"You will carry me inside of you," scientist Jor-El told his infant son Kal-El (also known as Clark Kent, also known as Superman) before he put the last surviving Kryptonian into a space capsule which Jor-El would then send flying through the galaxies to spare Kal-El from facing their planet Krypton approaching doomsday.
'Superman' (1978) and 'Superman II: The Adventure Continues' (1980) were filmed at the same time for a total cost of $109 million, reportedly the most expensive motion pictures ever made at the time. 'Superman' the movie grossed $200 million. Christopher Reeve remarked, "I know the picture is good because I know the care for the audience that we put into the production.
"We realized that films today (in 1978) must have excitement, surprises and scope in order to draw people away from the bland entertainment of television. I am terrified of overkill. We live in an age where more money can be spent to exploit a movie than the movie itself cost. I don't think 'Superman' needs any more exploitation. It could open in Tibet in February (1979) and still be a success." However, "I can understand how a company president feels: he has a lot of money invested and wants to protect his investment."
The comic strip Superman was first introduced to the world in 1938 by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster. Rick Bentley of 'New Era' reported in 1978, "The project had its problems in getting off the ground with the main obstacle, the problem of finding someone to play Superman. But a Superman had to be found. Finally, producers Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler plus director Richard Donner, began the slow process of sifting and testing scores of new applicants.
"The 'big name' performers were attracted first. The key to getting the whole production off the ground came when Marlon Brando was signed to play the part of Superman's father on the 'distant planet Krypton'. Brando was lured for 12 days work with a $2.25 million paycheck. After Brando was signed, the rest became easy. Mario Puzo, creator of 'The Godfather', took the task to the typewriter and turned out the final working script. The film was been shot in London, Kansas, New York and Canada."
Skip Sheffield of 'Boca Raton News' reported, "Despite his artistic stature, no one polled felt Marlon Brando earned his $3 million. Said a middle aged man, 'The picture cost way too much, especially the Brando part. There's no man on Earth worth $3 million for that little amount of work.'" Christopher Reeve, 26 at the time, was paid a salary of $200,000 for the dual role in the 'Superman' movie. It was understood Christopher would also share in the profit of the film. In 'Superman II' there was no percentage, only his salary of $500,000 plus the right of script and director approval.
'Superman III' was released in 1983 and 'Superman IV: The Quest For Peace' was released in 1987. Christopher described the 'Superman' movie as an "adventure, it’s comedy, it’s romance, it’s 'Fantasia', it's '2001', it's 'Love Story.'" Speaking to 'United Press International', Christopher stated, "Mario Puzzo's brilliant script intrigued me. Then I met (Richard) Donner. After the test I was convinced they were in the process of making a major film for adults with actors like Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Trevor Howard in the cast.
"I'm playing 'Soupy' as seriously as any role I've ever had. My handle was expanding the difference between 'Soupy' and Clark Kent. Kent is a deliberate disguise and I worked on the subtleties of characterizations between the 2. The whole premise is to take the Superman characterization further than it has ever been done before. The TV series (with George Reeves) was for children. Our movie is for adults but children can enjoy it too. The picture is alternately amusing and heart-warming. I play Superman as a real person. It's the only way it could be done."
Christopher Reeve began his acting career since he was 15 and had performed on Broadway opposite Katharine Hepburn and in a daytime soap opera, 'Love of Life'. He had studied acting in London, Paris and at Manhattan's Julliard School in 1974. Christopher also attended Princeton Day School. "I'm an improvisational actor and I careened around with new ideas for playing 'Soupy,'" Christopher made known.
"I was in charge of all the flying sequences and the execution of all the maneuvers. We developed new concepts for special effects. There's no denying 'Soupy' is a terrific showcase for me. But it's also high risk. If the picture hadn't found the right style, it could have gone into the ground like a tent peg. Instead, I think it will soar. I thrive on risks. I like tough situations where there is a lot to gain and a great deal to lose. It makes the effort worthwhile."
Christopher also recounted, "I'm 6-foot-4 and I weighed 185 pounds. I reported to London for the picture 8 weeks early and found they had constructed a Superman costume complete with muscles. I absolutely refused to play the role that way. Instead I got an instructor, Dave Prowse who played Darth Vader in 'Star Wars', and set out a physical regiment for myself. I spent 2 hours a day, 7 days a week working out with heavy weights in a gym. I looked like Jimmy Stewart standing sideways. So I ate 4 meals a day and pumped up my muscles. By the time the picture started I weighed 221 pounds – all muscle. I did every single stunt in the picture."
Rick Bentley made the observation, "'Superman: the movie' is one of those films that isn't really bad but at the price tag of $50 million connected with the production it just isn't all it is cut out to be. There is a lot of good to the movie (but) don’t go looking for a deep meaning. Although there was an attempt to put one in. 'Superman: the movie' is worth seeing."
Christopher did not see Superman as "a one-man vigilante force (but) a very modest man (who) is on the wrong planet. Had he grown up on his home planet of Krypton he might have been a plumber." Christopher also made the point to 'Knight-Ridder', "Lois Lane in this film is a '70s, New York career girl who is not at all sure she wants to get married, settled down, and have 2, 3 children. No girl today (back in 1978) is going to instantly believe some guy who suddenly appears on her balcony wearing a red cape and claiming he can fly."
Christopher also stressed, "Our Superman is a real person. He comes from an alien planet and he has his problems. He falls in love and he has a full relationship. The movie is a real story." Like all humans, Ilya Salkind added, "He's (Superman) got problems. He's an alien in this world and yet he's Clark Kent, the all-American guy who falls in love." Filming of 'Superman' begun in March 1977 in a London studio where the planet Krypton was recreated.