Richard Donner's 1978 classic Superman created the gold standard by which all later superhero movies are measured, and continues to influence filmmakers nearly four decades later. It's that pioneering work, and its director, that brought together Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and DC Entertainment President and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns for a tribute organized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.
The two appeared Wednesday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, to honor Donner (The Omen, The Goonies), who was instrumental to both of their early careers.
"[I]n particular, Superman: The Movie is still, to this day, the archetype of the perfect superhero film origin story," Feige said, "and we watch it before me make almost any one of our films and that's been the case for the past 17 years since I left the fold to go work for Marvel."
He noted Donner's affinity for the word “verisimilitude," which the director often used as a reminder to "be truthful, honor the source material, believe in it and take it seriously."
Johns, who began his career as Donner's production assistant, recounted how he once found what was intended to be the original script for Superman: The Movie in the director's office. "'I got this script and it was so terrible,' [Donner] said, 'I have to save Superman,'" Johns recalled the director telling him. "And, and he did. And that's why he took it, because he loved the character so much, this American icon, and he had so much passion for it, he said, 'I can't let this happen,' and he made the greatest superhero film still, ever."
The Man of Steel returns to theaters Nov. 17 in Justice League, which stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.