Today marks what would’ve been Christopher Reeve’s 65th birthday and forty years to the day where he turned 25 on the set of Superman: The Movie.
One cannot help but wonder what Reeve would be doing now had his life not taken such a fateful turn in 1995. It would seem (by Hollywood standards) that being of pensionable age no longer inhibits the revival of vintage franchises (see Harrison Ford) so its concievable that Reeve would still be involved in some capacity with his most celebrated turn – maybe even as a director. Indeed, just before his accident Reeve seemed to be set on a return to the mainstream again, appearing in the critically accalaimed Remains of the Day alongside cult fare like The Village of The Damned. Tragic, then, on one hand that his best work onscreen may have been to come but on the other, his pioneering efforts on behalf of the disabled commuinity will surely serve to change lives for the better all over the world.
SUPERMANIA is proud to help preserve the legacy with this newest addition to the collection, a significant find that surfaced only recently after more than 40 years. Many Superfans are aware that lifecasts/masks were taken by makeup supremo Stuart Freeborn for most of the lead actors and that recasts of Reeve’s have been circulating for a number of years (click here). These reproductions were of an altered cast made for production (where the eyes were cut out for the purposes of adding false ones later) so are more of an SFX curio than a ‘standard’ lifecast. These, along with a few other variations offered by Propstore over the years (serving as wig mounts and suchlike) were belived to be the only existing examples remaining from the series after Freeborn’s passing.
So imagine the surprise when a complete, almost full-head casting with superb detail appears from nowhere and instantly becomes the definitive source for reference to date. While some consider lifecasts to be ghoulish, this fibreglass pull is nonethess a superb impression of the late actor. Note how it compares in size with the older FX casting (third pic) having shrunk many generations down the line. Though the newer cast isn’t perfect (suffering from some distortion and lack of clarity around the nose) its shortcomings are made up for by the inclusion of the ears, a very uncommon feature to survive the process…
We miss you, ‘Toph…
SUPERMANIA presents what at a casual glance would appear to be just another cover story for the opening of the theatrical run of Superman II but this particular issue of London’s Time Out magazine from 1981 represents not only the first no-holds-barred account of the troubled production but what would ultimately result in the demotion of the leading lady.
Indeed, Dave Pirie’s article ‘The Truth about Superman‘ has been cited on more than one occasion as so inflammatory that Margot Kidder’s opening remarks (top) about the Producers consequently limited her apperance in Superman III to a pair of short bookend scenes. Common knowledge now but revealed with clarity here are the reasons for Brando’s absence from the sequel, the terms on which Dick Donner was dismissed and the almost hilarious lengths Alexander Salkind went to both fund the project and avoid incarceration as a result of various lawsuits.
Not even Christopher Reeve, already acknowledged for his discretion throughout the process could hold back his feelings regarding the rewrites of the Donner/Mankiewicz script for II and the decision to throw all of his scenes with Brando onto the cutting room floor. Interestingly, Reeve is quoted as saying that Guy Hamilton (the Salkinds first choice as director) was drafted in as Donner’s replacement long before Richard Lester took the reigns.
Given all the controversy it is fairly miraculous that the finished product (also reviewed by Pirie, bottom pic) gained such plaudits as a successor to the original, the marked differences between thematic and directorial styles highlighted here still relevant and hotly debated today…
Footnote: Among the many examples of how the Salkinds were to exploit their property not mentioned here was the sale of an extended cut, nearing three hours long, edited together without any approval of the director and broadcast over two nights by US Station abc purely to attain the advertising revenue. Never shown again and long believed lost, this version has just been restored by Warner Archive and is released on Blu-Ray next month (see sidebar)