In Part 2 of our roundtable interview with Brandon Routh, you’ll find more of the candor and good humor that quickly endeared the Man of Steel to journalists in the room. This portion of the interview picks up right after the end of Part 1.
Q: Can you talk to us about the first time you put on the suit?
Brandon: It was really pretty great. Aside from just the fact that there’s a lot of people around watching you [laughter] put on this very skin-tight thing. I was in good shape, but I wasn’t in as good a shape as I am in now obviously. It’s very revealing. But instantly there’s a sense of power by putting it on because of how tight it fits. I use this analogy: It’s like working out. When you work out your blood is pumping throughout your body, the size of your veins, the blood pumping is bigger so everything feels more alive. Your skin feels tight. Same thing with the suit, it kind of elevates you to another level. You feel more powerful and confident about your body. Also, which is possibly the best aspect of it, I never once felt strange or goofy or funny or a fool. You know they did such a great job modernizing the suit that I always think of it as stately and graceful and “kingly”. I mean Superman is a king, last son of Krypton, and you feel like that. Especially with the cape. I mean we do a lot of stuff without the cape and I definitely notice when I don’t have the cape or the boots on… all these things. The boots are very important. You know the only thing you can do without, the belt is the only thing you feel you could feel okay without. Because the underwear, of course, you know they’re very helpful [laughs] because otherwise it looks like a blue suit, which feels very strange. But the whole thing together, it’s just extremely powerful and imposing, but not too much. I know it’s imposing because I see some children come to set and sometimes they’re a little bit frightened by the suit and me in the suit. But I don’t think it’s scary.
Press: Do you get to keep one?
Brandon: I sure better! The funny thing is there about this big [indicates a small gap between his hands], when you see them they’re about this big, cause they’re just a big rubber band. I could stick it to the wall. There’s also plenty of body mold of me that I could maybe get, but then I’m thinking, “Do I really want a mold of my body?” and I don’t have a place to put it right now. [laughter]
Press: You were pretty cool as Seth in “One Life to Live”.
Brandon: Oh, thank you.
Press: But you got axed kind of early.
Press: And I’ve seen you in some of the small roles on TV. What kind of change of perspective have you had now in regards to life with all the ups and downs that you’ve had?
Brandon: Well I’ve definitely learned a lot from the ups and downs. The soap experience is an interesting experience for any actor. I’m sure there are actors that love it. For certain people, and certain actors, at certain stages in their life it’s a very good thing or just a learning process. And everyone kept telling me, “It’s a boot camp for actors”, “It’s a great place to learn”. Because I wasn’t whole-hearted about it when I went. And I was on the show and I learned a lot. I was happy sometimes, but it wasn’t the best time of my life and I was ready to go when I went. I was always, always upset about the manner in which I was let go, not the fact that I was. But that’s the business and I held on to that and was angry about that for a while. I’ve since let it go because it’s not doing me any good. And then because of it I’m here. With all those let downs or things that I didn’t get, has allowed me to be where I am. So I don’t look down on any of those experiences now, they’re all really amazing, because I’m here. It’s interesting when you get to that level of being on a soap opera, not many people knew me but I did get stopped every once in a while in New York, twice or three times a month, not a big deal, saying, “Aren’t you Seth?” or they might not even know my name but they knew I was on “One Life to Live”. And you’re making a steady income, ah not a lot but pretty good for a 21 year old at the time, I think I was, 22. And then you’re done. And then you got back to L.A. and you think certain things are gonna happen. You think, “Oh I’m gonna keep booking work”, “I’m gonna do this”, “I’m gonna do that”… and a year goes by and you don’t book anything. And maybe there are other reasons for that, not necessarily my talent, but business stuff behind that. So you learn a lot in that, and getting a real job. I worked packing boxes. Three years ago I was working for this very nice guy, this internet company, who were selling stuff on the internet, and I was putting peanuts in boxes and for $8 an hour. And working at this bar outside of L.A., 40 minutes outside of L.A., in this small town. Where there really wasn’t anybody there, and they were regulars… but there were these crazy things, I’m thinking, “Where am I? What’s going on in my life?” You know, “I used to be an actor! I used to be in New York!” You know…
Press: Do you keep in touch with those people at all?
Brandon: I did email the guy who I did the boxes, the shipping stuff for.
Press: Do you order peanuts from them now?
Brandon: [laughs] No. No. I haven’t been back to the bar, although I’m thinking of stopping in maybe. I don’t know. It’s one of those things…
Press: In the costume?
Brandon: Oh, well probably not that. I’ll probably leave that at home pinned to the wall. [laughter]
Press: Were you ever like, “Let me take the costume home and let me see how I look in it myself”? William Goldman wrote that he knew that when Warren Beatty took the costume home that he was gonna come in and say, “I don’t wanna do it” because he was gonna stand there and look at it in the mirror and go, “I just can’t do this”.
Press: That it was just too humiliating. Was there ever a concern of yours? And do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and go, “Oh I’m Superman!” or do you go, “I look, kinda… I’m in a blue suit!”?
Brandon: No, I never went towards the negative side. Either because I gave myself over to it and it was fine no matter what it looked like, I’d like to believe. And I think that’s a lot of it. But I think if the suit hadn’t changed at all I would probably be a little bit hesitant. Just because… and that’s an interesting point you bring up because even in ’78 that suit was still not really cool, I mean it was cool because it was Superman, but it wasn’t… it wasn’t… umm…
Press: Warren Beatty cool?
Brandon: [laughs] Yeah! Yeah! I mean I don’t know if Warren Beatty would be comfortable in this suit either. I mean we could have him come and try it on. Umm… But no, I didn’t. I was so… It’s great. It’s… I don’t know what it is. It’s the color. It’s the material, although it’s a similar material. It’s the style. It’s just very powerful and great.
Press: Can you say something about working with Bryan?
Brandon: Bryan’s great! What I love about Bryan is that he allows for creativity at all times. It never seems that he pigeonholes himself into “This is how I’m going to shoot the scene. This is what I want you to do. This is how I want you to react. This is how it must be and we’re not varying”. He never does that. That can be… and at the beginning that was somewhat confusing and challenging because I was like, I need, I need… cause like I show up and I don’t know what’s going to happen and I want plans, and I want to plan that, and this is how I’d done the scene, and if we’re not going to do the scene this way then what am I gonna do? I soon learned that that’s not always good for an actor. In fact it’s probably never good for an actor, because I need to be open too, to change and manipulate, and not plan things. Because when you plan things as an actor that’s when things become stale, and that becomes when I don’t listen to the other actor. So he’s really helped in that aspect, and for me to be able to work on the fly and to think outside the box and all these things, and really to be creative. Which is great. He allows me to be creative and put my input back to him about things. Especially with Clark, because that’s like a big open canvas, and so much fun to go in and try things. And “Okay, now try do it a little bit this way”. Or “I like that. Keep that and add bits and we’ll see how it goes”.
Press: Are you allowed to improvise lines?
Brandon: Ah, well, not so much improvise. A lot of it’s mood and feelings and stuff that we tweak. There are line changes that happen but if something’s not working, I don’t necessarily say that I improvise lines, I might change a “the” or a vernacular slightly. Or ask he and the writers if they’re okay with that. Or he’ll come and say, “You know what that line…”. We may do it five times, the take five times, and there’s something wrong. Say that… There was one instance in the Kent Farm where I did, I said something he didn’t like that wasn’t quite right. So I said, “Let me do something”, and we changed it, changed the line, and he seemed to like it. Whether that’s the take they use I don’t know. But yeah, it’s very nice to be able to do that.
Press: How about your chemistry with Kate. I noticed that Bryan said when she came in to audition that was something he noticed. Did you feel that auditioning with her?
Brandon: Yes. There were five other girls I think at the time they tested, and I’m not sure what order Kate was in, but one would leave and we’d kind of discuss it, saying “Oh I liked this”. Or I’d think about what was it that was nice about their performance. With Kate, when we were done reading, she was still in the room and I’m going, “Wow, that was…”, I’m thinking, “I don’t know!” and she laughed, and we’re kinda… nobody says anything. We’re just waiting for somebody to say something. Bryan and Roger was sitting in there with him, the Casting Director, and we’re just, yeah, we thought she was great but I couldn’t put my finger on why. I kind of know what that is now. I knew I was waiting for somebody to do that. To just… for whatever reason it fit. When it fits it fits. Things like that just happen. Now I know that I think what she brings is real sincerity. She’s really feeling the relationship. She’s got the relationship. I mean she was with Superman and Clark and that back story really working for us, so that when we’re talking we’re both coming from a place that our past experiences are carrying us forward, are evident in our present.
Press: Are you concerned about being typecast?
Brandon: You know I get asked that question a lot and frankly it’s a thought in my mind and obviously it’s one of the first things I thought of. But now, no I don’t. I mean there’s so much… there’s so many films being done now, I have the luxury of so many films being made, independent films are so big, that there are so many opportunities for me. And I have faith in what I can do as an actor to be more than this character, these characters, and step outside of it. So no I’m not… I’m aware of it but I’m not concerned with it.
Press: How many of these films are you signed for?
Brandon: Well contracts are weird, but Warner Bros. has said it’s two more films. But there’s law technicalities and stuff… but two.
Press: Can you talk to us about the difference between the character of Superman in the original films to the character of Superman in this one?
Brandon: I think the difference comes in the twenty five years that we’ve had since the first… well since Chris specifically. I’ll say that specifically, because that’s the one I know best and that’s what most people know best as well. In ’78 the first incarnation of Superman on film, besides the Serials with Kirk Alyn which were shown in the theaters, but this was the first film, and I know that when it first started out the script was like 500 pages, it was a huge script, and then they knocked it down. Richard Donner went in and did a lot of stuff to it, and it was really cheesy, and they cut out and made it to what it became… which was a great film in ’78, and still today. But we’re in 2005 and society has changed. Superman changes with society. With our view of society. He becomes more… he becomes bigger. In the ’50s Superman was America. “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” For me it’s not about that. I mean it’s Truth, Justice… but it’s not the American Way. How can it be? How can we be so simple minded to say that it’s just about America now. Superman came to save the world not just America. He can be used… you can use Superman for whatever purpose you want to use him. So that’s a big difference to me. And in ’78 I don’t think that was the case, it wasn’t all about America either. For me that’s what it is, and in this film that’s what it’s about. And it’s just more real. There’s not a better way to express it, it’s just more real this film then any other thing you’ve probably seen on it. Bryan describes it as a love story with all this action going on with this guy with super powers. And it really is. I mean you guys saw that Comic Con footage. There’s very little special effects in there, but I think it’s pretty gripping. The stories, the relationships. I mean James Marsden is so great. He’s got some good lines in that trailer, it’s just like heart-wrenching. And that’s without any action. I’m so excited that with this film, I think people will come in, see the film, and go, “Wow! That was a great movie!”. Not, “That was a great comic book movie”. I mean I think it rises above… it’s still a comic book movie. But it rises above. Which is not to say anything bad about comics. I think it’s amazing that something borne out of unreality can become so real. And the same thing with Superman, I think he grows because of the writing and becomes more worldly and just all-encompassing. And that’s not because of my performance or anything other than just the story itself. And he’s got a bigger message and really to change the world not just by saving things, but by being an influence in the world that other people can see. If Superman just saves things he just saves things, and people feel like he can do everything for them. That’s all they get from him. But if he can influence and say, “Hey you can aspire to be better in your life” or “different in your life”, you know that’s a great thing. And I don’t know if I’ve made that evident by anything speaking in the film, but that’s what I’m working on portraying.
Press: There’s a lot of history and previous relationships with cast & crew members having worked together on other films. How has it been for you not having had any previous relationships with others working on this film?
Brandon: Fine. I mean I’ve got to meet all these great people, all these great actors who all have more experience than I have, so it’s a little bit intimidating, because I don’t have the experience they have. But it’s also learning. There’s a lot to learn from all of them and their experiences.
Press: Is there maybe something they’ve all got going on because they’ve worked together before?
Brandon: No. I mean really you’ve got Kate and Kevin. And Kevin and Bryan. And I haven’t been a part of any of their stuff yet, so… but no, there hasn’t been any kind of Secret Club. There’s no club…
Press: That you know of.
Brandon: Right! That I know of. Exactly! There’s a lot of lingo that I’m picking up on. Like on-set lingo and things like that that I just don’t know.
Press: Any Bryan-speak?
Brandon: [Laughs] In a way I guess, but each person communicates things differently… but nothing tell-tale.
Press Having worked on Soap Operas, what experiences have you learned from there in comparison to this?
Brandon: I’ve learned that it’s a big deal. That there are a lot of people who have a lot of interest in me. I mean I’m money to a lot of people. There’s a lot of pressure I guess. I think I don’t know that it’s there sometimes, and I don’t look for it, I just try and let it be there and don’t put my finger on it. I’m doing what I’m gonna do and not concerned with other people necessarily… their worries about me. Because plenty of people worry about me. So there’s that. And what I’ve learned from Green Screen and just making a film in general is that you really have to know where you’re coming from and what you’re doing in each scene because there’s not another actor against you. You’re not really flying in the clouds. I mean that would be very easy to save things and really be able to fly, then I’d have that feeling and that’d show on my face, and I wouldn’t have to move my body a little bit to simulate the motion, and flying, and all those things. Have wind blowing in my hair and in my eyes, and all these things. And wear blue contacts. So that’s been big. You have to really have a big imagination doing this green screen stuff, and letting yourself go somewhere that you may not want to because there’s a lot of heavy stuff that Superman goes through in the film. Looking at pictures… one of the first things we did in the [Kent] Farm is, the camera’s in my face, there’s camera operators and focus pullers and all these guys, and I’m on the bed looking at photos that are supposed to be there. I don’t see any photos. I see the guy’s elbow and that’s the picture of my Mom you know that I’m looking at. So you really just have to let that all fade and be really sure about what you’re looking at.
Press: Did you work a lot with Stephan Bender? Did you see a lot of yourself in him?
Brandon: There were things. He’s more mature looking and less goofy looking than I was growing up. I won’t show you pictures of that, but you might cross them somewhere. But we don’t have scenes together, but we did work with Terry, Terry Notary my movement coach, on certain mannerisms. How we’d push up his glasses. A couple of connecting things. That was kind of neat and kind of fun. But he does have that goofy sense a little bit that I had. With the way he moves his body, that any kid that ages does before you really fully mature and give in to how your body moves. But he’s a really good kid and I was really happy that he was because it’s good for the character and good for him to be like that. And I was happy to see that he wasn’t just some young actor that was pretentious and all that stuff, because he’s not. He’s a good kid.
Press: You mentioned the early American political aspects of Superman, and I don’t know if you guys meant this, but Superman is an American who goes out and helps people without them asking, and there’s certain people who don’t want his help. You know there’s Lex Luthor, and there’s a reporter who wrote an opinion piece saying do we need this person. So whether you guys meant to or not there’s a political aspect to this movie you guys are creating. So do you think there’s a political aspect to the characters and what you guys are doing?
Brandon: To this film?
Press: To this film.
Brandon: I’m sure there is. There’s a lot of things you can insinuate. If I can think of one now… I don’t think there’s anything hitting you over the head… or that hits me over the head, because nothing’s coming to mind necessarily. But it’s relevant on many levels. I mean you could find its relevance to our government, as you’re saying, maybe by us going in and doing things that other people don’t want us to do, for the better of the world, as we may say. Or maybe the reasons that we do things. I guess in that way you can say there’s a vague similarity, but I think the thing with Superman is that I don’t think he’s hurting… I mean he wouldn’t do something if it was going to hurt somebody. He doesn’t have to drop a bomb, so there’s no possibility of somebody else getting hurt. His use of force doesn’t include collateral damage of any kind. So even if he did do something that somebody didn’t want him to do, somebody who wasn’t a bad guy, who wasn’t Lex (because he doesn’t want Superman to do anything), a ruler of another land who was a nice guy but didn’t understand Superman’s methods, I think that Superman proceeds him anyway because Superman has a higher level of clarity, he’s reached a higher level mentally and intellectually that he knows more than everybody else, so he would know that it was good to do something.
PRESS: And another part of the question is the Jewish aspect. I mean Superman was created by two Jews. Do you have anything to say about that aspect?
Brandon: I think it’s great. You know I think the funny thing is that there are probably a lot of people who are Superman fans but don’t know that it was written by Siegel and Shuster. Or they may know the names but they don’t know that that’s two Jewish guys. And what’s their reaction to that? It’s interesting how a character like that, like Superman, can bring people together. That people can still be ignorant. But what’s great when it happens is for people to open their minds, and that’s what I’d love and what I intend for people to get from this film and from any film that proceeds, or that I do, I guess, from a personal statement… I’m sure not everything I do will have a great social meaning, but if I can do things that do and help open people’s minds then that’s pretty amazing and I think I have a lot of possibilities to do that, and especially in this role it’s one of the most important things. If we can bring people together and they can learn something about putting aside their hate or their ignorance about another culture or another religion than that’s pretty great. These guys have done that, you know… It’s really pretty awesome.
Press: Do you think it’s possible to separate Superman the cultural icon from the fictional character? In many people’s minds Superman is still connected with American imperialism. And secondly, who’s your favorite Super-villain other than Lex Luthor?
Brandon: Building on what I was saying before, I think that Superman should be more than American imperialism and selling World War II war bonds or any of the things he was used for. Superman is not single minded. Superman does not only care about America, even though he was raised in Smallville, Kansas, and his love is American, and he works in an American newspaper. And Lex is an American… and okay all these things that happen, but he’s just not saving America when it happens. He’s saving the world. Everything maintains to be, to stay in the United States because Americans are writing and doing all these things, but there’s no way we can say that Superman should be about the United States. I mean look at all of you guys, you guys are all from all over the world. And when I did press for the Foreign Press, how can you single any of that out? Superman wouldn’t be as big as he was if he wasn’t universal. And Bryan talks about Superman being the “ultimate immigrant”. People immigrate from all over the place to America. Yes America may be a place, but from all over the world. I have every intention of it not being about just America. And the film, thankfully, I don’t think we even say “The American Way”. Which I don’t know if it was a thought from anybody. But I never thought for it to be in there because I liked that it wasn’t, because it is so much more than that. And as far as villains… I’m not sure.
Press: Who would you like to fight in the next movie?
Press: Kitty Koslowski!
Brandon: Yeah. [laughs] Either as bad Superman or Bizarro.
Press: Do you ever get on the Internet to see what people are saying about you?
Brandon: I do, yes. So I know some of you guys and visit the sites, and that’s been a lot of fun. Actually back in the beginning when people were saying, “Who is this guy?” and “He’s skinny!” And I wasn’t even skinny at the time! I was still a big guy then, you know I was an athlete. So I get a little bit defensive about that, but it was fun to watch and to read everybody. And to watch people come over to my side and the film’s side. Which is great because we all should. We all want to be happy and love the character and everything. So yes, I have frequented many, but I’m quite busy now so I don’t get the opportunity to as much, but my parents and family do and they tell me and stuff. So I’ve learned a lot of news about the film still. That’s where I get a lot of my information. [laughs]
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