YOU WILL BELIEVE: THE CINEMATIC SAGA OF SUPERMAN (2006)
Richard Donner, Ilya Salkind, Pierre Spengler, Tom Mankiewicz, Jeannot Szwarc, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Jackie Cooper, Helen Slater, Susannah York, Dave Prowse, John Williams, Annette O’Toole
Produced by: Constantine Nasr
Edited by: Michael Fallavollita
Richard Donner – “I took the picture, er, really because I felt this stupid necessity to keep Superman clean.”
When a project like Superman: The Movie (1978) got off the ground, it wasn’t like every other film; it was a big deal and involved a lot of people.The sheer scope of presenting an iconic character to an audience so convinced with how they felt he should look meant there was always going to be a huge amount of pressure heaped on.With so many people invested, in front of and behind the cameras, the journey to making it all a reality was never going to run smoothly.You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga Of Superman, was a 2006 documentary on the Superman movies, looking at 1978s Superman: The Movie, through Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Supergirl (1984) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).By talking to key players from all the films, it explained the real problems that were at the heart of such a mammoth task, filling in some of the blanks for those that were unaware of the problems that stopped the Superman franchise from being the success that it really should have been.
With input from all the heavy hitters aboard the Superman pictures, such as producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler, director Richard Donner and stars Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp, Helen Slater and Jackie Cooper, the documentary explored the views of why the series couldn’t seem to come together.Everyone involved felt that the first two films had managed to pull off what had seemed impossible, by making audiences believe in Superman’s world, but the films that followed had stumbled along the way and forgot what had been established early on.This was a view seen by many working on the project as a result of Richard Donner, the director of Superman: The Movie (1978), being fired from directing Superman II.Without his input the tone of the franchise shifted and with each entry some of the magic started to disappear.
You Will Believe didn’t take sides on the situation, and instead used interviews from all concerned to let the words as to why this happened, speak for themselves.This worked in the documentary’s favour as it showed what an animated character Ilya Salkind was and how he was clearly very passionate about the business side of the Superman franchise, when compared with Richard Donner’s more reserved approach, even though he was clearly invested in the character as well.It was believed that the Salkind’s approach to tightening and reducing budgets was to blame at times, and that this caused major friction with Donner.You Will Believe didn’t do anything to dispel this, in fact, it showed how respected Donner was by all who worked for him and how ultimately the problems facing the franchises’ implosion really did come down to too many people getting involved and trying to cut corners instead of leaving the project alone.Once this had happened, it then became a rollercoaster ride of misjudged creative decisions and continual penny pinching to keep the films being churned out.
Even though the Superman films were only a shadow of what they could have been, the documentary showed how beloved the first couple were, with Terence Stamp demonstrating how much he clearly revelled in his role as General Zod.By talking to the people involved throughout the films varied history, it also managed to gage the scope of the franchise, and how something with such potential could be continually steered in the wrong direction.It was a shame that Christopher Reeve had died by the time the documentary was produced as his input would have been the icing on the cake, as after all he was Superman.Still, what remains is that You Will Believe showcases what can happen for better or worse when people do believe in something.
BEHIND THE SUPERMAN: *You Will Believe can be found on the Ultimate Collection 13 disc edition of the Superman movies, and is split into 5 parts; Origin, Vision, Ascent, Crisis and Redemption.
*Marlon Brando had originally decided to play the role of Superman’s father, Jor-el, as a green suitcase and then as a bagel. After speaking with Richard Donner, he eventually approached the project differently and Donner admits then he was great to work with.
*Jackie Cooper was brought in as Daily Planet editor Perry White, at the last minute after the original actor had a heart attack, days before filming. Many actors were considered for the role, but Cooper essentially got it because he happened to answer his phone and was available to come on board straight away.
*Richard Donner and Superman: The Movie creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz, had ideas for Superman II, III and IV, but because of the Donner being sacked from Superman II, these never came to pass.
*Ilya Salkind mentions in the documentary that his original idea for Superman III was to incorporate Brainiac and Mr Mxyzptlk as villains, as well as introduce Supergirl.
*Margot Kidder claims that Lois Lane’s role in Superman III was reduced to little more than a cameo because the actress was very vocal over Donner being fired. Ilya Salkind said that they were planning on taking the movie in a different direction and that she wasn’t contractually obligated to appear anyway.
*The Salkind’s opted not to make a fourth Superman movie in favour of making Supergirl (1984) and so sold the options on the character to Golan-Globus. Christopher Reeve was going to appear in a small role in Supergirl, but decided against it.
*Most of the stars involved in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, said that they really came on board because before the budget cuts Christopher Reeve had believed that this entry could steer the franchise back in the right direction.
*Jimmy Olsen actor Marc McClure is the only actor to have appeared in all 5 movies.
*Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder, Annette O’Toole, Marc McClure and Helen Slater have all made appearances in the television series Smallville.
*Superman has become famous for being a cursed project, especially during the numerous attempts made to bring Superman back to cinema screens. For anyone wanting to go a little further than the documentary, Jake Rossen’s book, ‘Superman Vs Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon’, has the lowdown on what went on before Superman: The Movie and after the release of Superman Returns (2006). It is a must read for Superman fans....and curious lovers of film.