except that I don’t think they really knew what the myth was. It’s a parody to start with, in an odd sort of way. Still, they parodied a parody and kept compounding that felony all the way through until it became much like the Batman TV series from the ’60s. I mean, they had things in there like a scene where Superman is looking for Lex Luthor, and he sees a bald head on a crowded street, so he flies down and grabs the guy. Well, the guy turns around, and it’s Kojak, and he says, “Who d’ya love. baby.” Stuff like that.
So when they said I could bring Tom Mankiewicz in, we made an understanding that, obviously, it had to be bigger than life, but, at the same time, it had to have some reality within the framework of the people. We tread that line very carefully and sometimes stepped over it. But I loved what we stepped over it with – it gave the comedic relief we needed.
So they pretty much gave you a free hand to rework the script?
They questioned some things, and we fought about things, but I always ended up being the winner. The Salkinds were the only ones involved with the quote-unquote creative end. Spengler was just involved with the finance or lack thereof.
Since you only had eleven weeks of lead time, was the script in flux during production, or did you have it set?
Well, in just eleven weeks, we had shot Brando’s Krypton scenes. Then we took a hiatus of three weeks. During that period, we worked on the script again, and I went out and scouted locations in the States and Canada and prepared England for the balance. By then, the screenplay was just about finished. There were little things left that I’d call Tom on or bring him over for – or we’d just improvise it ourselves. Once the relationship developed between Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve and myself, it became pretty easy to improvise within the characterisations.
Did DC Comics have much control over the script?
They had TOTAL control, contractually. I’ll never forget – one time, we got a memo from them with a long list of things that we couldn’t do, all from our screenplay. And they were mostly silly things, quite honestly. You couldn’t say “damn” or “hell” – stuff like that. I don’t know how they could have accepted the original screenplay because that would have been the demise of Superman. Sometimes I just don’t understand this business.
At that point, Warner Brothers had become involved with the picture because they were picking up the distribution; and Warners owns DC Comics – or at least they’re all under the same conglomerate. So I called the Warners Brothers people and said, “I’m certainly going to respect the Superman character, but I wish you’d have the DC Comics people back off a bit.” And from then on, they were just fantastic – really wonderful. They couldn’t do enough for us. Sent me tones of comic books, which were great for ideas. There are some beautiful drawings in them.
I understand that you and Spengler did get along at all. Why was that?
Spengler was the liaison to Alexander Salkind, and he supposedly had this knowledge of production – but my God, I’ve been in this business long enough to know what a producer is. It was ridiculous for him to have taken this job. As far as I was concerned, he didn’t know anything about producing a film like that. If he’d been smart, he’d have just laid back and let us do it; instead, he tried to impose himself on all aspects of production. So, not only did we end up producing it ourselves, in a sense, but we also had to counter-produce what he was doing. It was VERY difficult.
After The Omen, people would say to me, “that’s great, you’ve paid your dues, and now you’ve made it.” And I said, “No. I never paid any dues because I really enjoyed everything I’ve done getting to where I’ve gotten.” It’s all relative. But after this picture – after these two years – I’ve paid my dues. These two years took everything out of me – EVERYTHING! It even took the enjoyment out of filmmaking. It was such a trying period.
At the same time, though, I will admit my naivete. Because if I were the producer of a film like that, the first thing I would have done was put “X” amount of dollars into proving I could make a man fly and then go from there. The sheer stupidity on Spengler’s part made the film possible because if anybody had tried to do it for the money I suggested – $100,000 – they would never have been able to make the picture. Nobody knew how to go about it. It was the blind leading the blind, all experimentation. But I was very fortunate. I was surrounded by a terribly talented group of dedicated filmmakers, and somehow or other, we pulled it off.
One of my greatest attributes on Superman was I knew what I wanted. I didn’t accept anything until I saw it. So these poor bastards had to keep trying and trying and trying. In the beginning, everything was departmentalised, and there were little arguments and things like that. But we’d sit in my office at night and go over things. Gradually, props were helping special effects, special effects were helping matte painting, matte painting was helping miniature effects, and so on. And soon, it became a totally homogenous group.
I must say, I think there are some really amazing feats in that film. And 99% of them involve the believability of Superman as a real being. We were handicapped with the liability of having a man who had to fly. No lights coming out of his ass, and there was no noise to dazzle the audience’s senses – just a guy flying. And boy, it was difficult. It was six or eight months before I accepted the first flying shots from Denys Coop.
A number of the press releases indicated you had something like a thousand people and eleven units working for you at one time. Your experience before Superman was primarily in television and relatively small features. How was it, trying to pull all this together?
It was a nightmare. And it was a very lonely position to be in because I didn’t have the backup team I would have had if I were in America, like an associate producer, a production manager, and whatnot. In England, most of the people in those capacities are hired by the producer (Spengler didn’t hire any people for those roles), so all those responsibilities really fell on my little office, which was just myself and later my assistant, Mike Duthie. And of course, Stuart Baird, my editor, who’s a genius, and who also did the Omen for me.
I had a golf cart with a radio on it, and my office would have the home base radio. And I’d get calls all over the lot: “You’re wanted on “A” stage for a lineup… the 007 stage is ready for a rehearsal… You’re needed in the cutting room…” So, I’d just travel from one to the other. It was bananas. But I had to be in every one of those places because it was all in my head. That’s also part of the two-year paying my dues because my head got so tired – it really did. I’m still recuperating. I just like to lay around the house and swim and sleep, and that’s all.
Were you ever worried about the possibility that today’s audiences would just reject the whole concept of Superman as being kind of silly?
Every fucking day! Oh, sure. I felt my most significant responsibility to the project was somehow having to find some sort of objectivity in visualising Superman because everybody has seen him in their own way – either in the reality of a drawing or in the fantasy of their own mind. So I had this tremendous responsibility of trying to find some sort of middle road. Also, jumping the time gap from 1938 to 1978 (From when Clark first goes to the Fortress of Solitude as a teenager and leaves many years later as SUperman). That was the most challenging flight of them all: not just making him fly through that time warp to be accepted today. And boy, it did my heart good when I saw an audience react the first time.
Was there any consideration given to doing it as a period piece?
There was at first. But nobody knew what they wanted, really. There’s no way I would have done it, period. We could have gotten away with a lot more, and it would have been much easier, but I don’t think it would have done half of what it’s doing today [financially]. When Superman says, “I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way,” usually there’s such a laugh that you don’t even hear Lois say, “You’re going to fight every elected politician in this country, then?” I mean, that’s it for me – that’s why the film has to be “today.” You’re looking at a former arch-liberal who is finding himself becoming totally conservative as time goes on because nothing seems to work out there. I’m getting a little fed up.
You said you went through many months before accepting any of the flying scenes. What sort of things did you try and then throw out?
I tried skydiving and threw that out. But, basically, we didn’t throw too much out. Usually, we’d try things and then modify them. We used several systems, but our main one was a very mobile, new form of front projection. It enabled us to zoom both camera and projector and float them both. This was very unusual because the old front projectors weigh a ton. Ours weighed thirty-five pounds.
What do you mean by “float them?”
We could hang the projector and camera from what we call a sky hook or an “S” pin and move them around. Superman wasn’t flying, obviously. He had to be in a solid position, so whatever movement we got out of him was limited to a great degree. The camera had to give you the movement of flight. We also used some travelling mattes – blue backing – which I was never pleased with. We even did some actual flying – flying him on cranes from ridiculous heights. Most of that didn’t work. We tried flying a stuntman from a 300-ft crane behind the golden gate bridge miniature. And since the bridge was only about sixty feet long, we had to have him behind the model several hundred feet, and we’d swing him from this monstrous crane in a long, sweeping arc. That didn’t work. We did some night flying on cranes, though. It was dangerous, and we should never have done it, but thank God, we were lucky. Anyway, those were the modes. We didn’t use any back-projection at all. We played with it some, but we could never pull it off.
Is the front projection system you mentioned the Zoptic system?
Yes. Zoran Perisic developed it. It has a lot of handicaps and liabilities, but it far surpasses anything else because of its weight. Using that, we could zoom either in coordination with the camera or without – zoom both together or individually. What we were working on for Superman II is a lot more light out of this operation because we could never get the proper amount of light. Poor Denys Coop, director of process photography, would struggle to get exposure; and he did genius things with the amount of light we had. But Zoran is aware of this problem, and we have people working very diligently now to lick it.
We also have people working on memory bank operations. I like to call them computers, but they’re really not. These’ll be so we can repeat things with inanimate objects and frame-by-frame front projection processes that will eventually become background plates for Superman’s flights.
What did you use to suspend Christopher Reeve in front of your front projection or blue screens?
All kinds of things – anything from wires and cables hung from overhead rigs and stage cranes to what we call pole arms – rigs that came only knee-high or hydraulic arms that came out of the screen zero degrees from the lens.
I understand you had problems with Superman’s cape.
Yeah, that cape was a bitch. I guess you just can’t anticipate everything. We spent months getting our first flying shot, and then we looked at it, and something wasn’t right. It was the cape; it didn’t move right. So we had to build all kinds of gimmicks and little things to go under the cape. We tried electronic movements, bottled air, everything. And finally, Les Bowie came up with the idea of wiring the cape inside like an umbrella, which we could control with little gears to give the feeling of flight. But even that was good only from certain angles. Other times we had to add air and stuff. We had about fifty capes in different weights and sizes for different lenses and perspective changes. It was endless. I’d like to throw out half the things I see on the screen now because I hate the costumes.
Of course, only the audiences that go three or four times and study it will notice. But I see it, and I hate it. I swear we could have had a seamless costume, but that was a major pre-production decision before I came on board. And so we didn’t change it. Sheer stupidity. There were so many things I wanted to do right, but I couldn’t do right then. They had absolutely wasted a year’s worth of pre-production work, as far as I was concerned. Boots – I threw out the boots and redesigned new ones, but I finally had to go with the original design. They were awful. I had to keep changing them; sometimes, I had the zipper on the side, sometimes on the front, and sometimes on the back, depending on how he was standing and the camera angle, as we didn’t want the zipper onscreen. Those sorts of things were so easily anticipated, but nobody did it.
Fortunately, the audiences go in, and they come out, and it works for them. If one of those things didn’t work – if they laughed at Superman instead of with him, the picture would have been destroyed. And that’s what I struggled so hard with – not that they didn’t want to do it right. I still had to fight them every step of the way because I knew if I didn’t get it right, I was dead.
Even so, a lot of things still make me cringe. Some of the miniatures I hate with a passion! Those are the ones that were not done by the Maestro, Derek Meddings. I lost Derek Meddings because of the producer – again, the fucking producer!. I lost him because the producer didn’t tie him up properly because the producer didn’t know how long the production would take. And so, after a while, I lost him to James Bond. he did give me his input after, but he needed to be there, looking through the camera every second and changing things, and he wasn’t
Which of the miniatures was he responsible for?
He was responsible for Boulder Dam, but not the reverse end of Boulder Dam, where the little town gets wiped out. He was responsible for the destruction of the Krypton models, Air Force One, and a lot in the upcoming sequel.
Is the backside of Boulder Dam one of the things you’re unhappy with?
Yes, very unhappy. No fault of anyone, except that the people who were doing it were rushed. I had to have it, and it just wasn’t their selling point. Derek should have been doing it. And I didn’t have him then. That was a tremendous compromise for me.
There were rumours during the production, right up to a week before release, that you were having trouble with the flying effects – that the wires were showing and you were throwing away a lot of stuff?
Bullshit. Sure, if I wasn’t happy, we’d re-do it. I heard all kinds of things about how we were delayed in delivering the picture because you could see the wires. Any filmmaker knows that’s stupid. If you see the wires, you rephotograph it. If you rephotograph it and you can still see the wires, you paint them out – it can be done.
I will say that until we had to turn it over for printing, we were still out in optical houses for re-dos. I wish I had another six months; I would have perfected many things. But at some point, you’ve got to turn the picture over.
Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were signed on before you, weren’t they?
Were you in on the selection process for Superman?
There was quite a lot of press coverage at the time over who was the latest candidate for the role, ranging all the way from Robert Redford to Bruce Jenner.
That was before I came on the picture. It all preceded me.
How did you cast Christopher Reeve?
Well, when I came on the picture in January, the first thing I did was hire Lynn Stalmaster, the casting director – I think he’s probably one of the best in the business – and I gave him the thankless task of finding my SUperman. And I saw a lot of actors. When I went to New York to see some, Christopher was one of the ones I saw. But, at the time, I thought he was a little too young for it. I was really looking for somebody another five years older. And he was a bit skinny, even though he assured us he could put on some weight.
After a lot more looking, we finally got to the point where we had to go back to a different age bracket, and since we were, there was Christopher Reeve. So we brought him to London, and the minute he put on the costume, this tall, skinny kid just decided that he could do it for us. He really felt he could put the weight on and build himself up. And he did, in only about three months, But when I go back now and look at the tests – those old stills of Chris – I tell you, it was just blind faith.
Some of the earliest stuff we shot was in New York. When he lands with the burglar in front of 9 West 57th, he is as skinny as he ever was in the picture, and you can see the difference in later cuts. But he was just in the process of building up at that point. That was in July, and he’d worked diligently on it since April. Then, from that point on, his body kept getting bigger.
So you were pleased with him?
Oh yeah! He’s an outstanding actor. I’m not going to say there’s nobody who could have played that part, but as far as I’m concerned, nobody else could have.
Time Magazine reported that Marlon Brando showed up on the set and wanted to play Jor-El as a “green suitcase.” Is that true? Or was he just putting you on?
Marlon’s the kind of man that if he can collect his money and not do his deed, he’d be only too happy to do so. I was warned by a good friend of his, Jay Kanter, who is head of production for Fox, that Marlon wanted to play it as a green suitcase, and I said, “You’re kidding!” Then I spoke to Francis Ford Coppola because he had just finished his second film with Marlon. He gave me some advice on handling Marlon; “Let him talk, and he’ll give you your own answer.” So when he came in and said, “You know, maybe I shouldn’t look like a human on Krypton; perhaps I ought to look like a bagel: – well, I had already heard about the green suitcase, so I was pretty well set. But the producer almost fainted. Eventually, Marlon talked himself out of it by telling me a story about a child and then relating back to it later.
Brando’s been known to have some eccentric on-set behaviour. Did you have any problems with him?
I was prepared, but Marlon turned out to be a love. I really enjoyed working with him. He was disciplined and wonderful to be with as the day was long. So all my preparation in that area was totally wasted. The moment he walked onto the set, he went over and said hello to every guy on the crew. He was never late; he had a good sense of humour and worked under trying conditions. He had a touch of the flu and was jet-lagged and tired. The set was over 105º F, his costume weighed about 30lb, and he had a wig on, which was really uncomfortable – that son-of-a-bitch really was terrific. He never even complained. But one day, he said, “I feel terrible. I’ve got a cold, I’ve got jet lag – I’d like to go home.” And I said I can’t stop you, but it’s going to cost me a lot of time and money.” So he said, “I’ll give you a free day.”
With $3.7 million for two weeks’ work, that was damned decent of him.
Well, it was, really. Listen, the Salkinds brought him for a reason. They didn’t buy Marlon Brando the actor; they got Marlon Brando the name. They brought him on to back up their investment, and once he’d signed on, they were able to raise additional money off his name. So I don’t begrudge the man, not at all. He’s totally entitled to that. I should have seen the writing on the wall that day; when I told Spengler about the free day, he said, “Did you get it in writing?”
I understand that the budget was a secret from everyone, including you.
Right. I was never told.
Do you have any idea how much the picture cost?
I’d say, at this point, you’re probably talking $50 to $55 million for both films.
Richard Lester reportedly came on the production to mediate between you and the producers. How did that come about?
This is really bizarre. Richard Lester had been suing the Salkinds for his money from Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers, which he directed and never gotten appropriately paid for. He told me he’s won a lot of lawsuits, but each he sued them in one country, they’d move to another – from Costa Rica to Panama to Switzerland. So when I took the picture on, Richard Lester took me aside and said, “Don’t do it. Don’t work for them. I was told not to, but I did it. Now I’m telling you not to, but you’ll probably do it and end up telling the next guy.” Anyway, when I was having trouble with Spengler, Alexander Salkind brought in Lester to be the go-between. Now, I didn’t trust Lester, and I told him so. But he said, “Believe me, I’m only doing it because they’re finally paying me the money they owe me from the lawsuit. I’ll never come onto your set unless you ask me; I’ll never go to your dailies. I’m just here. I have to come in a certain number of hours each day. If I can help you in any way, call me.”
With all the problems you had with the producers, I’m surprised you didn’t get fired.
They tried many times. But by then, Warners had gotten involved in the distribution, and one thing they had was the right of director approval. And there were only three names on their list. It was me, Friedkin and Spielberg. It was just this misplaced loyalty they had toward Spengler that was their mistake. Monies were just flushed away – totally wasted. And that was heartbreaking to me. I hate to see money thrown away when it should’ve been up there on the screen. None of it was wasted flamboyantly, you know. Nobody lived big or did ridiculous things with it. It was just a total lack of knowledge, that’s all. Suppose I were arranging a movie like this instead of hiring people that were more stupid than I was so. In that case, I’d look smart; Id have hired the brightest people in the whole godddanmed world – if for no other reason than just to save me. And Spengler did just the opposite.
I can imagine that there must have been a lot of “how are we going to this” in your readings of the script?
All the time.
Were there any major segments of the script that you had to throw out because you couldn’t do them?
No, just the opposite, really. I added a lot of stuff. We did make concessions, though. I don’t recall what they were now, but I remember a lot of times something just couldn’t be beaten one way, so I would change it.
Despite your Academy Award Nomination for Visual effects, Superman went largely unrecognised in the Oscar nominations this year.
I’m totally disgusted, despondent, and have the greatest possible disrespect for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not for me. But how dare this select club of 3800 people look past Geoffrey Unsworth? [the Cinematographer] If you look at the pictures that were nominated for Best Cinematography, it’s a fucking sin that his name wasn’t up there because his work far surpassed anything I’ve seen this year. How dare they treat him with such disdain and disrespect when the photography on Superman outclassed a hundred times over half the shit they have seen? What a genius of a motion picture cameraman he was; he was the master. And he didn’t even get a goddamned nomination! [Geoffrey Unsworth sadly passed away just before Superman was released].
And art direction. They put up pictures like California Suite – duplications of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Big deal! Just look at what John Barry did for Superman! And he wasn’t nominated either.
I think the Academy is a disgrace. It certainly isn’t peers on a peer level. It’s the most political, ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen – this convinced me. I’d like to be awarded once so I could end up there and speak my piece.
At one point, not long before the release, it was reported that you were going to end Superman on a cliffhanger.
I was, but then I finally decided, “Hey, if Superman is a success, they’re going to release a sequel. If it ain’t a success, a cliffhanger ending ain’t going to bring them back to see Superman II.” We’d done what we set out to do, and there was no real way of capping it. And I felt it would hurt the love scene between Lois and Superman in the end If I went on and did that, so I just said the hell with it.
How are you going to lead into the second film?
Superman was going to leave Hackman and Beatty in the prison, fly up past the camera just as he does, and then I would pan into the sky and pick up the rocket he had left tumbling. You see it shut off, and you see the Zone of Silence with the three villains in it; then, all of a sudden, the rocket goes past them, and there’s an atomic explosion, and it blows up the Zone of Silence, freeing Terence Stamp, Jack O’Halloran and Sarah Douglas. Then you see them going to the moon, where they destroy a moon mission – which we’ve already shot, and it’s fantastic. Then they go to Earth and start breaking up the White House and such. But then I figured it was just too much like television – tune in next week, you know – so we chopped it.
Aside from what you’ve mentioned, what else can we look forward to?
The three villains come to Earth, and since they have the same molecular strength as Superman, it’s three against one. And there’s the possibility that Lex Luthor is going to be smart enough to become their agent and represent them. And that Lois may outwit Superman and find out who he is. And he may fall in love with her. And they may make love.
What do the DC Comics people have to say about that?
They’ve approved it already. It’s done so beautifully. And Superman destroys his Father, Jor-El, for the love of a woman. I won’t go on from there.
How does he destroy his father?
By using all the energy from the crystals for another purpose – the crystals in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman II’s going to be a helluva film. There’s not a whole lot left to do on it, but what’s left could take months – like a major aerial battle between Superman and the three villains and the destruction of Metropolis. And then there are scenes with Superman and Lois that are written and ready to go. Not too much, but enough.
Is it your best guess that you’ll be finishing up?
I’d like to think I’m going to be. I’d be very disappointed if I weren’t.
Are you going to have to work with Pierre Spengler again?
I’d work with him again, but only on my terms. As long as he has nothing to say as the producer and is just a liaison between Mr Salkind and his money, that’s fine. As long as he doesn’t interfere in any way because I just won’t go through that again. If they don’t want it on those terms, then they’ve got to go out and find another director – it sure as shit ain’t going to be me.
THEN JUST WEEKS AFTER THIS INTERVIEW WAS TAKEN….
Richard Donner argued eloquently for the need to recommence work on Superman II by the end of February. Major special effects sequences had yet to be completed, they were on the verge of losing some of their prime technicians to other projects, and the sequel’s release was locked in for the summer of 1980. But February came and went without event. Weary of waiting for the uncommitted sequel, Christopher Reeve signed on to star in Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time for Universal, scheduled to begin shooting in late May. This action prompted a lawsuit by the Salkinds, which was ultimately settled with the agreement that Reeve would report to Pinewood for Superman II by the end of July.
What came as a major shock to the industry, in light of Superman’s box office success, was a March 15th communique from the Salkinds to Donner’s agent, advising that Donner’s services were no longer required on Superman II – this despite the fact that Pierre Spengler had been replaced as producer by Richard Lester. Guy Hamilton, whose last-minute departure from the original Superman had prompted Donner’s entrance into the project, was signed to complete the sequel.
Donner indicated his surprise at this announcement and said, “The Salkinds and Spengler have now seen fit to replace me with the original director, whose material I had to radically change to make the picture you have seen – or Richard Lester, who, as he explained to me, is still trying to get his money from the Salkinds. Since I completed atleast 80% of the second film already, I only hope they cannot hurt it that much.”