SUPERMANIA flies straight into the fortieth anniversary year of Superman: The Movie‘s production with a renewed pledge to bring you the most rare and obscure ephemera from the classic films as exemplified by the scarce promo’s above.
From the top – clipped from the pages of British Screen, the half page ad for Superman IV features a rare behind the scenes still of Christopher Reeve swooping in to Milton Keynes as part of Cannon Films optimistic submissions to BAFTA – A newspaperad for the comic adaptation of Superman IV from 1987 – A DC Comics trade ad championing Neal Adams return to Superman comics in 1988 and a somewhat premature announcement for Superman V from a brochure given out at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.
Of course, in an ideal world, all of the above would be true but in fact, sadly none of these images are genuine vintage but are in fact the latest creations of artist and SuperFan Jason Leggett, whose convincing works of nostalgia have been featured on the site many times before. Look out for more of Jason’s retro designs in the coming weeks…
On the day of what would’ve been Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s 101st birthday, SUPERMANIA celebrates with a one-time post outside of our established continuity to bring you an exclusive wild card –
Courtesy of El Club El Planet come these rare pics of the abandoned Tim Burton movie Superman Lives – a project that would ultimately be abandoned only weeks before photography in 1997 in a highly controversial move exemplifying the production hell hampering the characters return to the big screen since 1988. The rejected scripts had begun with Superman V (orSuperman: The New Movie) in 1990, Superman Reborn in 1992 and various drafts of what became Superman Lives which was green-lit with the commitment from Burton after the departure of writer/director Kevin Smith.
Lives eleventh-hour cancellation would yield little material in subsequent years save for unconfirmed script rewrites to the point where the whole endeavour verged on myth. Aside from some concept art, a blurred, unconvincing photo of what pertained to be star Nicolas Cage (above) in a bizarre muscle suit and a poster appearing at a Toy fair was the only supposed proof of any pre-production.
Naturally it would be the persistence of fans that would not only unravel the mystery but prove just how close the picture was to becoming reality with photos and even footage from the project no-one ever thought they would see.
And so thanks to Jon Schnepp and others there is, incredibly, a new Superman film made by fans, for fans to enjoy with the fascinating The Death of Superman Lives, What Happened? documentary available now as a digital download (bottom pic). where exclusive interviews with the likes of Burton, Smith and scriptwriters Dan GIlroy and Wesley Strick, are presented in irreverent, watchable style (watch the first 10 minutes).
While little could convince SUPERMANIA Lives was anything but a huge misconception, as an ambassador of the character this documentary highlights an important period in its screen evolution and is therefore intrigued. Indeed, for all the furore surrounding Nic Cage’s casting he nevertheless does embody the Superman comics of the era here (nineties long hair) and would’ve been interesting to watch if nothing else…
Sound too good to be true? Ultimately it would prove to be just that but judging from the evidence presented above it would appear the Salkind’s last Super-Hurrah would either be the perfect send-off for one series, or indeed, the initiation of another.
In the twenty years it would take to get the Man of Tomorrow back on the silver screen, this second attempt (following Cannon’s doomed Superman V) has arguably been overlooked in favour of subsequent treatments and the controversy surrounding Tim Burton’s ultimately aborted Superman Lives.
Given the calibre of creative talent name-checked in the documentation accompanying the first draft of the script, (dated 1990, second pic) among them tenured Super-Producer Robert Simmonds, Star Wars effects guru Richard Edlund (accompanied by Boss Films) along with a $40 Million budget and Alexander Salkind’s typical flair for marketing, (selling the movie to numerous parties overseas before a director or star were attached) it seems apparent the quality of the first three pictures was going to be at least maintained, maybe even surpassed.
Despite the ambiguity concerning Reeve’s return (third pic), only a year later the man himself affirmed his commitment to the project (click here) after his reservations to return were nullified by the involvement of the Salkinds. The choices of director were also intriguing – Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and Steve Herek (BiIl & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) filming a script by an experienced television writer with a great affinity and familiarity with the character (Cary Bates).
So with the momentum building and money changing hands just how and why did the project stall? To date there is no one clear answer. Any concerns that the series may have had its day were certainly not reflected in the obvious worldwide interest and WB’s full backing to initiate a vast merchandising campaign. Those seeking a more exhaustive account should go here and check out this great article by Rennie Cowan but in the final analysis only Ilya Salkind himself presumably knows the absolute truth of it. Its a question SUPERMANIA would someday love to put to him…
Many thanks to SUPERMANIA’s latest contributor for his valued submission of both articles (top one from the October 1992 issue of Hollywood Reporter)