Although originally conceived by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind as a series of movies ‘much like the Bond films’, the critical and commercial disappointment of Superman III had prompted a revision that ultimately lead to the screen debut of Supergirl. When the spin-off failed to hit the heady heights of its predecessor the future of the franchise became uncertain.
By 1985, with Santa Claus: the Movie proving to be another misfire, the Salkinds relinquished their interest in the Super portfolio to the Cannon Group, who, despite a reputation for churning out straight to video trash, were nonetheless expanding into the mainstream at an alarming rate. Literally buying up every comic-related property on the market at the time, Captain America, Spider-Man and Masters Of The Universe were in pre-production already but Cannon needed a sure-fire hit with a built-in audience to start the momentum, and who better than the Man of Steel?
And so Christopher Reeve was welcomed into the Cannon Family, (top pic, from the pages of Variety) with ecstatic producers proclaiming that they had managed to secure him by ‘Giving him the picture he wanted, and one that the world wanted’. With his personal project (contemporary thriller Street Smart) greenlighted and greater creative input into Superman’s writing and direction, Reeve would become a willing Cannon ambassador ( even making a personal appearance for the opening of a Cannon Multiplex cinema in Salford Quays, England (third & fourth pic).
The infatuation with their new adoptive son would be short-lived, however, and Reeve would soon become the black sheep of the Cannon family. In an amazing show of foresight, during filming of Street Smart, Reeve chewed out an outraged Golan over the phone by demanding another 1.5 million to shoot on location in New York, stating ‘If you don’t have the money to do this, how do I know you have the 30 Million to do Superman IV?’ (watch the fantastic footage here).
Of course, history now tells us just how well-founded these concerns were as by January of 1987 Screen International covered the story of Cannon’s bailing out by Warner Brothers (second pic) but such was the extent of the company’s losses that it collapsed altogether the following year, having slashed Superman IV’s budget and forcing Director Gary Godard to fund the closing scenes of Masters Of The Universe out of his own pocket.
It was a debacle that the Superman series, and essentially Reeve’s career would not recover from. The Salkinds, meanwhile, incensed by the treatment of their most successful property, immediately renegotiated the rights to move forward with their foray into television with Superboy alongside a little project with the working title of ‘Superman – The New Movie’…