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 appearance 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)