Revisiting Richard Donner and 'Superman'

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On this New Year's edition of The Business, we thought we'd revisit one of our most memorable conversations from last year. In April 2016, to mark the opening of Batman v Superman, Stephen Galloway at the Hollywood Reporter talked to filmmaker Richard Donner about the crazy backstory behind the making of the original Superman movie.

The origin story of the cinematic Superman, which was a major hit when it opened in 1978, was so entertaining that we thought the only thing better than reading it would be to hear Donner tell it himself. And so he did, when we visited him at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

When Donner got involved with the project through producer Alexander Salkind, Marlon Brando had already agreed to play Jor-El. Donner would cast a then-unknown Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Margot Kidder as reporter Lois Lane.

Donner is the veteran director of the Lethal Weapon movies, starting with the original in 1987. Just about a decade earlier, his Superman turned out to be the most expensive film of its time, with a budget that blew past $50 million. But Superman was a big hit that won a special award from the Motion Picture Academy for groundbreaking visual effects.

However, getting there was far from easy as Donner, now an octogenarian, explained. He tells us about conflicts with the scripts, special effects that failed at first, constant budget shortfalls and why Marlon Brando originally wanted his character to look like a donut.