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 newspaper ad 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 (or Superman: 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…
ALEXANDER AND ILYA SALKIND PRESENT
‘SUPERMAN – THE NEW MOVIE’
SCREENPLAY BY CARY BATES & MARK JONES
PRODUCED BY ROBERT SIMMONDS
DIRECTED BY PHILIP NOYCE
RELEASED BY WARNER BROS.
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)
Expanding on this revised post charting the history of the aborted fifth and final Superman Movie starring Christopher Reeve, presented below for the first time anywhere is transcript from a Q&A (video above) at the 1994 Atlanta Dixie Trek Convention where the man himself responds to the question; “How true is it that Superman V was in Pre-Production..?”
I don’t know – It was going to be made…In Orlando, Florida at the…Universal had got new studios opening down there. And the good news would’ve been, that Ilya Salkind and Alexander Salkind who had made the first movie and the second movie would be back – they had bought the rights back from Golan-Globus which I think is good news.
But what happened was, they basically, I think started to hire some technical people and were talking to directors…and got a script written but never…came to me…ahead of time. And I had been so bruised by the really…everything about Superman IV, I mean I’m just so apologetic and…what can I tell you folks, you know its really sad that that happened…Superman IV. I think…Superman IV had the potential to be a very good movie but it needed to be told on an epic scale – it need to be big-time movie-making, and it wasn’t. I’ll give you one example of what I mean by big-time movie-making versus not. I had basically worked on the story with Konner and Rosenthal who wrote the script – we planned the story out together and they wrote a screenplay and we talked one time about a scene – and of course – this was 1986 and the Nuclear race was still important and Reagan had failed with Gorbachev at a summit meeting in Geneva, the Nuclear threat was still very much alive, the Russians had been referred to as an evil empire, already if you remember back in those days, and so the idea of Superman getting rid of Nuclear weapons seemed like a reasonable thing to do, after all, Superman had been used in World War II to sell War bonds, y’know, if this is something they didn’t know, you could get in sight with real world, when it needs to be…good…quality.
So, we had envisioned a scene where Superman has decided- after spending time at the Fortress of Solitude- that he will intervene in this arms race, and that he was going to land on 42nd street, on the double yellow line right in the middle of the street and then walk down the street to the United Nations which is the end of the street, on the East river and he was going to give a speech to several nations of the world. And of course people will be pouring out of buildings, and buses and it would be like the Pied Piper, y’know, thousands of people walking down the street, and I had the idea of him walking rather than flying actually from watching Jimmy Carter get out of his motorcade in his inauguration in Washington, I thought it was a very inspiring moment, meeting people.
So, anyway, we had all this and we were really excited about it and to make a long story short, when the moment came in the actual filming of Superman IV, where he talks to the United Nations, it was shot in an industrial park in the British midlands in the rain in November with twenty extras and a few pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. And then they wondered why they can’t make the movies take off. All the thinking was like that to be very honest with you, because Golan-Globus – great deal makers, they went around and bought a lot of stuff, they bought Masters of the Universe, they bought Captain America, they bought this one that one and the other one, thinking, well, you just, y’know, it’s Saturday morning cartoon kiddies stuff, we can just throw it out there and be fine, in my opinion not respecting the audience. Not respecting what the audience…deserves to see, and…they paid a big price for it…So…
This is the thing, truthfully, I would’ve done Superman V, contrary to anything you read in the papers or will read, but I’ll tell you the truth here and now, if they’d showed me – this is back to the Salkinds again a few years ago – if they’d showed me a brilliant script for Superman V, and a commitment that they were gonna spend in today’s dollars the kind of money that was spent for the talent we had on Superman I, I would’ve been the first person to sign up. In the absence of that I thought it’s better to stay home, and that’s really what happened…”
Photos courtesy of Jim Bowers. For More on Reeve’s appearance at Dixie Trek, read the article on Capedwonder.com
The dawn of the Digital age presents many possibilities as yet fully unexploited – the concept of ‘resurrecting’ an actor for a posthumous appearance is still in its infancy but constantly advancing. See above digital renderings of the late Christopher Reeve (by artists I only wish I could identify to give them the full credit for their incredible work) with the heft and stature of age as he would potentially appear in an animated version of ‘Superman V’.
Other artists have gone one better and put the images in motion – one can only hope in future the Movie series could be concluded in a fashion befitting of the performance emulated here and to date, unsurpassed…