In our coverage of the “Superman Returns” press junket thus far, you’ve had a chance to hear from Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Sam Huntington and DC President/Publisher Paul Levitz. You’ve even had a chance to read an early, spoiler-free review of the film. Now it’s time to hear from the filmmaker, Bryan Singer, who discusses the many challenges of making a film like “Superman Returns,” on casting Brandon Routh as Superman, whether or not he’ll be back for a sequel and what role he played in the destruction of Lauren Shuler Donner’s Women in Film award. It’s a funny story, read on.
Wow, there’s so much Pepsi in here! I don’t know what to do with it all.
Imagine that, Pepsi at the “Superman Returns” junket! [laughs]
How does it feel for you to finally realize this dream of yours to make a Superman film.
At the very moment I’m physically exhausted and I don’t have much perspective. Unlike the actors and a lot of the other participants who wrapped up, I was last night, finally, I finaled my last “CBB” – visual effects shot could be better – and last night was the last one and we did a shot to honor the last shot. I was at film outs the night before to make sure you all had a film to see.
And you were at the Women in Film presentation the night before?
Were you there? Did you witness?
It was classic.
Oh, I was so tired and sketched out when I was on stage. I presented this award to Lauren Shuler Donner at Women in Film two nights ago. So I leave the lab, go straight to this thing and walk out on to a stage in front of a thousand people, all black tie, mostly women and I’m so awkward and nervous. I read my little speech and then show a little clip of Lauren’s life. Then a woman comes out and hands me the award, which is made of crystal, and I’m like, [whispers] “Oh, I’m going to drop this thing!” So, I hand it to Lauren and this stupid podium was designed at a slight angle and she was the first award up and – who knew – she put it on the podium and a few seconds into her speech the crystal thing slipped, crashed down and broke! [shock from the press] Fortunately, between the two of us we could both laugh about it and thank God it wasn’t me! It’s her award, she’s allowed to drop it! [laughs] Then I went right back to work. That’s why it was the first award up that evening. I so much wanted to present it to her. I wanted to be the one to do it.
How much perspective are you allowed to give yourself as a filmmaker, but you’re also an ardent fan and there’s so much history riding on this?
It’s a delicate balance, which I learned while making the first two X-Men films. I hope I’ve succeeded, but it’s a constant balance.
But this one seems to have more riding on it than the X-Men films.
You must be terrified!
Constantly. I’m constantly debating nostalgia over what an audience today expects from Superman and what people who grew up with the character expect from Superman. I want this to be a movie that teenagers go to and say, “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this happen on the screen before,” but at the same time I want a grandparent to be able to bring their grandkids to go see it and each have a special, unique experience. You’re never going to please everybody all the time, but when it comes to Superman, you’ve got to please a lot of people.
When we were up at WonderCon earlier this year, you had your cut at 2 hours, 55 minutes. It’s been cut down about another 20 minutes since then. Is that disappointing to you?
Oh no, not at all. I don’t desire to have exceedingly long movies. The first X-Men movie is something like 80 minutes. What happened was I had this cut and it was timed to sit with an audience, what I call a friends and family screening, and as I’m watching it I looked at certain things and felt certain things and one of those was really tough – it was the “Return To Krypton” sequence. A whole sequence in space. A very expensive, elaborate sequence, but in the context of this movie it just wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t important. It could live afterwards.
Maybe on DVD?
Yes and also in 3D. It would be amazing in 3D. I don’t know if it could be done, but it could exist in the future. In the context of the movie, that and a few other pieces just weren’t needed. When you feel it in the audience and you look at your friends and ask for straight answers from friends you trust and boom, boom, boom, suddenly those 20 minutes came out like no problem.
When you say it might live elsewhere, are you saying it might become a flashback sequence in a sequel?
No, but maybe in some other presentation of the film, like on DVD or 3D Imax. Some things you don’t finish because you know you’re going to cut them, but that scene I actually completed. There’s some very elegant things in it.
Talk about the costuming process for a film like “Superman Returns,” as well as the challenge you have in costuming actors to play very iconic characters.
Because they exist in your collective consciousness, I’ve found it better with the case of Wolverine as well as Superman, to cast people who are not necessarily recognizable or well known. So, it’s not such and such playing Superman or Wolverine. You feel like you’re watching Wolverine or you feel like you’re watching Superman. He’s Superman, he’s not such and such as Superman. It’s not any particularly original wisdom on my part. Take Christopher Reeve. Same age, same situation, different background, but similar circumstances.
But now that audiences know him, would you want to use a different actor in the next film?
No, you would use him because now he’s Superman! If you didn’t use him, you’d have a problem. Like, I would never make an X-Men film and have another actor play Wolverine, it wouldn’t occur to me, because he’s defined that character. And now Brandon’s defined this character. That’s why they make three-picture deals! [laughs]
While you were doing “Superman Returns,” you were doing a lot pre-dev on “Logan’s Run,” you put a lot of time and effort into that. Are you or are you not going to direct “Logan’s Run?”
At the moment I’m not. At the moment I’m buying myself a vacation of the mind. I need to because this film and all the things I was doing simultaneously with this film were a monumental stress to me, both physically and mentally. As of last night, the last CBB, I need to do a tour and talk and things and I’m more than happy and excited to do that because I’m proud of the movie, but I have to take a mental break and actually not have any scheduled demands. I don’t vacation well, so I’ll probably want to go back to at some point, but that’s a potentially huge movie and I’m not ready to dive into it right now.
Following up on that, you’ve talked about how exhausting this process has been and you even took some time off during production. Could you have done anything different to make this process easier on you, or is a project like “Superman Returns” just that demanding?
Half-and-half. Part of it is just exhaustion, you just have to deal with it. I could have not produced a six-hour mini-series on the SciFi Network. I could have not been producing and developing other things and dealing with the global brand management of the character, which I feel very responsible for. I could have not produced a documentary, which is in your gift bags. I could have also built in a break time in the middle, and I should have done that. That’s why at about day 95 I stopped because I was afraid I might start wasting money. Contrary to what you might have read, this is pretty fiscally responsible movie and I was fearing I was starting to shoot things that I didn’t need. So, on day 107 I came home, exhausted. I took a little time to look at the movie, then I went back to Australia to finish things up. It worked out really well because I ended up shooting only one day of pick-ups in Los Angeles. One day with Brandon on a stage – a close-up, a pan, and another close-up.
You’ve obviously learned a lot making this film, so making a sequel would obviously be a lot less demanding.
I hope so, but of course you hope to top yourself. I tried to do that with X-Men, so I’d ultimately try to do the same thing, so who knows how difficult it would be.
Would you come back for a sequel?
I don’t know. Unlike actors who sign multi-picture deals, I do these things one at a time, because you never know how you’re going to feel when you’re done. So, right now we’re discussing it and we’re discussing if and when that would be. That’s another reason why “Logan’s Run” makes it difficult because the scope of the two movies – I just don’t know.
A little more on Brandon. What was it about him, after looking at 8x10s and audition tapes, what was it about him that jumped out to you? Did something jump out to you?
Something actually did.
Was it his tape?
It wasn’t a particularly good tape, the first one. It was an audition he came in for a prior incarnation of the role. But there was something about his eyes and something about his vulnerability.
But they weren’t blue. [Editor’s Note: Brandon’s eyes are a dark brown.]
No, but they still function in a certain way. When you see Brandon, you’ve met him, as dark as those eyes are – and remember Christopher Reeve was dirty blond – but there’s something about his character, his quality, his presence and his stature. There was something about him in the tape, maybe it’s the way he said something or the way he carried himself and he had this kind of vulnerability that interested me. In another tape he was wearing a red shirt – it could have been a blue shirt – but as I remember it I think it was a very bright red shirt and he was doing face-on to the video camera and that got me going more. So, I decided I had to meet this guy before I went on my location scouting in Australia. So, I went to a coffee shop and I met him and that’s when the true process in my mind clicked. That’s how the sequence of events happened. I had a strong feeling. I kind of tipped my hat, too.
Was Australia a cost effective thing?
Would you go back again?
What are the advantages?
Weather, money and a great crew. Our crew was amazing. I got a lot of folks off “King Kong.” A lot of New Zealanders came in. We had a great Australian crew. Just phenomenal.
Did the mythology of X-Men and Superman being somewhat antithetical to one another help guide you in your journey in deciding to make this film?
That what’s made it kind of appealing to me. In X-Men you have a very normal world with very cynical characters trying to fit in. Here, we have an idealistic character trying to exist in a cynical world and that’s kind of the fun of it. After spending six years in the X-Men world, that made it a lot different for me, plus I’m a huge Superman fan. I love Superman.
Is this always the movie you had in your head as the ultimate Superman film?
Yes. Not a retelling of Donner’s movie, but something that would celebrate Donner’s movie and at the same time offer something to today’s audience and take today’s technology and actually applying it. Between the water and the flying, I’m telling you, whew, this stuff is a balancing act.
What did you think of “X-Men: The Last Stand?”
I thought it was great. You have so many characters that have to be serviced, and you have to introduce new characters. It is a monumental task and on that level I was incredibly impressed. I had a great night seeing it because I ran into Brett and it was a lot of fun.
How does Lois not known that Clark is Superman?
Because he’s got his glasses on! [laughs]
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