Without a doubt, the biggest and most anticipated movie of the year is "Superman Returns." From the stunning photos of Brandon Routh as Superman/Clark Kent to the excitement over the trailer footage released this week, an entire generation is learning to love Superman and old fans are re-discovering their passion for the character. But the one question that many are asking is simple:
Will the movie be any good?
To that end, CBR News, along with other major websites including BlueTights.Net, were invited to Sydney, Australia at the end of July last year to go behind the scenes of the "Superman Returns" production. As you'll read on CBR today, journalists were given an unprecedented amount of time with the actors and production crew to learn about the return of The Man Of Steel. Regular interviews with these stars can be only 10 or 20 minutes per person, but Warner Bros allowed journalists to spend almost an hour with each of the major players in the film. Over the next 24 hours on CBR News, you'll find in depth roundtable interviews (links will be added as stories are posted) with:
- Brandon Routh, who plays Clark Kent/Superman
- Kate Bosworth, who plays Lois Lane
- Kal Penn, who plays Stanford, Lex Luthor's newest henchmen
- Parker Posey, who plays Kitty Koslowski, Luthor's femme fatale
- Bryan Singer, who directed "Superman Returns"
- Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, who wrote "Superman Returns"
- Guy Dyas, Production Designer for "Superman Returns"
- Gil Adler, Producer Of "Superman Returns"
- Chris Lee, Executive Producer of "Superman Returns"
- Louise Migenbach & Dan Bronson, Costumer for "Superman Returns"
In this article you'll find a report of the scene that journalists were allowed to see and the scene they weren't able to see. You'll also find this author's day by day report of events during the two days of the visit (July 28th-29th) and general impressions of the event.
Filmed Scene: Lex Luthor Visits a Museum
On the evening of the 28th, journalists were treated to special viewing- albeit a bit cramped- at a museum in downtown Sydney of a scene featuring Kevin Spacey (Luthor) and Kal Penn (Stanford, along with the other henchmen, entering a museum. The scene began with Luthor dropping a small donation into a donation bin and the camera panning up to Luthor, wearing a long, curly brown hair wig and dressed in safari hunting gear. Followed by this henchmen, Luthor confidently walked into an undisclosed area and the receptionist quickly said, "We close in ten minutes sir," to which Luthor replied, "I'll only need five." The take was done multiple times, first with a stand in for the actors to get a sense of how it would look on film and then with the "real" actors. While a short scene, it did give a nice impression of how Luthor will act in the movie- menacing, but with a sense of humor to enhance Spacey's natural charisma. Many of the production crew described this Luthor as a contemporary version of Gene Hackman's Luthor and from the humor down to the wig, this scene embodied that.
Journalists also had a chance to speak momentarily with Spacey, who seemed thrilled to be on set and laughed with Bryan Singer when he was told that the wig made him look like Russell Crowe (think "Master & Commander"). It was then suggested that Spacey looked more like Geoffery Rush in "Pirates of The Caribbean" and it drew laughs from all. Singer was also using a cane to walk as he'd injured himself recently on a beach scene and it was revealed that the cane was one of the props used by Lex Luthor in the film.
As for the scene that journalists DIDN'T see filmed… it involved the lights being turned out. So as you can imagine, journalists weren't too broken up over not seeing the lights turned off.
Set Visit: Day One
On the first day of the set visit, journalists were taken to the Fox Studios lot where they met with Production Designer Guy Dyas, who began by revealing many of the storyboards used in the film. Dyas didn't reveal much about the plot, but from the pictures of Kal-El in his Kryptonian ship, a scene with a plane about to crash into a stadium and the various concept sketches displayed around the office, it was easy to get a feel for the film. Journalists were also taken around to many sets, including one half of the 30 foot yacht used by Lex Luthor in the film. The press also was treated to the inside of a Fortress of Solitude that was described as not belonging to Superman and some press speculated that it might belong to Lex Luthor, who spends some time in the movie manipulating the same Kryptonian crystals that Superman used to create his own Fortress in the first film. Also on display was Luthor's helicopter, looking intentionally damaged, which may indicate Luthor is in for a rough ride during the film. Particularly astounding was a train set featured in the film that shows much of Kansas in exquisite detail, from Smallville to Metropolis and has been destroyed by Kryptonian crystals jutting up from the ground. This sight added more credence to the theory that Luthor's manipulation of the crystals will cause the penultimate crisis of the film.
Next was a close up with the Superman costume, in which journalists were allowed to touch and closely examine the costume under the watchful guidance of Costumers Louise Migenbach & Dan Bronson, who explained the reasons for the changes in the costume.
The press also spoke with Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, the men who wrote the script for the film and also won fan favor with their work on "X2." Both were happy to answer all the questions asked of them and one interesting note was that they strongly hinted that they might be working on a Superman comic book soon.
Soon after, journalists met with producers Chris Lee and Gil Adler, who both expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the film and explained somewhat why it took so long to get this film going, in spite of the success of other super-hero films such as "Spider-Man."
Finally, cult favorite actor Kal Penn, of "Harold & Kumar" fame, spoke with the press regarding his role as "Stanford," one of Luthor's henchmen and though he wasn't able to reveal much about the film, he did offer an interesting perspective. As a long time friend of Brandon Routh, Penn offered his own view on the man who would be Superman and explained his own affection for comic books & superheroes.
Set Visit Day Two
The day began with a special treat for the journalists, namely a private screening of the Comic Con International "Superman Returns" footage, which was at that point the only footage seen by fans and those not connected with the film. While CBR News earlier ran a report of the events in the trailer when it aired at Comic-Con, this author had not seen the footage and like the rest of the room, was simply blown away by the quality of footage, in both the acting and the special effects, which weren't even complete! Some of the scenes were truly chilling, such as the Marlon Brando voice over from the 1978 "Superman" film that held the clip together and the scene of Superman in a fetal position inside his craft. There we images of his visit to Krypton and a chilling line, "The place was a graveyard. I'm the only one left." These images and dialogue really drove home the point that while this is a Superman film, bright and full of hope, there will be some serious pain affecting the titular hero.
The interplay between Routh and Bosworth was full of chemistry and real romantic tension, as evidenced by scenes of Superman lifting Lois into the sky and a scene where Lois steps into a cab, asking Clark, "Have you ever been in love, Clark?" Kent is dumbstruck by the question and as he is about to reply, Lois says something to the effect of "Don't worry Clark, it's a silly question." The romantic nature of the film is brought more to the forefront with James Marsden's Richard White character, who shows up when Clark eyes a picture of Lois, Richard and a child. The way Clark cracks the picture frame and Jimmy's funny response reminded viewers that there's a real heart to the film, a point hammered home when Richard asks Lois, "Did you love him?," referencing Superman. Lois says, "Of course I loved him. Everyone did" and Richard points at Lois, emphatically asking, "But did you love him?"
Also important is the tension between Lois & Superman, as she writes an article about why the world doesn't need Superman, causing her to win an award and then to question her own stance. There was a shot of Lex holding a Kryptonian crystal that was vague enough to intrigue the audience.
The final scene of the clip seemed to illicit the most response, with Superman hovering in space, watching Earth from his "listening post" (described in more detail by Guy Dyas) and then speeding down to Earth to aid in some kind of crisis. While no one is sure where the clip fits in the film, it is definitely the perfect way to end the film if that is its purpose.
After this, Bryan Singer (who was in the room), wearing his trademark gray Abercrombie beanie, answered a few questions and had to leave, due to work on "Logan's Run" and because it seemed Warner Bros, and possibly Singer, was uncomfortable answering a question about when he was physically kicked off the Fox Studios set when he announced he was leaving the "X3" film to work on "Superman Returns."
The next interview was with the proverbial star of the show, Brandon Routh, who arrived in a t-shirt that emphasized his athletic build, as well as his "Clark Kent" glasses that made the interview almost a bit surreal. Everyone seemed impressed by the Routh's presence- no doubt due to the fact that he made a point of shaking hands and introducing himself to each member of the press- and commented on his physique, which seemed to be more a lean swimmer's physique than a big bodybuilder. He is definitely very fit for the role and has enough mass to be imposing in the costume with being too beefy to look like Superman- he may be the most physically built Superman seen in film to this day. Routh was happy to talk about all things Superman and seemed to have an excellent knowledge of everything related to the man of steel, referencing the "Birthright" maxi series as well as the Kirk Alyn serials, moments that impressed the entire room. At one point, about 45 minutes into the interview, WB reps gave Routh an "out" from the room but the actor said he wanted to stay longer and talk further with the press, which admittedly endeared him even further to all in attendance. Overall, everyone seemed very impressed by Routh's presence, his vernacular and understanding of the Superman mythos, his look as Superman/Clark and his general optimistic attitude to the entire venture. Just as Christian Bale embodied Batman in last year's "Batman Begins" and won acclaim for his understanding of the character through his dynamic portrayal, the consensus of the press was that Routh will similarly impress all fans with the depth of his performance. Expect Routh to become a household name by the end of the summer.
After Routh left, actress Parker Posey was immediately brought in for a brief interview, as the Routh interview ran longer than expected and she wanted to be back home in time to watch the Australian "Big Brother." She was quite cordial and charming, making many comparisons of her character to Eve Teschmacher from the classic 1978 "Superman" movie and praised the work of actress Valerie Perrine. While journalists didn't glean any major plot points from the interview, Posey hinted at Luthor using Kitty to "infiltrate" and go places he couldn't go. Posey was quite kind and honest with everyone, treating the interview like a bunch of friends chatting rather than a formal affair.
Soon after, actress Kate Bosworth was brought in to speak to the press and despite her youth, only 22, she handled herself exceptionally well when talking about her role as Lois Lane. She seemed very excited about playing another famous role- the previous being Sandra Dee in "Beyond The Sea"- and said she felt that Lois Lane and her shared a lot of common traits. She couldn't rave enough about Brandon as both Clark and Kal-El and also shared with reporters a story that no one but Brandon knew… but you'll have to read the full transcript of the interview to learn what it is.
Finally, Bryan Singer once again greeted the press for a follow up interview and deftly side stepped answering more questions about being removed from the Fox Studios. The full transcript of the interview can be found here.
While some may still be cynical about certain elements of the film- such as Lois' child and the youthful look of the cast- it seems that the general consensus of those at this set visit walked away extremely excited about "Superman Returns." Few seemed to have complaints about the footage shown and everyone seemed thrilled with the depth & breadth of the interviews. It would have been nice to have had a chance to speak with Kevin Spacey, but considering his hectic schedule, his inability to appear with the press was understandable. And Bryan Singer's comments reinforce the unofficial mantra behind producing this film- respect and love what has come before in regards to the Superman mythos, but also moving it forward in a way that will have mass appeal.
No matter how fans react to the plot and character beats of the story, it is highly doubtful that there will be complaints about the visuals in the films. Everyone involved seems to have not only shown great respect to the iconic images of Superman and his mythos- from both the films and comics- but have also moved the classic Superman aesthetic forward, with new elements, such as the re-design for the Daily Planet and the slight modifications to Superman's costume.
"Superman Returns" opens nationwide on June 30th and as the posters say, "Look To The Sky!"