Superman Returns Set Visit Report – Part 4
Day 1: Thursday July 28th (continued)
The Producers – Gilbert Adler and Chris Lee
Unlisted on our schedule of interviewees, Gilbert Adler and Chris Lee were gracious enough to give of their time for separate interviews…
Q: How have you enjoyed working on Superman, was it an ambition for you?
Gilbert Adler: Well you know, I came out of horror as you may or may not know. “Tales from the Crypt” was my show, we produced all of them and wrote and directed a lot of them and then I have “Constantine” which just came out on video, and I did “Starsky and Hutch”. “Superman” was a project that as I kid I used to watch it on television, grew up with the comic books, loved it. So when this came about, it was just like a surprise that… you know I sometimes pinch myself in the morning going, ‘Am I really making Superman’ and I go ‘Yeah… well why am I going through such heartache’… No (laughs). Yeah, well it is sort of a dream come true because it’s such a classic character that we’ve always known since we were kids.
Q: Obviously Spider-Man did very well for Marvel, do you see Superman as maybe even eclipsing that?
Gilbert: Spider-Man… what’s that? Is that a show about a bug? No, this is about a guy with a cape (laughs)… I don’t know, I mean Superman to me at least was always THE guy. I mean when I grew up as a kid, that was the guy that I watched and I loved, and even now looking back at those old episodes you look at how they flew him and how hokey that was, well when I was a kid I was like ‘wow look how he flies’. So he’s just the top of the heap for me.
Q: Out of Superman’s powers, which has been the most difficult to realise onscreen?
Gilbert: The one that caused the most headaches is trying to make the money work for the budget, oh no that’s not Superman’s power (laughs). There are no easy ones or hard ones, they’re all… we can make him fly, we can make him melt things, we can make him use his super powers, it’s all very available to us – we can do all those things. We obviously use all the modern technologies, and all the capabilities that we have with computers that are available to us and we actually take it up a notch. In all of our conversations, Bryan and I have had, we don’t want to do something that’s already been done, and we want to do it differently. You don’t want to disappoint, you want the audience to just be wow… blown away. Well, how do you do that? You tell a story that hasn’t been told before, you try to make it very contemporary, you make it so that its very accessible and you make it very special in that you work the effects to help aid telling the story.
Q: Having grown up with the 1950′s Superman, how was it for you having Jack Larson and Noel Neill involved?
Gilbert: It was a treat, I mean what can I say, it was such a treat to meet these people. You know they landed here and they were only with us for a couple of days, and it was just such a treat because I would look at Jack and I would see him as he was in the 50′s when I was a kid. He’s an 82-year-old man, Noel is in her 80′s… (someone comments that he’s 74) He’s 74? He lied to me he told me he was 82… and the same thing with Noel, she was just such a delight to meet, and she was so happy to be a part of it. I look at her and I see the Lois Lane I saw as a kid on television, I don’t see her any older, and it was just special.
Q: With Warners owning all the rights, has it been easier for you to get this up and running than other comics (with legal issues)?
Gilbert: Having the rights obviously makes a big difference, I mean we never really had to deal with or had any issues with that because they were available to us, so we could concentrate on making that character and making the story rich, and making it compelling and that’s kind of what’s the excitement about making movies. Not the legalities of this or suing that or having a negotiation, but really telling that story.
Q: Can you tell us what are the things that made Brandon Routh a great choice for the role?
Gilbert: You know we… lets go back a few steps ok. In prior incarnations of this movie, we had eleven casting directors all over the world submitting people and we filtered in through our casting people in Los Angeles and through Warner Brothers casting, and brought it down from maybe a thousand people from all over the world to five and then to one. Brandon was one of those five even after that cull, and Bryan really took to him, and when he met him – he loves telling the story so I don’t want to spoil his thunder but – he met him at a coffee shop and he was sitting down when Bryan got there. Bryan walked in, Brandon got up, and up, and up, and up… and then he sort of fumbled around with the coffee and Bryan said ‘I know he’s Clark Kent, I know he can play Clark Kent but could he be Superman’. There’s a presence that he has, he’s very tall, good looking, has a vulnerability I think that a lot of people don’t have. You want Superman to be the power that Superman needs to be, and that you expect. But you also want him to have a human vulnerability which makes him accessible and I think we found that in Brandon, and we knew it.
Q: This project had several false starts with directors and people attached to it over the years. At what point did things start to really happen?
Gilbert: Well you know when they were doing the TV show in the 1950′s and I was a kid watching it, that is when they first approached me about doing the movie… Bryan came in with an idea for a story, and I know you just spoke to the writers, and they had this wonderful idea for a very contemporary yet very reverential story about our hero that when they told it to the studio, the studio got very excited and then they had set up a meeting for Bryan and me to have dinner one night and we had a four hour dinner where we closed the restaurant. In fact I was afraid we might be lynched because we wouldn’t leave the restaurant as we were the only people left. We talked about everything from the story to what he’s done to what I’ve done just to get to know each other, and the story was a wonderful story that’s just very accessible. Its very emotional, its very active, there’s action in it, there’s humor in it, so when we heard the story we had this very strong feeling that this was the right time to tell this story.
Q: What was the hang up before though, was it just that the studio didn’t like what they were seeing?
Gilbert: I think the studio liked a different version, they liked this version better. I think there was issues with McG and his capability of getting on a plane at one point, he had some problems with that. But, really when it came to the story, when you hear the story that makes the most sense to you and you feel like wow that’s a wonderful story to tell, cause that’s really all we do – we’re just storytellers. We tell this story, we tell that story. This was a story that we felt ‘My God, this is a wonderful way to go’.
Q: At what point did Nicolas Cage drop out?
Gilbert: I was about 8 years old when he dropped out…you know, many years ago (laughter).
Q: What about Jon Peters involvement, do you think he’s had a bit of a bad rap?
Gilbert: Well he secured the rights ten years ago and he’s been trying to make this picture for ten years. All I can tell you is, he’s very much involved with this production, he and I talk daily. Bryan, he and I talk often, and he’s very much involved and very aware… he was down here a couple of weeks ago. If you had something that you were trying to do for ten years and finally came to fruition in this way with this group of people telling this story, I mean how happy can you be – he’s ecstatic. You know sometimes it just takes a long time, you always hear these stories about movies that take eight years, five years, etc.
Q: In past incarnations, Jon Peters has had quite a bit of creative input into what we’ve heard. How much creative input has he had in this?
Gilbert: As much as I have, as much as any producer has on a picture. I mean we’re very collaborative, I mean we respect Bryan’s storytelling capability which is a big plus, there’s no getting around that. We love that, and we really like working with him on that. If he doesn’t like something he says it as I do, if he does like something we tell him we like it or we make a suggestion it should be this or should be that and we deal with it as we would any picture.
Q: Shooting in Sydney, did you play any part in that or was it a studio decision?
Gilbert: No, it was a studio decision, when we first talked about making the picture they always said to me they wanted it to be in Australia.
Q: When all is said and done, do you know what the cost will be in the end?
Gilbert: Of course I do. It’ll cost what any of these big pictures cost to make it really well. What I can tell you is that we have enough money to make it really well and that’s what we’re doing.
Q: What do you want the movie to say when you’re done with it?
Gilbert: This is going to sound a little corny, but bear with me ok. I personally feel that we, the human race, needs a Superman. When given the opportunity to be involved with a project about Superman, I thought ‘Well maybe there’s something we can do here that’s bigger than just a movie’, and when I heard the story that Bryan and the writers told me I felt we were really on the right path. I felt that we really all need this.
Q: There was the Wolfgang Petersen “Batman vs. Superman” movie, is something like that possible to do?
Gilbert: I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. No-one’s ever presented it to me to think about, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I suppose you could think about it and come up with something but would it be good?
Q: Would it be something you would want to do?
Gilbert: I don’t think so.
Q: Do you see this as a trilogy, or is it a case that if the movies are still good they can keep going?
Gilbert: I think we’re worried about making, and we’re concerned about making a really good movie, and that’s our goal. I don’t think we think about what’s after this. I think the studio might, I think the studio may have plans for how far they can take this or where it would go, but we as filmmakers are concerned about making this the best picture we can possibly make. Whether that leads to anything else you know, maybe, maybe not.
Q: Has Bryan or any of the cast signed on for more than one?
Gilbert: Well the studio always wants to protect themselves in terms of future endeavors so I would say they probably have.
Q: Are there any particular sequences on the film that proved a real challenge?
Gilbert: How about all. They’re very ambitious sequences, I think they’re all very challenging. You know I don’t like to compromise, I like to do it at only this level – I don’t like to do it this level (indicates lower) and I get nuts when people tell me ‘no’, that’s a bad word to use with me. So, I try to make it the best we possibly can make it, only if we can’t make it to that degree of quality then I won’t make it – I’ll say we can’t do it, we’ll do something else. With this picture, with these people, with this director, with these writers, with this crew we have, we haven’t had to compromise.
Q: Any sequences that you are particularly proud of?
Gilbert: Most of the picture I’m proud of, so far I look at the pieces and things coming together and it’s very exciting.
Q: What’s it like working with Bryan?
Gilbert: I think the one thing that we both felt over that four hour dinner I was telling you about, was that we’re both very passionate, and that’s good. You know I don’t think I could make a movie that I wasn’t passionate about, and I don’t think I could make a movie with anybody who didn’t feel a passion. Whether those passions are always the same, probably not, nor should they be. But I think that’s good, so when we disagree about something, we know it’s for the better of the picture and talking it out makes it even better and we both know we’re coming from a passion of storytelling that we both thrive on.
Q: The writers obviously mentioned the first two “Superman” movies that Richard Donner was involved with, and you mentioned the series. What series, what era, what creator had an influence on this film?
Gilbert: I did “Tales from the Crypt” with Dick Donner and Dick is a real good friend as is Bob Zemeckis, Walter Hill and all those guys. I think Dick’s movie had a great influence on us, I think the quality of that movie is special, I think what Dick went and did in that year was very remarkable. I think that and the television show from the 50′s and oddly enough I think the original Max Fleischer cartoons… when I look back at all these different reincarnations, whether its the more current television shows which I think they do a great job, “Smallville” is a wonderful show I think, or even the earlier ones. But the one that we keep going back to that really feels like it has a texture to it that makes you want to tell the story is the Max Fleischer ones.
Q: How about Richard Donner, has he had any input?
Gilbert: No, he’s busy making a movie right now so no, he hasn’t had any input into the picture other than to bless it. He spoke to Bryan, he’s a friend of mine and he was excited when he heard we were teaming up to make the picture.
Q: How did you feel about the [San Diego] Comic Con reception?
Gilbert: Outstanding, I mean it was just so exciting to see 7000 people in a room stomping their feet saying ‘Show it again, show it again’ and then giving us a standing ovation, it was very exciting. We flew in especially for that, and then immediately flew back and that’s a long flight. We’d been shooting many many days, we were really tired, the flight’s very tiring, and you get sort of myopic when you make these pictures, you’re so concentrated on ‘what’s on Camera C’ and ‘is it good’ and ‘are we making it as good as we can possibly make it’ that you don’t really think about what’s going on in the rest of the world, and then to show three and a half minutes and to get a reaction like that just gave everyone goose bumps and you know we couldn’t wait to come back here, and it gave us energy to move on.
Q: Working on location, how difficult and how important is it for you to keep the secrecy around the project?
Gilbert: That’s a really good question, that’s haunted us. If there’s one paranoia, and its probably one paranoia Bryan and I share, its keeping this project under appropriate wraps, and when I say appropriate wraps we want the public to know about us, we want to show the fans, we want to include the fans. But you know, how do you think anybody would feel if you spent so many hours and so many months writing, and directing, and cutting, and producing, and costume designing, and art department, and months we’ve been working on this. And if on the Internet tomorrow we saw a scene from our movie, it would just be awful. I think our concern is to protect the property, ad to protect it to the point of exposing it when we’re ready like we did at Comic Con. So I think the security issue is a very real one for us, much more so than before the Internet.
Q: How much information are you willing to give out though up til release?
Gilbert: Let me answer that in two ways. One, we released a picture of Superman at twelve midnight on a Friday night, fourteen minutes later, I received e-mail from friends of mine in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles that they’d seen the picture and commented on how great Brandon looked. So we put something out, fourteen minutes later around the world everyone sees it. You have to be careful, you have to pick and choose moments that make sense to expose because yes you want the fans to see and we did make that part of the Comic Con. Many of us flew a long time to show those few minutes, to give them a reaction and let them be a part of the excitement. So, we’ll continue to do that and continue to expose in the blogs, and continue to do that in post.
Q: How important do you see the Internet these days in filmmaking?
Gilbert: Of course it’s important, I mean you guys have cutting edge technology, and you guys have the first tier of exposure to stuff so of course it’s important, and it’s getting more important.
Q: Did you release the photo of Brandon as Superman so early as a way to say stop someone sneaking a photo out?
Gilbert: I don’t think it was so much to stop a person sneaking a photo out because we didn’t want somebody else’s photo out, I think we wanted to control the exposure of Superman so that the audience would see what we’re making. We didn’t want some picture of him leaning against a pole, or sitting and having lunch, those kinds of pictures can get out there and they can do damage, and that’s not what we’re making. We wanted the exposure to be real to our picture, and to be truthful.
Q: Once filming was underway, was the studio heavily involved or let you do your own thing?
Gilbert: They’re involved, we talk to them daily, literally daily. They have input, they tell us what they like, they also tell us what they don’t like – they have no problem telling us what they don’t like.
Q: What haven’t they liked?
Gilbert: Some of the time we’ve taken to do things, when we’ve had issues with…. the issues with story and everything happened months and months ago before we came down here, and those were all worked out with Bryan, the writers, and the studio and with us and that was all part of the process I mean that’s what you do when you write a script, and you want to produce a movie – there is conversation with the studios. But they’ve been so supportive, and so helpful that… you know I’ve made a lot of movies with Warner Bros. and with HBO which is owned by Warner Bros, and I feel very much at home with Warner Bros., a part and parcel with them and I don’t look at them as the studio, I see them as our partners.
Q: There are a lot of young kids who are Superman fans, are you trying to make this movie something appropriate for them to go to?
Gilbert: I really think that the audience for this movie, and you know you’re talking to the producer so I apologize up front, but the audience for this movie is anyone 8-80. It’s young kids, it’s young girls, it’s teenagers, everybody around the world. It’s really everybody, and I think we’re going to deliver. I really feel that that’s our audience, I think that people who grew up with the TV show, who grew up with Max Fleischer’s stuff (if any of them are still around), as well as kids who dress up as Superman for Halloween, I think they’re going to fall in love all over again with this guy. This you’ll be able to take your kids too.
Q: Superman is such a big character for DC, do you feel nervous that this must be the superhero movie that has to work?
Gilbert: I think that’s their issue, not mine, mine is to just make this the best possible movie we can make. I don’t really think about that, I can’t think about that I really have to think about how can I make this picture the best thing we can make.
Q: How do you see the future for comic book movies, do you see it as an ongoing thing?
Gilbert: Well historically in the last 3-5 years, I mean “Constantine” did very well for me and for Warner Bros., Batman [Begins] did very well, that other movie [Spider-Man] you mentioned – they’re about to start making Number Three. I think as long as we keep coming up with innovative way of telling stories, I think those superhero characters are places we want to go.
Q: What about marketing and licensing, is it going to be everywhere next year?
Gilbert: Absolutely, everywhere that’s a good term, everywhere. I think we’re going to try and appeal to both male and female.
Q: Are you using one company for effects?
Gilbert: We’re using effects houses all over the world, there are about twelve houses we’re using. Some from Australia, some from New Zealand, some from England, many from the States. I mean when you’re making a movie with a thousand visual effects shots, and it comes out next Summer, you really can’t afford to have one company do it because the people might start off looking like they’re 25 years old, but after they’ve finished the picture they’ll be ready for the old age home.
Q: How do you keep the same style across so many different companies and people?
Gilbert: We have many conversations, Bryan meets with them, we have storyboards, we have pre vis, I mean we do a lot of the work and make sure that’s part of what we do.
Q: Will the movie be ready for June 30th?
Gilbert: Yes it will be, why have you heard differently?
Q: Do you see the July release date as the perfect date for this movie?
Gilbert: I do, I think it’ll be a very exciting movie, I think it’ll be very exciting for that audience at that time of year. School’s getting out, classes are out from college, people are taking holidays with their families, I think it’ll be a really good time.
Q: Will there be an IMAX release?
Gilbert: There will.
Q: Can you talk about the Genesis?
Gilbert: It’s a digital camera, it’s the most current generation of any digital camera that Panavision has tried to come up, and we’re the first company that’s using it.
Q: Why did you make that decision?
Gilbert: I think that’s probably a question to ask the DP and Bryan. We looked at 70mm, we looked at 35mm and we looked at the digital and the digital gave us a quality that we think is quite special. It doesn’t cost less, it doesn’t speed up the process.
Q: Who’s your composer?
Gilbert: John Ottman who worked with Bryan, and we’ll be using some of John Williams score as well.
Q: How many of Williams’ themes will be used in the movie?
Gilbert: I don’t know, we’re still shooting. We haven’t really talked about what the score’s going to be like, and John Ottman is very busy cutting right now.
Q: Do you feel five months in, you’re getting all you need?
Gilbert: I never stop cameras until we get everything we need, that’s how I work with directors. I don’t stop cameras because of a time or an issue, or anything except when we get everything we want. That’s what our job is to make sure we have everything we want, so when we go into the editing room we have everything we need.
Chris Lee: Thanks for coming all the way. We’re almost at day 100… Feel a little tired but it’s looking really good. We’re very happy obviously with the response at Comic Con and everything…. so… it’s good! We’re glad!
Q: Is that what’s really driving you… getting the response at Comic Con, and also with the Internet reactions?
Chris: You guys know your fan base better than anybody and it is interesting because there’s that specific opinion about everything that we do, so when you have the opportunity to have Bryan cut a reel and go to Comic Con and get that very visceral immediate response from the people that really matter the most in this kind of movie… It’s a good chance to sort of sit back and take stock at what we’ve been doing since last November really and from the 1st of January when we got here. It can go both ways for you. We’re happy to be consistent with that and it was definitively worth 35 hours in the air.
Q: How have you found working with Bryan?
Chris: I’ve known Bryan socially and professionally for about 10-12 years and I’m largely here because of him, because he and the studios wanted somebody on the ground that he was comfortable with and I’m very honoured to be a part of his team. I’ve known Mike (Dougherty) and Dan (Harris) a long time. Part of the genesis of this production was actually when they all visited me in Hawaii last July 4th so it’s great and I think you know, you never know, but I think it’s going to be his best film yet.
Q: Is it important this very close unit in this production? In Bryan’s films there’s always a close family…
Chris: Bryan likes having a family around him of people that he’s worked with before and trusts, there’s a short hand that goes with that.
Q: Bryan and you and his people were kind of grafted on to a production that has already been moving forward and then kind of fell apart… and some of those people are still here…
Chris: I know that the concept of shooting in Australia was rolling forward and last year when they were all visiting me in Hawaii, I guess that’s about when it didn’t work out with McG… I don’t know the extent to which the crew here was all set… I know Guy was new… so that was all new… I’ve never read the script from the McG movie so I understand it’s very different. I’ve seen some of the animatics which seems very different to me than in the movie that we’re making. So whatever designs there were, I know this was a big issue for Warner Bros. and for Bryan was “Are you willing to go with the vision that we have for it” and whatever it is that Mike (Dougherty), Dan (Harris) and Bryan wrote on the plane on the way back from Hawaii that’s sort of the one they pitched to Alan (Horn) and they can tell you all these stories. I know it’s a very very different movie from the one that was being planned at that time. As a former executive I can tell you that it’s extraordinary for me that a movie of this size and scope moved so quickly even though there was a whole 10 years of history of trying to get this movie off the ground. To go from what was essentially a pitch in July to production in March to day 100 almost right now is pretty extraordinary and I think it’s testament to that relationship we were just talking about, the short hand that Bryan had with his production designer with his DP with his writing team and that’s one of the reasons they were able to accomplish that so quickly. And at the top of that the crews here in Australia from construction all the way through catering are just fantastic. And even though we’re on 8 stages… even though there are only 7 stages at Fox… Did you see the glass bottom boat? That’s normally a construction zone. And when we shot there, and every time a plane would go over we’d have to stop because it’s not sound proof. We really pushed the limits and every time we finish one big set we’d have to take it down. I wish you could have seen the Daily Planet, I wish you could have seen the Fortress of Solitude in the arctic set, they were so spectacular but we had to move on and get to the next big massive set. So all of that again is a testament to both the crews here and sort of the cohesive vision that Bryan’s team has in terms of how you get a movie like this mounted so quickly.
Q: With pulling down the sets and things so quickly, does that cause a problem in having to pick up something later on?
Chris: Well I think ideally you’d love to keep your sets up. It’s not really possible. But I’m the one who tends to get the calls from the construction crew saying “are we done?” and then I talk to the editorial, John Ottman and Elliot Graham (so much a part of Bryan’s history, the editorial crew) And then there’s Bryan saying “Ok we can move on”. Sometimes we keep pieces of sets. Actually the Daily Planet is what we call “fold and hold” we took it all apart and it’s all boxed up nicely in containers and hopefully if we get to make any more movies it will be available to us. But by and large it’s optimal but it’s not realistic unfortunately. We’re really pushing the limits of the stage space as it is.
Q: How much more time do you have left?
Chris: I think we’re supposed to wrap the second week of September. We’ve got a bunch of water scenes, and water scenes tend to scare everybody… they’re in tanks though at least. So we’ll see how it goes. They tend to slow you down, but we’re basically recording on schedule right now and maybe one day over at the most but we’ve picked up some time since Kevin got here so we’re pretty proud of being so much on schedule again, given the size of this picture.
Q: Is Kevin’s schedule in regards to getting back to the Old Vic theatre (in London) an issue?
Chris: It’s not an issue now but it was an issue when we scheduled the movie because we had six weeks with him, and Bryan would prefer to shoot in continuity and we didn’t have that luxury, but we kind of were in that issue originally with Hugh Laurie because he was going to be Perry White and then the TV show (House) came up and we were moving his things around and we couldn’t make that work. But we’ve made it work (for Kevin Spacey). And it’s kind of fun actually because he’s come in and Parker Posey and Kal Penn and Dave Fabrizio and then we’ve got Ian Roberts and Vince Stone from here, it’s kind of a whole other movie suddenly is taking place and that gives you a kind of renewed energy for everything. It’s challenging… the first day they were shooting they were mid movie and they were mid scene, and he’s just gotten off the plane and everything. And he was a total trooper about it. It will be close but we’ll get it done. I don’t know if you’ve got a chance to meet with him yet but I think he’ll be the definitive Lex.
Q: Looking at the Batman movie in 1989, the original Superman, and the first Spider-man, they were cultural phenomenons. Is that something you guys are keeping in the back of your mind to gauge the success of this movie? Does it have to ignite passion within people and be this huge phenomenon for it to be a true success? Or could be it be more like “Batman Begins” and get great reviews to start with?
Chris: Well you know the franchises are a little different because the last Batman movie wasn’t that long ago. There’s a couple of differences in approach in terms of… as I understand it Chris Nolan wanted to say like none of those other movies ever existed and when he said “Batman Begins” he meant it. In this case, Bryan talks about the vague history and the utilisation of all the mythology that’s come before but in particular the 1978 Donner film. So I think the challenge for us is we are almost 30 years from the 1978 film and the contemporary audiences have a sense of Superman more from the television shows than they do from feature film… by contemporary I mean people under 25, and people over 25 certainly know and remember the ’78 film very well and remember Chris Reeve very well. And I think the challenge for Bryan is living up to that legacy, honouring it, but improving it for today’s audiences as well. I let Brian speak to how to he wants to define success or not. I certainly, again, feel very privileged to be on this picture and the way it’s turning out on everything. It’s certainly fulfilling whatever my personal goals and standards for how you define success on a picture.
Q: Warner Bros have stated that this movie will be dedicated to Christopher Reeve. Was it something that you had in mind before they forced it upon you?
Chris: No, they didn’t force it… I think it’s a pretty obvious thing that’s been in discussion… I think there was a comment, I believe, from Alan Horn, who is the chairman, and it was something he’d discussed with Bryan. So definitely it’s appropriate. If you remember the ’78 film actually starts with a dedication to Geoffrey Unsworth who was the director of photography. So it certainly would be in keeping again with what happened in the ’78 film.
Q: Have you always been a Superman fan?
Chris: I didn’t have many Superman comics growing up. I probably had more Batman comics. But when I first came on board I ran down to the local comic book store. I was in Hawaii and I bought about 400 hundred dollars worth of the archive books. I just wanted to look at it at every decade. I told the salesperson I was doing a thesis (laughs) or something like that. I was surprised by his evolution as a character and if you go back to those early ones his behaviour and things we associate with him were not a part of the mythology at all. In fact there’s a sort of a running thing where he wears a lot of disguises and he takes over people’s lives like he kidnapped them, and then he ties them up and he literary drugs them ties them up or something and then he goes and participates in their lives and he gets involved in footfall, fixing scandals, there’s a lot of things with munitions makers he was sort of politically oriented. But there was no flying, there was a little bit of jumping… So, I think it’s pretty remarkable to watch his evolution and I guess when you approach a Superman movie you have a lot of choices to make, you have a lot of mythology you can pick from and I think that what we think of this as the common history of the ’78 film… I think they did a great job at synthesizing a lot of that.
Q: Are there any images of Superman from the comics that define the approach of this movie?
Chris: That’s really more a question for Bryan. We’re just here to facilitate his vision, but I think I certainly I personally agree thematically with the way that they’ve gone with the picture. I think that if you look at everything Bryan does and everything that Mike and Dan do, their movies are always about something, and I think when they talk about how the world treats the return of saviours and how we as individuals treat the return of old boyfriends. I think that on a micro and macro level, its something that everybody can relate to. So, I actually looked at all four of the films also when I was doing my little research, and I grew up on the television show, so I was very excited to meet Noel Neill and Jack Larson who did important roles in our picture. I think that it’s important today that Superman be perceived as a global hero, I think that’s very key and I think that it’s one of the issues that is discorporately in the material.
Q: You say Global Hero, but Superman is such an American Icon. But now America is viewed differently in the world, especially in the last 5 years or so, as bit more of an antagonist… How’s that going to affect the way you portray the character?
Chris: I think we’re all cognoscente about it. I think that Bryan is better at speaking to that on a creative level. But I think we would be doing a disservice to the character and to the franchise if we didn’t recognize that the world has changed and in some ways the whole notion of Superman’s gone for five years and he’s come back and the world has moved on…. He is basically this amazing embodiment of America in some way. Bryan is talking about how he is the ultimate immigrant. He comes to the country, he comes to the planet with all his skills and he tries to apply them to the betterment of society in general. That’s a global story in itself, and I think that the threats that occur in the picture are on a global basis, they’re not just, you know “It’s going to be an issue for Metropolis or an issue for America” per se. But you’ll see when you see the picture.
Q: How do you feel about the comic book movie genre? Do you feel like it’s getting better?
Chris: What’s fascinating about it is as a canvas for directors like Bryan or Chris Nolan, I think that Sam Raimi was always a true believer to begin with. He just came out of that tradition. His movies were comic books from the beginning. But I think for someone like Bryan who wasn’t into comic books (I don’t know anything about Chris Nolan), you see the opportunity to take sort of extraordinary situations but apply very human emotions to them and they get relatable. I personally think that there’s going to be no shortage of these comic book movies and as with all films, it’s really the filmmaker that’s going to make the difference to its success, on a many different levels. And I think you’re always better off if you have an accomplished director with a strong sense of story, strong sense of emotional resonance for the audience then you have with someone who is just better at cutting or shooting… Because comic books, people relate to them on a very emotional level, they respond to them because they speak to them. And when you have a movie that’s just flash, they’re very forgettable as with most films. So, I think the same rules apply as apply to any approach to a picture.
Q: Bryan’s renowned for being very prepared. Is it your job just to give him options?
Chris: I think all of us try to give him options, and one of the things that Guy Dias always gives Bryan is “more than less”. For instance like on this set today, there were a number of choices in terms of set design, Bryan could approach a scene and he chose one and we understand that. Bryan always knows exactly what he wants and everything has a precision to it and it’s reflected in his work. But I think you do get a sense, working with him, of knowing what’s he’s going to sort of go for and go away from. That’s part of the short-hand again on whether Tom or John or Mike or Dan or Guy, in terms of working with him, is just having a bit of a sixth sense about whether Bryan’s going to like this. But at the end of day he surprises us all the time.
Q: Are you doing any location shooting outside Australia?
Chris: We did some plate work at Sciver Stadium. Actually it was more than plate work. I think I saw something about some plate work in New York, but I’m not sure. But pretty much everything is done here. The largest exterior obviously was the Kent Farm in Tamworth which looks extraordinary. And beside this little issue of mountains in Kansas, which seems to broil through the websites a lot, I think everybody will really like it. It’s really true that Tamworth has apparently the number 2 rated sunsets in the world. The sky was just amazing there they capture them in all their glory with the wonderful Genesis camera. So yeah, but pretty much everything is done here (in Australia).
Q: How do you feel about the casting of Brandon. Was it important getting an unknown?
Chris: It was probably the most crucial decision for Bryan with finding the right Superman/Clark Kent and I know that he and Roger Mussenden, the casting director, looked at about a 1000 different guys for the part and I wasn’t around for the screen test for the finalists and I think that you couldn’t imagine anybody better… When you meet him you’re just physically overwhelmed by this resemblance and the smile and everything. But it’s the performance that totally wins you over. His Clark is so sly. There’s really three different characters, there’s Clark Kent on the farm, Clark Kent at the Daily Planet who’s this bumbling Clark Kent, and then there’s Superman. First time we filmed on the roof top and he said something to Miss Lane and I was like “Oh my God! It’s like him!”. So it’s great… We’re very fortunate and I think the world will really, really, enjoy his performance.
Q: It’s such a huge leap for him. Was there any concern initially? Do you think he’s really stepped up?
Chris: I don’t think people should really equate unknown with untalented. I think one of the things Bryan is noted for is his casting ability. I think we had a lot of really interesting choices and also in the way performances worked out. I love what Frank Langella did with Perry White. A tremendous quiet authority. I mean he’s not doing Jonah Jameson. He’s not doing Jackie Cooper.
Q: It’s like with Hugh Jackman. He struck gold. Do you think he did the same thing with Brandon?
Chris: If we haven’t then we don’t have a picture (laughs). So I certainly think so, yeah. Absolutely.
Anyway thanks for coming!
- STEVE YOUNIS