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“Superman Returns” Press Conference @ WonderCon

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
“Superman Returns” Press Conference @ WonderCon

Saturday at WonderCon was a big day for fans eagerly anticipating the upcoming film “Superman Returns.” In addition to the announced appearance of Bryan Singer at the convention, attendees were thrilled to learn that Superman himself, Brandon Routh, would be gracing the stage with Singer. Following the public “Superman Returns” panel (click here for full coverage), a press conference was held for Singer and Routh to address questions from the assembled press. Naturally, CBR News was there.

Singer began by addressing the journey he had taken with casting and creating the character of Clark Kent/Superman. The process began when Singer saw an early screen test Routh had done for the role. The director was impressed by the performance, but it was only when he got to sit down and chat with Routh one-on-one that he knew he had found the right actor for the part, but even then it was still months before he cast Routh in the role. “As we talked more, we understood each other more, which is a big thing,” said Routh.

The evolution of the character itself was an ongoing process, even during shooting. “What was great was that nothing was set in stone,” said Routh. “The door was always open for change, for new creations to happen even on the day of shooting.”

One of the regular discussions Singer had with Routh was of how the laws of physics applied to Superman. Singer said, “What is hard for him to lift? What is effortless? That was always a point of conversation. In theory his strength can be somewhat infinite…”

“But you don’t want everything he does to look the same,” added Routh.

There have been many misperceptions about the film, including that there had been many, many re-shoots for “Superman Returns,” which Singer flatly denied. “We’re probably going to do one day of pick ups in Los Angeles, but really there are none,” said Singer. “Originally I was going to shoot for 128 days [straight], but I was so exhausted and the process was so long that I started to loose my objectivity, so I shortened the schedule and stopped shooting at 107 days. I came back to Los Angeles for about 3 ½ weeks, then I went back to finish the schedule in Sydney.”

One of the other widely reported misperceptions about the film was one of cost. Reports that the budget had gone well above $250 million dollars U.S. circulated widely, which Singer vehemently denied. “Some idiot wrote somewhere that the movie cost $250 million dollars, which is the most absurd thing I have ever heard,” said Singer. “The movie was budgeted at $184.5 million dollars and will probably climb with visual effects and the variables that occur in a movie of this magnitude with 1400 visual effects, but it’ll still be south of $200 Million. It’s still a great deal of money, but it’s by no means what was published.

“It was just an irresponsible journalist at a specific trade that I’m trying not to name!” which brought laughter from the assembled press. “I don’t know, maybe he was talking about Australian dollars, or something.”

With Kevin Spacey in the role of the villain Lex Luthor, the actor brings a great deal of credibility to the movie. Routh said working with Spacey was a great experience. “Kevin said a couple of times to me it’s a crazy life you live to be an actor,” said Routh. “He was living a hectic schedule when he was [in Sydney]. He was there for a month, I think. We played this little going away video for Kevin and I remember it was like, ‘Congratulations, we’ve wraped on Kevin Spacey,’ then he had to immediately fly to London to be in a play. So, the times we got to talk were nice. It’s a great thing to be able to work with an actor like Kevin for my first film. Really, the whole cast was great.”

There were a number of film makers in attendance at WonderCon Saturday that had at some point been attached to a Superman feature film, including Kevin Smith and J.J. Abrahms. While Singer noted he’s known Kevin for many years, he said he hadn’t really talked to him about “Superman Returns” during the production process. On the other hand, Routh’s first introduction to Superman was through Kevin Smith’s screenplay for the film, when he initially tried out for the role. Routh ran into Smith at WonderCon and got to chat with him a bit. “[Kevin] said he was excited to see the movie and how everyone was very excited about it,” said Routh.

“Superman Returns” was filmed entirely using the Genesis high-definition camera, Panavision’s new high-end digital movie camera. Singer said working with the Genesis was a great experience. “It allows for lower light and you can run longer takes, although I try not to burden my editors with that.” When asked if he felt celluloid film was now a dead medium, he responded with a definitive yes. “As a mainstream medium it’s dying, but it’s not dead yet,” said Singer. “I will work in it again, but more because it’s a creative compulsion as opposed to a necessity.”

The issue of campy humor in super hero adaptations is a hot-button issue for many comic fans, especially considering the long lasting affect the 1960s “Batman” show starring Adam West had on public perception of comics. Even the original Superman films had elements of camp thrown in, especially with the character of Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman. Singer said that there’s a bit of a nod to that camp with this film, but fans shouldn’t be worried they’ve gone overboard. “It’s one of the big reason why I cast [Kevin Spacey as Luthor], because he has that wonderful ability to bridge the line between whimsical humor and sadism in his performance. And with Lex, I think it’s kind of fun to explore both those sides. I hope we’ve held over the best bits from the Richard Donner and Gene Hackman interpretation, but we also have a potentially more sadistic Lex. In terms of the films I’ve made, this is certainly the most humorous and romantic.”

The expectations, both commercially and creatively, are very high for “Superman Returns.” Films like “Spider-Man” and “Batman Begins” have raised the bar substantially for what a comic book film can be. Singer sounded confident that fans will be pleased with what they’ve cooked up. “First of all, my goal is to make a good film and try to be open about the process,” said Singer. “We have an Internet presence and I think you begin by working with the core audience, the fans, and work your way up from there. Primarily, the goal is just to make a good film. If the film’s good, then the expectations will be met. I’m not trying to compete with anything. It’s why I’m not remaking ‘Superman: The Movie.’ This is a sequel, if you will.”

Many consider the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films to be the greatest super hero films of all time. With Reeve’s untimely death in 2004, some fans charged it was too soon to revisit the hero that Reeve was so closely associated with. Singer and Routh both feel otherwise. “The time felt right to re-experience this character,” said Singer. “My goal is to address and celebrate, in some way, people’s collective memory of the character of Superman and how he has evolved from 1938 to now and in some way to celebrate that. Some of it will look familiar physically and emotionally, and some of it will be new.”

“There’s a lot of discussion about whether this was the right time,” added Routh. “There are many who are huge fans of Christopher’s performance and don’t want anyone else to come in and attempt to recreate that, which is not what were doing. But with that in mind, I think what’s important for everyone to learn is that there’s always a time for change. Instead of always thinking that things will change for the worse, there are a lot of things that can be changed for the better. Especially with a character like Superman, who brings such joy and inspiration to the world. It’s important to keep that out in the public eye.”

The final question went to Singer, who was asked about which was more difficult, serving the needs and wants of the studios, or serving the wants and desires of the comic book community. Singer’s response?

“I feel more pressure from the comic book community. I serve the comic book community. The studio understands my responsibilities and supports me 100%.”

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