Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, the cast of “Superman Returns” assembled for interviews with the press. CBR News now presents the second in our series with actor Brandon Routh, who plays Clark Kent/Superman in the film. From the start, Routh was warm and affable with everyone in the room, making sure to shake every press member’s hand before beginning the interview. He dressed simply, wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt.
How do you feel about playing such an iconic character, and how reluctant were you to take on the mantle of Christopher Reeve?
Not reluctant at all. It’s a great mantle to be able to take on. It’s an amazing legacy. To finally see it – I just saw the final product yesterday, as well – it’s really amazing to be a part of something like this. The spirit of Superman is great to have around. I’m really excited to be a part of it, and to share in the legacy. I saw the A&E documentary “Look Up In The Sky” that Kevin Burns and Bryan [Singer] did, and it showed me again the history that’s in this character.
Were you there every step of the way? The original cut was about 2:55, and as they trimmed it down, were you a little disappointed at all that they cut out the return to Krypton or anything?
I was at first. I thought at first that I wanted a little bit of that in there, but the reasoning behind what they cut and what they kept really makes sense. It really plays for me. When I saw it yesterday, it all worked and was understood. Sometimes when you write a script, you want it to be all these amazing things and you realize sometimes that it’s too much. If you have too much then it dilutes the main theme of the film. I think it was to Bryan’s credit that he was able to let go of some of those things. You create these things and you become creatively – even I, with acting things, become very taken by it. You want to keep it in there because you feel like it’s yours, but to be able to see that sometimes some stuff needs to go is great. I think it’s for the benefit of the film. People will get to see it, though. I think they might see it on the DVD’s.
What were some of the challenges of playing this character, both physically and emotionally?
Physically preparing for the role, definitely. Continuing to stay physically fit throughout filming, getting up at 4 or 4:30 in the morning.
Were you not physically fit before the film?
No, I was, but certainly not as much as I became.
So, no Australian beer for you while you were filming?
Every once in a while, but not very often. I had to stay fit.
So what did you do?
Here in Los Angeles, with my first trainer, I did Rope Yoga, which is a process that’s a mix between pilates and yoga that my trainer designed, actually. That was to help me in the wires. To be able to be flexible to endure the long hours, to keep a streamlined position and all these things. To create a very strong abdomen. It’s all about core-based training. We lifted weights as well to train my body to be able to lift heavier weights when I got to Australia. That was the first couple months, and then once in Australia, I really hit the weights hard.
What about diet?
A lot of vegetables. That was probably the biggest change I did. I think I ate quite a bit of protein, too. I had some great supplements from Science for Health.
How much were you bench pressing at the end?
Well, we never actually did benchmarks. We used to, when we’d bench, we’d do escalating weights. I’d compete with my trainer, who was my size. Michael. He was about an inch taller than I was. We would see who could do the last set as many times. We were pushing up probably 160 pounds as much as we could, to exhaustion. That was our big battle. I think I beat him more times than I lost on that one.
So you’re 6’3″, what did you weigh when you were Superman?
220. 218 at my heaviest.
And what do you weigh now?
So there’s not that much of a difference.
Not too much. I’m lifting to stay fit, but nowhere near the amount I was before. If we do another one, I’ll certainly be back in the gym before that.
Have they told you to set aside September 2007?
They have not told me any time. I’m the last to know.
Actors talk a lot about how acting involves constantly learning. What did you take away from this film, and more specifically, what have you taken away from working with Bryan Singer?
Wow, I’ve taken a lot of things. I knew patience was important, but just being able to be open to all the possibilities. To creatively listen to people. I have my own way, and I’m very certain in my way, but to be able to listen to what Bryan has to say – or anybody who has a piece of information – is very helpful. This is a hugely collaborative process for us all to create things together, and I’m very open to that now. From Bryan, just being able to change on the whim when the shot wasn’t working. For him to be able to completely alter something because it wasn’t working, even though he’d created an animatic to do it one way, he was just like “Okay, well, let’s do something else.” As an actor that has paid dividends for me, too, because I really do become stuck in how I think it’s going to happen. I rehearse it one way, but to be able to go “But what about this way?” opens up a whole new level of exploration.
Are you prepared for what’s going to happen to your career as a result of this movie? Or your personal life? Paparazzi and the like?
I think so. I’ve said before that I’m prepared to be prepared, and I think that remains the same. There’s no way to really know what it’s going to feel like. For each individual it’s going to be different.
Yeah, maybe no one will go see it.
I think we won’t have that problem, but as far as paparazzi I’m speaking of, I will deal with that when it’s time to deal with it.
Well how do you prepare for that? Do you get advice from, for example, Kate Bosworth?
Just being open to it. If I ever become defensive and upset right away, then that’s going to adversely affect how I deal with it, and probably not going to be bad press for me. And it’ll probably be bad pictures because I’ll be angry. Just being open and pleasant. I think it will be amazing where I find myself years from now because of this film. I think everybody’s going to know this film and, because of it, me.
There are notes in the film where I feel I see you doing little homages to Christopher Reeve. I don’t see you repeating him, but I feel like I see you doing a few things. Was it conscious that you were doing that?
Well, he was my Superman. Like I said, when I read the script for the first time, I was envisioning him. That’s how I envisioned Superman. There are definitely elements where I’m sure it looks a lot like him, and I’m probably channeling that energy, which is great, and I’m proud to be a part of that. Then there are other times where it’s completely different. There’s probably more old in my performance than new because there’s almost 70 years of history in the character. Everybody who’s watching it is seeing it with their own vision. They’re seeing what they want to see. They’re seeing as much of me as they want to see, and they’re seeing as much of anyone else.
Is there something you wanted to bring to the character that you don’t think has been there before? I saw a lot of vulnerability on screen that I’ve never seen before. Was that yours?
Thank you. That has a lot to do with the script. It allowed me to do that, which was fantastic because we really get to see the character mature, and deal with some things that, as an audience member, really pulls us in. I think that Superman’s journey is to become comfortable on Earth. He obviously has his role as Earth’s greatest protector, but he also wants to be as happy as he can. If that happens to be with Lois, then he’s going to find a way. It might not be easy, but that’s the journey. It was great to be able to play that. Other than that, the one thing is that with the flying we wanted to make that as graceful as possible. Of course that’s easier with the CGI element, but there are many shots that are really me, and some great stuff that I’m really proud of. We wanted that to be as graceful as possible, just the movement of the character being very regal and the character having a great power when moving, which is a difference between Superman and Clark, as well.
Have you done a commentary for the DVD?
No, we haven’t done that yet.
What’s next for you professionally? Are you looking for things as un-Superman-like as you can before another Superman movie?
Well, un-Superman in not just action. I’m looking for something with a lot less action and more talking and listening. I also have a film that’s premiering at CineVegas Film Festival. A short film directed by Joel Kelly called “Denial.” It’s a 35mm short film about a man’s struggle to choose between the woman of his dreams, and his reality. It’s definitely different than Superman. I’m really proud of that. This has opened up a lot of doors. I’ve met with a lot of people. Very soon I’m going to be making a choice.
Have you gone to Lucky Strike recently?
I was actually just there the other day for an Mtv special that they’re doing. It’s the same. It’s great to see it again, and to see some of my friends that are there.
There’s a remarkable amount of silence in this film where you’re allowed to watch the characters just react. Was that a big challenge for you as an actor?
Yes, especially when flying, because then I have an element of physicality happening while doing that. One of the most amazing things that I got from the film – there’s so much green screen, and so many moments – it really taught me how important it is to have an intention when flying. Having an intention every time I’m moving – where am I going, what am I doing, how am I feeling about that? Rather than just going and having a blank stare. Since Superman is a man of few words, there’s so much that needs to be conveyed through just the image of my face on screen.
Is there one particular moment in the film that you loved working on?
Well, there are many. I don’t know that I can talk about them even yet. You guys have seen them. There are some heart-felt moments on New Krypton, testing the limits of Superman. Even though we know he’s Earth’s greatest protector, he really has to prove it. Those are some powerful moments for me, finding that within myself. Being able to display that, and kind of live that for those scenes is really fantastic.
Your eyes are naturally brown. How did you get the blue eyes?
Blue contacts. Blue prescription contacts, because I wear contacts myself. They were a little bit infuriating because they were painted. There was white around them, and I would blink and they’d shift. Better than the sclera’s, which are the full eye ones, I’m sure. I didn’t wear those, but I’ve heard stories. I think they’ve had to go and retouch some stuff, I’m sure.
You and Kevin Spacey had some adversarial moments on the set?
Well we don’t have too much in the film. It’s important that when we finally come together that it means something. There was always a bit of – we were all playing the characters.
The golf cart? [Ed. Note: As you’ll read in our interview with Kevin Spacey, the actor had a modified, very Lex Luthor type golf cart on the set and went around tormenting Superman, errr, Brandon Routh.]
Yeah, that. He did that. It actually kind of paid off when we got around to filming the scene because I already had that sense of Lex’s evilness even though we had no history. He was showing that to me in having fun.
Are you a comic guy? Are you a fanboy yourself?
Comics, I was never as big a fan as I probably could have been, I suppose. But I’m definitely a fan of science fiction and fantasy. My interests were more in fantasy than in comics growing up.
Books, games, those types of things.
Is there a fantasy character you’d like to play? A movie?
There are many things. I’m sure at some time there will be some element of that.
What villain would you like to see in a sequel, if any?
I don’t know. I don’t want to put anything out there until Mike, Dan and Bryan figure out, if indeed we do.
Is there a toy out now you wish you’d had as a kid?
The flying one. The flying remote control [Superman] seems cool. I never had a flying remote control plane when I was little, but that would have been cool.
As the interview came to a close, Routh noticed the two foot tall Superman toy in the corner that one of the press members brought to the junket. Routh had never seen it before and instantly picked it up. It was a fun little moment watching Routh check out this two-foot tall likeness of himself.
Look for more from the “Superman Returns” press junket throughout this weekend here on CBR.