Richard Donner On 30 Years Of Superman, The 'Man Of Steel' Reboot, And Re-Cutting 'Superman II'

A massive collection that features the last three decades of big-screen, live-action Superman adventures (everything from "Superman: The Movie" through the recent "Superman Returns"), the new anthology gives the high-def treatment to all five of the films, as well as alternate versions of "Superman: The Movie" and a special cut of "Superman II." The collection also includes a long list of documentaries and bonus features that will make comics and movie fans drool.

In the run-up to the release of the anthology, I spoke to celebrated "Superman: The Movie" director Richard Donner, who made the world believe a man could fly more than 30 years ago.

MTV NEWS: I didn't really grasp how much is packed into this collection until I had it sitting in front of me. It's impressive! How does it feel to see a franchise you started so long ago get this sort of treatment?

RICHARD DONNER: It was extraordinarily exciting. It's another world, what the studios are doing with these things. It's very exciting, and anybody who says different is full of sh--. [Laughs]

MTV: Looking at the list of films here, I didn't realize there were so many cuts of these films and alternate material...

DONNER: Me, too. There were a lot of cuts I never knew existed...

MTV: What can you tell us about "Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut"?

DONNER: When I did "Superman," we were doing the first film and the second at the same time, and the producers really put us up against a wall in delivering the pictures on time. At a given point, we had to stop shooting the material for "Superman II" and just concentrate getting "Superman" out into theaters on time. So we shot everything that we could with principals like Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman and people like that, put in the can, and then work like hell to get the first film into theaters — with the full intention of going back and finishing "Superman II."

But I had never gotten along with the producers — in fact, I didn't even talk to them. In their great good taste, since the first picture was such a success, they decided they wouldn't need me anymore and fired me. So I never ad the opportunity to go back and finish my picture with "Superman II."


MTV: So how did you finally get back to it?

DONNER: There's a young film editor and director named Michael Thau, and he kept calling me and telling me there was a big groundswell of people who want to see your cut of the movie. I said, "It's never going to happen, and while I appreciate it, it's a thing of the past."

Then one day he called me and told me the studio has stepped in and they want to do my cut and release it as a feature. So, 25 years later, we stepped up to the bat. It was a bitch, because most of that stuff had disappeared — he found a lot of it in Europe. It was a delight to see this thing happen, though. It was put together with spit and nails, because a lot of footage was never shot. A lot of the picture is made up of stealing from the first film and — believe it or not — putting together screen tests that we made look like the real thing.

MTV: Content-wise, how does your cut of "Superman II" differ from the original theatrical version?

DONNER: When I first got the original screenplays from the producers, they were well written, but they were totally a different approach than I would've taken to the subject matter. They were parodying a parody, and a little silly. I felt that this character, who had been part of my life since I was a kid and certainly part of Americana since the '30s, you have to give him some respect. So we tackled it and rewrote everything. When they finished "Superman II" without me, they went back to what their original concept was and made it kind of silly. So we worked very hard to eliminate that, and I think we did a pretty good job.

Superman II - Zod

MTV: Well, one of the things that makes "Superman II" notable is that it featured the debut of Zod, who was so popular that he made the rare leap from the screen to comics. Now that we know he's also going to be in the new "Superman: Man of Steel" reboot that's coming up, do you feel some pride in seeing the character continue on and have such a legacy?

DONNER: No, not really... He's Zod. He doesn't belong to me. He belongs to the world of Krypton and he's just another part of the Superman anthology of villains. The best part about Zod is that he makes an incredibly worthy adversary for our hero. That's why he's so great.

MTV: What do you think of the upcoming reboot of the "Superman" franchise and the new lead, Henry Cavill?

DONNER: It's going to be really tough on this guy, but he's a wonderful actor and has a great director working with him. I think they'll do a sensational job, because I truly believe their dedication to the product is honest. That film that they're making, they believe in it, and that's all you need: a good director, and to believe in your project. You can't ask for more.

MTV: Well, as a comics fan, I've always been interested in your work with Geoff Johns, too. Geoff's had so much success lately and has been getting more and more involved with movie and television projects there, do you think you'll ever collaborate again?

DONNER: Oh, gosh. I have no idea. I love Geoff, as you know. He's like my kid brother, my son, whatever... I don't know whether we'll work together again, because I think it's a new world out there, and he's a part of that. I think the company was extraordinarily smart to take advantage of the fact that this kid really knows the subject. We did a comic book together — we wrote together — and I think that might be where it ends. We'll remain dear friends forever.

MTV: Do you have any advice for the new "Superman: Man of Steel" team? What would you tell Zack Snyder about bringing the character to the big screen again?

DONNER: The only advice I have is to tell them good luck and go make a damn good movie. They're filmmakers and they wouldn't be doing this or getting this job if they weren't well qualified to do it. I look to them to show me something new and something different, and totally respect what they do. I don't think I can help them in any way except by patting them on the shoulder and wishing them all the luck in the world. In the business today, there are so many bright, quick-witted, talented young people coming up that all I can do is sit back, watch, and wish them luck.


MTV: Superman can be a tough character to wrap your head around as a creator of any sort. He's an alien, he's nearly invincible, and so forth — so that can make it difficult for people to relate with him. Why do you feel you had such success with him? What did "Superman: The Movie" teach you about making movies?

DONNER: Well, any film you do, you have to totally believe in it. It's a major part of your life. It's frightening how destructive it can be, because you are so committed to it, and it will take up so much of your life. But the thing as far as Superman goes is, as far as I'm concerned, you must see this world as a reality. This has its own world and its own place in time, and its own space, and it's real. The minute you don't take it seriously, there's a terrible chance it will destroy itself.

MTV: You've worked with Superman now, and served as executive producer on some of the "X-Men" movies, too. Is there any comic book character you'd still love to get your hands on, given the chance?

DONNER: No. I've had it in that area. After I did the first film, I got offers galore to do nothing but things like "Superman." But I've been there and done that, and you're always looking for something different and a little bit of a challenge. When I was a kid, my hero was Superman. There were others — I liked Flash Gordon, for instance — but do I want to make movies about them? No. I'm happy to sit back and wish everyone who does do those pictures all the luck in the world.

"Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006)" hits shelves on Blu-Ray today, June 7. You can get more information about it — including the long list of special features — at


Let us know what you think of the interview in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, Splash Page editor Rick Marshall, on Twitter!

Latest News