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Superman (1978) Poster

(1978)

Trivia

Marlon Brando refused to memorize most of his lines in advance. In the scene where he puts infant Kal-El into the escape pod, he was actually reading his lines from the diaper of the baby. He told Director Richard Donner that the only way to keep his performance fresh, and not over rehearsed, was to record the first time he read the lines.
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To obtain the musculature to convincingly play Superman, Christopher Reeve underwent a bodybuilding regime supervised by David Prowse, the man who played Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
According to Roger Moore's autobiography, he witnessed Christopher Reeve walking through the canteen at Pinewood Studios in full Superman costume, oblivious to the swooning female admirers he left in his wake. When he did the same thing dressed as Clark Kent, no one paid any attention.
Initially, Gene Hackman refused to cut off his mustache to play Lex Luthor. In early one-sheets of the movie, his face is featured with a mustache. Before Richard Donner and Hackman met face-to-face, Donner proposed to Hackman that if he would cut his mustache, Donner would cut his too, and Hackman agreed. It turned out later that Donner did not have a mustache at all. He wore a false moustache that he peeled off at the last moment.
Marlon Brando sued the Salkinds and Warner Brothers for fifty million dollars, because he felt cheated out of the film's considerable box-office profits. This is the main reason why footage of Brando does not appear in Superman II (1980).
Richard Donner was disgusted, that Production Designer John Barry and Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth received no recognition from the Academy for their work on this film. He was particularly aggrieved that one of the nominees for Best Art Direction was California Suite (1978), which merely duplicated an existing hotel, while Barry created an entire fictional city, and a fortress in the Arctic.
Steven Spielberg was offered the chance to direct this film. Producers balked at the salary he asked for. They decided to see how Jaws (1975), which he had just completed, did at the box-office. That movie was a huge success, and Spielberg went on to other projects.
Marlon Brando was paid 3.7 million dollars, plus a percentage of the gross, for twelve days of shooting. The payment also covered the sequel, which was shot at the same time. Brando did not appear in the sequel, because he'd sued Ilya Salkind, claiming Salkind had not paid him his percentage of the profits. He ultimately received about fourteen million dollars for ten minutes of screentime. The footage shot for the sequel was used in Superman Returns (2006).
The movie was filming in New York City on the night of the 1977 blackout. The New York Daily News was able to publish despite the blackout, because the film company let the newspaper use their generators.
On his first day on the set, Marlon Brando suggested to Richard Donner that the cameras roll during rehearsal. Brando reportedly said, "Who knows? We might get lucky." According to Donner, that very first take was the one that was used in the finished film.
Clark Kent and Superman's hair part on opposite sides.
Christopher Reeve was an unknown actor at the time. The credits and nearly every trailer for this film list Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman before Reeve, who played Superman.
Christopher Reeve worked out so much during the making of this film, that the traveling matte shots taken of him at the beginning of the shoot, did not match the later shots, and they had to be re-taken.
Richard Donner was not asked to return to complete Superman II (1980) because he'd publicly criticized the Salkinds. Margot Kidder, who had openly supported Donner, found her role as Lois Lane reduced to a cameo in Superman III (1983).
Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and James Caan were all offered the movie's title role. All three turned it down: Redford wanted too much money, Eastwood said he was too busy, and Caan said, "There's no way I'm getting into that silly suit."
Gene Hackman flatly refused to shave his head or wear a "bald cap" to play Lex Luthor. To get around this issue, Hackman's own natural hair was styled differently from scene to scene to give the appearance of him having changed hairpieces. Numerous hairpieces are visible in his underground complex. Hackman relented and wore a skullcap in one scene, when he is taken to prison by Superman. It is visible when he angrily rips off his hairpiece to address the prison's warden, who questions who he is. Hackman was also forced to shave off his mustache, which he was keen on keeping at the time.
It was Marlon Brando's idea to have Jor-El wear the same "S" symbol on his clothes that Kal-El would later wear as Superman.
This film's credits sequence cost more than most movies made, up to that point.
To maintain on-screen continuity, Christopher Reeve dubbed all of Jeff East's dialogue as young Clark Kent. East's voice is never heard during the film.
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were both delighted with the results of this movie.
To achieve the shot of young Clark Kent kicking a football into orbit, an air cannon was placed underground and the football fired from it.
Richard Donner has a cameo in the movie as the skeptical man who talks to Clark Kent in front of the televisions, right after the first appearance of Superman.
The filmmakers made it a priority to shoot all of Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman's scenes first, as they were the most in-demand actors, and were committed to other projects right afterward.
Pre-production began in Rome with most attention being spent on unsuccessful experiments to make Superman fly. Ilya Salkind later bemoaned the fact that they lost over two million dollars on aborted flying tests. The Italian pre-production had to be abandoned, when it was discovered that Marlon Brando could not visit Italy, because there was a warrant out for his arrest, accusing him of an obscenity charge, thanks to his involvement in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972).
The Superman "S" logo that Marlon Brando wears on his white cloak, looks the same as the one used for George Reeves' costume in the television show Adventures of Superman (1952); this was probably an homage. Since this film, the idea of the "S" symbol being a Kryptonian family crest of the House of El, has been incorporated into Superman's comic books and subsequent adaptations.
For his portrayal of Clark Kent, Christopher Reeve based the performance on Cary Grant's character in Bringing Up Baby (1938).
Marlon Brando's salary made him the highest-paid movie star in the world at the time.
Jack Klugman was the first choice to play Perry White, but he turned it down at the last minute. Eddie Albert tentatively agreed to the part, then demanded more money. With filming of Perry due to start the next day, a frantic search for a replacement actor resulted in Keenan Wynn accepting the part. After a long flight, the 61-year-old was rushed to the studio for screen tests. Afterward, he complained of chest pains, was rushed to hospital, and collapsed from extreme exhaustion.
A scene in which Jor-El explains to Superman why he must keep his secret identity was added for the Director's Cut.
The end titles sequence is more than seven minutes long, a record at the time of the film's release in 1978.
Casting Director Lynn Stalmaster was the first to suggest Christopher Reeve for the title role, but Richard Donner and the Salkinds felt he was too young and too skinny. Nevertheless, Reeve did an excellent screen test that blew the director and producers away. Once he had the part, he underwent a strict physical training session for months, going from 170 pounds to 212 in the period from pre-production to filming.
Richard Donner had effectively shot 75 percent of Superman II (1980) when he was fired by the Salkinds.
Dustin Hoffman turned down the part of Lex Luthor.
Originally, the helicopter scene was simply going to have Superman save Lois from falling. Later, Richard Donner decided to have the helicopter drop and the modified scene was called "The Double Jeopardy Scene".
The film was planned in three years, and shot in two. At the height of filming, over one thousand full-time crew on eleven units were spread over three studios and eight countries. Over one million feet of film was used, and it had the highest production budget of any film at the time.
The Mario Puzo screenplay that Richard Donner inherited (and quickly re-wrote) included one infamous camp moment, where Lex Luthor encountered Telly Savalas playing Kojak in a railway station. Kojak then offered Luthor a lollipop and asked him his trademark line, "Who loves ya, baby?"
In its initial run, the film topped the box-office charts for thirteen consecutive weeks.
Along with Marlon Brando, Mario Puzo also sued the Salkinds for non-payment of fees.
Christopher Reeve proved to be an even greater asset than anticipated after being cast. Reeve flew gliders as a hobby and used his experience as a pilot to make Superman's flying feel more believable. His performance as both Superman and Clark Kent was roundly praised in making the superhero's secret identity seem surprisingly convincing.
In addition to playing Clark Kent and Superman, Christopher Reeve also supplied the voice of the Metropolis air traffic controller. He is heard on the radio just before the helicopter crash and during the Air Force One scene.
A man riding a motorcycle dragging a bag of dirt was used to make the effect of Clark running down the dirt road after jumping in front of the train.
During the scene in which Superman and Lois go flying together and then Superman flies away, there is no cut between Superman flying away and Clark showing up at Lois' door. This was done using a pre-recorded movie of Superman flying away on a screen, with Lois standing in front of it. Then, as she walks away from the balcony, she crosses from the screen to the set with her apartment, where she opens the door to reveal the real-time Clark Kent.
Margot Kidder was originally supposed to sing the song "Can You Read My Mind" for the flying sequence with Superman, but Richard Donner disliked it, and changed it to a voiceover.
Richard Donner spent virtually a year working on the 2001 DVD release, reinstating some footage, and preparing several "Making-of" documentaries.
According to the DVD commentary by Richard Donner, Goldie Hawn was the first choice for the role of Eve Teschmacher. When Hawn wanted too much money, Donner approached Ann-Margret, who also asked too much.
According to Jeff East, who played young Clark Kent, during the shot in which young Clark jumps in front of the train, he (East) was nearly hit by it. However, Stuntman Richard Hackman grabbed him just in time and East avoided being injured.
Richard Donner first asked Jerry Goldsmith to do the score, and he agreed. However, a schedule conflict came about, and John Williams eagerly replaced Goldsmith who, six years later, would write the music for Supergirl (1984).
Peter Boyle auditioned for the part of Otis, Lex Luthor's bumbling accomplice.
When Superman crashes to Earth, his first feat of strength is lifting a truck over his head. The first appearance of Superman (Action Comics No. 1) featured a cover of Superman lifting a car over his head.
Gene Hackman was initially reluctant to take the part of Lex Luthor, as he felt it would have damaged his reputation as a serious actor.
The movie's original ending had Superman saving California, restructuring the San Andreas fault, and then throwing the second missile into space, which cracked the Phantom Zone and released the three super-villains. Superman turning the world around was originally conceived as the ending of Superman II (1980) to make Lois forget Superman's secret identity.
To obtain the "glowing" effect of the clothing on Krypton, the wardrobe department spent weeks sewing tiny glass balls on to each actor's apparel. If the "material" was accidentally touched, the oils on the actor's hands would interfere with the lighting effect, leaving a dull patch on the costume.
In the scenes where the burglar is scaling the office building and falling off it, the guy in his office whose window he passes was strapped into the chair and hanging upside down. Most of the building was horizontal, with the footage flipped to make it look as though they were actually on the side of the building.
The helicopter scene was intended to be shot on the top of the then Pan Am building, until a real-life accident on the heliport killed several passengers.
Geoffrey Unsworth believed that he accidentally caused the infamous blackout of 1977 when he plugged a spotlight to a lamppost during the shooting of the film.
Paul Newman was offered the choice of playing Superman, Lex Luthor, or Jor-El for the fee of four million dollars. Newman was not interested in any of them.
The original Superman costume was going to be a much darker blue, but this became transparent with the bluescreen for the visual effects.
Much of the footage for what would become Superman II (1980) was written and shot simultaneously with the original. Before shooting was complete for the sequel, however, Richard Donner was fired, and replaced with Richard Lester, who re-shot most of the footage directed by Donner.
Charlton Heston was considered for the role of Jor-El.
After the success of Rocky (1976), Sylvester Stallone lobbied hard to play Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman, but he was ultimately turned down (he was deemed "too Italian"). Stallone found out that Marlon Brando, who had casting approval, turned him down for the role, just as he had allegedly vetoed Burt Reynolds' casting as Sonny in The Godfather (1972). (Responding to that rumor, Brando told Playboy Magazine interviewer Lawrence Gobel, "Francis (Francis Ford Coppola) would never have cast Burt Reynolds.") Stallone subsequently went on Merv Griffin's talk show and denounced Brando, saying he had no respect for the superstar as an actor or as a man. This surprised many, as the early Stallone (as had the early Burt Reynolds) had clearly modeled himself after Brando, particularly Brando's characterization of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) in his own role as Stanley Rosiello in The Lords of Flatbush (1974), a man named "Stanley" (a la Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and who had a coop of pigeons on his tenement roof (like Terry Malloy). This mimicry might have been one of the the reasons Brando reportedly had such antipathy for both actors. Stallone later explained that he felt that it was hypocritical that Brando, who stated on numerous occasions that he took the role of Jor-El simply as a paycheck and nothing more, vetoed him for the role of Superman. Unlike Brando, Stallone grew up emulating and idolizing Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman (and continues to) as well as having a great love for the comics mythology. Ironically, in his review for the Stallone film Rocky (1976), Roger Ebert called Stallone "the next Marlon Brando."
Richard Donner was originally planning to direct Damien: Omen II (1978) when he was hired to direct this film for one million dollars. Donner began by throwing out the script, and hiring Tom Mankiewicz to write him a new one.
Among the actresses who screen tested for the role of Lois Lane were: Anne Archer, Lesley Ann Warren, Deborah Raffin, Susan Blakely, Stockard Channing, and April Byron. One of the reasons Margot Kidder was chosen over them was the fact that she was the only one who saw the humor in the line, "What color of underwear am I wearing?"
Numerous actors were considered for the part of Superman a.k.a. Clark Kent, including: Muhammad Ali, Warren Beatty, John Beck, Charles Bronson, James Caan, Sam Elliot, Dustin Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ryan O'Neal, Jeff Bridges, Jan-Michael Vincent, David Soul, Robert Wagner, Christopher Walken, Jon Voight, and Elton John. When Beatty and Redford turned the role down, Nolte and Voight became the front-runners. The unknowns tested for the role included Ilya Salkind's wife's dentist. His screentest is in the supplemental section of the DVD. Eventually, the Salkinds cast Christopher Reeve, whose only previous credits were a film and a television soap opera.
George Kennedy, Jack Nicholson, and Gene Wilder were considered for the role of Lex Luthor. Nicholson, who went on to play The Joker in Batman (1989), was considered to play Luthor in a "Superman" film project in the 1990s that was ultimately shelved.
Mario Puzo's scripts proved to be too epic and too expensive, so the team of David Newman and Robert Benton was brought in to hone them down. Benton was committed to directing The Late Show (1977), so Leslie Newman (David Newman's wife) came on board, mainly to write Lois Lane's dialogue. Their re-write was more campy than Puzo's, and even included a cameo appearance by Kojak, the popular television detective.
Marlon Brando reputedly suggested that his cameo role as Jor-El be done by him in voice-over only, with the character's image on-screen being a glowing, levitating green bagel. When Richard Donner met Brando, the actor proposed that he played Jor-El not as a green suitcase, but as a "bagel." Brando reasoned that no one knows what the people on Krypton look like, but that Jor-El would know what people on Earth look like, and would therefore make his son look human, so he could blend in. Tom Mankiewicz even recalled that, at one point, Brando pitched the idea that maybe Kryptonians do not even talk. They simply make electronic sounds that are translated through subtitles. Donner refused these suggestions; they turned out to be a ruse, that Brando used to test Richard.
William Friedkin and Sam Peckinpah were offered the chance to direct this film. Friedkin turned down the offer outright. Peckinpah dropped out of the running when he produced a gun during a meeting with Ilya Salkind.
Christopher Reeve was picked from over two hundred actors who auditioned for the role of Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman.
The producers wanted Joan Crawford for the role of Ma Kent. Unfortunately, Crawford was too ill to take the part, and died shortly before production began.
It took three to four hours every day to apply the make-up on Jeff East to make him resemble Christopher Reeve.
Christopher Reeve was actually a qualified hang glider pilot, which is why he was such a natural when it came to the flying scenes.
As the production budget and shooting schedule escalated, Richard Donner found the Salkinds constantly on his back. Richard Lester was brought in to mediate the relationship between the director and his producers, as both parties refused to talk to each other.
The Kansas scenes were shot near Calgary, Alberta, because their growing season was ahead, and the wheat fields were at the right height.
This film surpassed Giant (1956) to become the highest-grossing film in Warner Brothers history, up to that time. It has since been surpassed.
Superman's romance with Lois leads him to contradict Jor-El's orders to avoid altering human history, time traveling to save her from dying. Superman instead takes the advice of Jonathan Kent, his father on Earth.
This was the second highest grossing film of 1978, behind Grease (1978).
The first baby who played Kal-El, in the flight sequence of the escape capsule, was Elizabeth Sweetman. The filming took place at Pinewood Studios in October 1978, when Sweetman was six months old. She earned 40 pounds per day for four days work, netting a grand total of 120 pounds after agency fee deductions.
Jeff East, who played Clark Kent as a teenager, auditioned to play him as an adult. He also auditioned for the role of Jimmy Olsen.
At one point, shooting slowed down to the point where only thirty seconds of film were being shot in one day.
When the young Clark Kent races the train, he is said to be eighteen years old, while Lois Lane, who is inside the train, appears to be considerably younger. Margot Kidder, who played the adult Lois, was four years older than Christopher Reeve, who played the adult Clark.
In the scene where Lois Lane interviews Superman on the balcony, Superman replies, "I never lie." Ilya Salkind felt this was an important point in the film, since Superman, living under his secret identity as Clark Kent, is "telling the biggest lie of all time."
The Bill Haley song "Rock Around the Clock" is heard on a car radio just before Glenn Ford's final scene. Ford starred in Blackboard Jungle (1955), the film that helped launch the Rock and Roll era by popularizing "Rock Around the Clock."
Dedicated "with love and respect" to the memory of Director of Photography Geoffrey Unsworth, who had died before the Superman (1978) premiere.
Christopher Reeve attended a Special Olympics fund-raiser held at Arnold Schwarzenegger's house for the film's premiere in 1978.
Mario Puzo was hired as the initial writer to give the script additional credibility.
Steve McQueen was considered for the lead role. He was ultimately rejected for being out of shape.
Lee Quigley who played Superman as a baby, died in 1991 from inhaling solvents at the age of fourteen.
James Brolin, Lyle Waggoner, and Perry King all auditioned for the part of Superman. Around that same time, Waggoner was acting as Steve Trevor on Wonder Woman (1975) which also produced by Warner Brothers.
The highest grossing Warner Brothers movie of the 1970s. The next decade, the highest grossing movie for Warner Brothers would be another DC comics hero, Batman (1989).
Richard Lester agreed to work on this film because the Salkinds still owed him money for working on The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974).
At the time of its release, this was the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.
This was the first movie to make use of the new Dolby stereo 70mm split stereo surrounds.
Composer John Williams used the same orchestra that he used for his themes for the first six "Star Wars" movies (he used the London Symphony Orchestra), hence his film scores sounding like Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Several scenes were shot for the movie, but were not used in the theatrical version. Among them are: extended dialogue scenes between Jor-El and his fellow Kryptonians, a scene of baby Kal-El's space pod flying past the Phantom Zone-trapped villains, a scene of a child Lois Lane seeing Clark Kent running extremely fast from a train window, a scene in which Ma Kent tries to wake up a still-sleeping Clark, additional dialogue between Superman and Jor-El in the Fortress of Solitude, a scene in which Superman is pelted with bullets, fire, and ice as he approaches Luthor's hideout, a scene in which Otis has to feed Luthor's "babies" (some type of animal or monster we never see on-screen), and a scene where Luthor attempts to feed Miss Teschmacher to those same "babies" after she sets Superman free. Although not used in the theatrical cut, most of these scenes were worked into the extended DVD versions. All of the scenes, used in the extended version or not, can be found in the four-disc DVD special edition of the film.
The search for an actor to play Superman began in 1975 and ended with a press announcement on February 23, 1977, just thirty-five days before filming was due to begin.
Carrie Fisher, fresh off the success of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), was considered for Lois Lane.
Richard Donner had a single word, printed in big letters, on numerous signs, sent to every creative department involved with this film: VERISIMILITUDE. "It's a word that refers to being real . . . not realistic - yes, there IS a difference - but real," explained Donner. "It was a constant reminder to ourselves that, if we gave into the temptation we knew there would be to parody Superman, we would only be fooling ourselves."
This film had the biggest budget from Warner Brothers, at the time of its release.
The film of the black-and-white sequence that opens the movie is shown in reverse. The sequence was filmed starting with a close-up of the Daily Planet panel followed by a zoom-out. Then the child's hand turns each page left-to-right, then closes the cover. (As the child turns each page and then closes the cover, notice that the corners fold in the opposite direction of how they should fold.)
Aaron Smolinski, who played the infant Kal-El, would later appear uncredited in Superman III (1983) as a little boy waiting outside a photo booth while Clark Kent is changing into Superman. He also played a communications officer in Man of Steel (2013).
William Goldman was approached to write the screenplay, as was Leigh Brackett. Ilya Salkind hired Alfred Bester, but Alexander Salkind didn't think he was famous enough, so he hired Mario Puzo instead on a six hundred thousand dollar salary.
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First film collaboration between Warner Brothers and DC Comics, since the two companies had come under the same ownership during the early 1970s. This was not the first project however, as Wonder Woman (1975), also produced and distributed through Warner Brothers, was launched in 1975.
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Jack Larson who performed as Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman (1952) was not involved in this production for a cameo appearance.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando; and six Oscar nominees: Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Valerie Perrine, and Trevor Howard.
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Cary Elwes worked as a Production Assistant, whose job it was to bring Marlon Brando out of his trailer every day. Brando, who was paid one million dollars a day in overages, had little incentive to leave his trailer, according to Elwes in an interview given to Ophira Eisenberg on the NPR show "Ask Me Another", and refused to call Elwes by his given name, choosing instead to refer to the then teenager as "Rocky".
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It was planned at one point, that the film would end with a giant hologram of Superman flying out into theaters.
Legend has it that Nick Nolte was offered the part of Superman, but said he'd only take it if they agreed to make Clark Kent a schizophrenic.
Jon Voight was lined up to play Superman for a while, but was let go, because producers felt he was not right for the role.
Patrick Wayne was offered the role of Superman, but because of his father's (John Wayne) cancer, he dropped out.
The Kryptonian costumes were made of Scotchlite, a material used to make movie screens and reflective clothing. It was also used for the light-saber blades in the Star Wars franchise, and as the lettering on expressway signs.
Jeff East, who plays the young Clark Kent, had his voice dubbed by Christopher Reeve, although he knew nothing about it at the time. East wasn't happy with the decision, as it was done without his permission. It was some years later that he resolved his differences with Reeve.
The closing titles credit five different Second Unit Directors. According to Richard Donner, at one point, there were seven units filming simultaneously.
Christopher Reeve (Superman) does not appear on screen until 48 minutes into the film. However, his voice is heard in the Smallville scenes, as he dubbed Jeff East. Gene Hackman, who plays principal villain Lex Luthor, is not fully seen until just over an hour into the film.
Jessica Lange turned down the roles of Lois Lane and Eve Teschmacher.
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The villains at the marina were all stunt performers from Kojak (1973).
Glenn Ford (Jonathan Kent) and Jackie Cooper (Perry White) had retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve. Each actor reached the rank of Captain, and had served as public affairs officers (PAOs).
Yugoslav front projection specialist Zoran Perisic invented a new special effects system called the Zoptic Process that allowed matte work of a flying Christopher Reeve to be placed in relation to background processes which would then focus in and out.
Christopher Reeve (Superman), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), and Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen) are the only actors and actress to appear in the first four "Superman" films. Of these, McClure was the only one to appear in Supergirl (1984).
The boat used in the film was comandeered by the police to rescue a would be suicide from the East River.
Richard Donner had tensions with the Salkinds and Pierre Spengler concerning the escalating production budget and the shooting schedule. Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz reflected, "Donner never got a budget or a schedule. He was constantly told he was way over schedule and budget. At one point he said, 'Why don't you just schedule the film for the next two days, and then I'll be nine months over?' Richard Lester was then brought in as a temporary co-Producer to mediate the relationship between Donner and the Salkinds, who by now were refusing to talk to each other. With his relationship with Spengler, Donner remarked, "At one time if I'd seen him, I would have killed him." Lester was offered producing credit, but refused, going uncredited for his work.
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Brandon Routh and Christopher Reeve were 26 years old when their first Superman films were released.
The development of the best method to show Superman flying was a long period of experimentation. The methods attempted included simply catapulting a dummy into the air, a remote control model airplane painted as the character and simply animating the flying sequences. The producers settled for a combination of forward projection and specially designed zoom lenses that could create the illusion of movement by zooming in on Christopher Reeve while making the forward projection appear to recede. For scenes where Superman has to interact with other people or objects while in flight, Reeve and fellow actors were put in a variety of rigging equipment with careful lighting and photography to hide the equipment.
The original concept for the flying sequence with Superman and Lois was for them to fly around the world, but it was decided to keep the couple in the city.
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In a documentary on the making of the film, Richard Donner recalled how he had written down the first pieces of information he received regarding the film onto the back of a business card. He held onto the card as a souvenir, and displays it in the documentary Taking Flight (2004). Close examination of this card reveals that, at one point, Nick Nolte was being considered for a role in the film.
The word "Superman" is not heard until one hour and 33 minutes into the film.
Released the year of Superman's fortieth birthday.
Caroline Munro was offered the role of Ursa, but turned it down to play Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which became her best known role.
Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned for the lead role, but was never offered it. He was convinced that his accent soured the deal. In Terminator Genisys, several scenes from the first Superman film were referenced - the rotating ring used with the time displacement field, a school bus hanging off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a helicopter falling off the edge of a building (where the T-800 a.k.a. Guardian is in a shoot-out with the T-3000).
Marlon Brando had it in his contract to complete all of his scenes in twelve days.
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At 6'4", Christopher Reeve was the tallest actor to ever portray Superman and Clark Kent. He is an inch taller than the character he portrays, as Superman's height is 6'3".
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George Lucas turned down the chance to direct, in favor of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
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Leading British director Guy Hamilton (known for being at the helm of several classic Bond films) was originally hired to direct and was scheduled to shoot in Italy. When production moved to England for financial reasons, Hamilton backed out. He was a tax exile, meaning he could only be in England for thirty days out of every year.
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John Stuart's final film. He died on October 17, 1979 at the age of 81.
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The Writer's Guild of America gave screenplay credit to Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, and Robert Benton. Many involved with the production, including Richard Donner, credit Tom Mankiewicz with writing much of the final shooting script. Donner gave him a "Creative Consultant" credit, which appears after the screenplay credit during the opening titles.
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The theatrical release included an extended conversation between the pilots of Air Force One before the lightning strike, during which they indirectly refer to President Jimmy Carter.
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Larry Hagman was only supposed to be on-set for three days. However, because of the unpredictable weather in Calgary, he was there for almost a month.
The filmmakers included several Superman in-jokes (the phone booth gag, for instance). A lesser-known example was the scene where Otis tries to take Superman's cape. This was a tribute to the 1972 Jim Croce song "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", which had the line, "You don't tug on Superman's cape."
"Faster than a speeding bullet!" (when Clark catches the projectile fired towards Lois' back). "More powerful than a locomotive!" (when young Clark outruns the Smallville train, and many years later, (as Superman) repairs the railroad; supporting the weight.) Finally, if referencing the alternate tagline from Max Fleischer's Superman (1941), "Able to soar higher than any plane!" (when Superman flies into outer space.)
The first time Lois Lane and Clark Kent saw one another. Clark Kent, when he was younger, on a field clearing up the equipment of the other players, decides to run home. While running home, he runs past a train, and a little girl sees him running as fast as the train, the little girl is Lois Lane. An excerpt from the script, act 49 to 50. " 49 EXT. RAILROAD TRAIN TRACKING: Racing alongside, CLARK, who runs alongside the tracks. SOUND: APPROACHING RAILROAD TRAIN LONG SHOT: Steam engine in the distance catches up, pulling a long passenger train. It pulls alongside the running boy, CLOSER ON THE TRAIN: We can MAKE OUT a family in one of the compartments. A little girl is looking out of the window, her nose pressed to the glass. CUT TO: 50 INT. TRAIN COMPARTMENT - DAY The parents of the little girl are the same couple we saw in the opening Pan Shot of the movie, cooing over their baby. They are six years older now, as is the little girl. She is LOIS LANE. LOIS (turning to her folks, amazed) Golly! FATHER Did you say something, Lois? LOIS (excited) I saw a boy running as fast as the train! Faster even! MOTHER (affectionate sigh) Lois Lane, you do have a gift for invention, I'll say that for you. LOIS But - FATHER Read your book, dear. Resigned to not being believed, she goes back to a "Bobbsy Twins" book. "
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It has been alleged that Trevor Howard did not want to act in the film, largely because of his loathing of Marlon Brando, with whom he had clashed, while making Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). He only accepted the role when he learned he would be acting with Harry Andrews, his friend of many years.
Because of the nature of bluescreens in 1978, the Superman costume had to be turquoise for several flying scenes.
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Edward Asner, Martin Balsam, Walter Matthau, Jason Robards, Jr., Lawrence Tierney, and Eli Wallach were considered for the role of Perry White.
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Francis Ford Coppola, John Guillermin, Robert Aldrich, and Norman Jewison were approached to direct, but they were either already on a film, or they didn't think it was their type of film.
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Marlon Brando hoped to use some of his salary for a proposed 13-part Roots (1977)-style miniseries on Native Americans in the United States.
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Jerry Goldsmith, who scored The Omen (1976), was originally set to score the film. Portions of Goldsmith's work from Capricorn One (1977) were used in the teaser trailer. He dropped out over scheduling conflicts, and John Williams was hired.
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Jennifer Jason Leigh was considered for the role of Lois Lane, but producers turned her down, because she was too young.
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The film was originally scheduled to be released in June 1978, the fortieth anniversary of Action Comics 1, which first introduced Superman, but the problems during filming pushed the film back by six months.
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Robert Redford was the Salkinds' original choice for the lead role. He was offered a large sum, but felt he was too famous.
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Christopher Reeve's wardrobe was handmade by Russian women staying at a local Holiday Inn, while they awaited a decision regarding requests for asylum.
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Jeff East tore several thigh muscles when performing the stunt of racing alongside the train.
The song "Give a Little Bit" - sung by Supertramp - plays on the radio as Lois parks at the gas station. The name of the band is a whimsical reference to the protagonist, as well as its lyrics foreshadow what the hero does later.
The green remote-control Dodge can be seen again all fixed up in the sequel.
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During the Air Force One sequence, a stunt player was injured after he fell from one of the wings.
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George MacDonald Fraser was later hired to do some work on the script, but he says he did little.
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Charles Bronson was deemed "too earthy" to play Superman.
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This was Trevor Howard's third collaboration with Marlon Brando, the others being Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and Morituri (1965). They had had a fairly fraught working relationship while filming Mutiny.
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Sir Christopher Lee had to turn down the role of General Zod. He had just moved to Hollywood as a tax exile, and did not want to have to return to England.
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There are eighteen camera operators credited on this film, not counting any of the special effects (matte photography, process photography, model units, et cetera.) or aerial units.
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The costumes worn by Jor-El and others on the planet Krypton were covered with front projection material to create the highly unusual photographic effect shown. The filmmakers came up with the idea while doing tests for the visual effects sequences.
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The large, red number 9 on the sidewalk, that Superman lands in front of while fighting crime, is located at 9 West 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City.
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The model of the Golden Gate Bridge stood seventy feet long, and twenty feet wide.
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Despite being billed before Margot Kidder, Phyllis Thaxter, and Terence Stamp, Glenn Ford only has around three minutes of screentime. This is because the cast are billed alphabetically.
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Principal photography began in March 1977, and ended in October the following year.
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Ilya Salkind entertained the idea of casting Muhammed Ali as Superman.
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Upon viewing the footage of Krypton, Warner Brothers decided to distribute not only in the U.S., but also in foreign countries.
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Vic Armstrong's wife Wendy Leech was Margot Kidder's stunt double.
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New York City doubled for Metropolis, while the New York Daily News Building served as the location for the offices of the Daily Planet. Brooklyn Heights was also used.
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During screentests for the role of Superman, the role of Lois Lane was played by Holly Palance.
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In the original script, Lex Luthor had another henchman in addition to Otis, named Albert. This character was dropped in subsequent drafts.
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Bruce (now Catelyn) Jenner turned down the role of Clark Kent to appear in the Village People musical Can't Stop the Music (1980). Valerie Perrine appears in both films.
Although not seen in the theatrical release, a scene in which the Council of Elders dispatches a helmeted policeman to Jor-El's laboratory, in an effort to prevent him from leaving Krypton, was partially restored for the 2001 Director's Cut. There was, however, additional footage seen in the expanded 1981 ABC television network broadcast of the film, showing the policeman in the process of teleporting through Kryptonopolis on his way to stop Jor-El, only to be killed, when the planet begins to break apart.
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In January 1977, a former actor from Beverly Hills, Don Voyne, was the dentist to Skye Aubrey, the wife of Executive Producer Ilya Salkind at that time. Aubrey suggested him to Salkind, because she thought he looked like Superman. Taking her advice, he was called for a screentest at Shepperton Studios for the lead role. Despite making a great first impression, he was dropped out in the end, because he looked too old, and didn't convey the youth, power, and courage of Superman.
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Burt Reynolds was a candidate to play Superman, but was deemed too recognizable, and not temperamentally suited to the role.
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Phyllis Thaxter was Ilya Salkind's mother-in-law.
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Rohan McCullough, Carinthia West, Dana Gillespie, and Marilù Tolo all screentested for the role of Ursa.
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Jeff Corey played Lex Luthor in the film's screentests. He had previously played Luke Benson in Superman and the Mole-Men (1951).
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The novelization for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) says a character was a superman to Holmes; this may be an in-joke to Richard Donner who directed The Goonies (1985) for Steven Spielberg who produced both movies and Donner directed the first two Superman movies; there is a scene in The Goonies when Sloth reveals a shirt with Superman's S on it.
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Three of the main cast members would have tragic circumstances happen to them later in life. Margot Kidder had a public panic attack in 1996. Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in 1995, and died nine years later. Marlon Brando had several bad things happen to him after the movie. First, his son fatally shot his half-sister's boyfriend. Not too long later, his daughter hung herself. He later died from numerous complications in 2004.
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Although it's one of Superman's most famous abilities, he is never seen leaping tall buildings in a single bound in this film, or any of the subsequent Superman films, although a young Clark Kent barely makes the leap from the Daily Planet building to another, in an episode of Smallville (2001), Insurgence.
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Professional wrestler and model Brooke Adams went by the names Brooke Tessmacher or Miss Tessmacher during her tenure with Impact Wrestling, appropriated from the Eve Teschmacher character in the first two Superman films.
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In an early draft of the script, one of Lex Luthor's personality quirks is that he likes to chew on Kleenex.
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Lyrics were written for the song "Can You Read My Mind," but that version was eventually discarded.
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The black and white photograph of a mustachioed man seen on the table in the background of Lois Lane's apartment when Clark Kent first visits is in fact a gatefold copy of the album "Traffic" (1968) open at a picture of Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi.
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Richard Lester, Peter Yates, John Guillermin, and Ronald Neame were considered to direct.
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In Mario Puzo's script, Clark Kent was a television reporter. Also, Jax-Ur appeared as one of Zod's henchmen.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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There were no novelizations or (ironically) comic book adaptations released for either Superman (1978) or Superman II (1980). This was because Mario Puzo, who wrote the original script (which became the basis of the first two Superman films), had stipulated in his contract that the story could not be adapted in any other form. However, in lieu of novelizations based directly on the actual screenplays, two original novels - "Last Son of Krypton" and "Miracle Monday", both written by Elliot S. Maggin - were published to coincide with the release of the films.
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The movie inspired The Kinks' 1979 song "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman".
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Aaron Smolinski, who plays baby Clark Kent, appears uncredited in Superman III (1983) as a little boy waiting outside a photo booth while Clark Kent is changing into Superman.
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The characters of Non and Eve Teschmacher were not featured in the comics at the time of production and were created by Mario Puzo for this film. They are also featured in Supergirl (2015).
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Co-Screenwriters Robert Benton and David Newman had written the Book for the 1966 Broadway musical "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman", which ran 129 performances.
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David Newman and Robert Benton had previously written the script for the 1966 Broadway musical "It's a Bird ... It's a Plane ... It's Superman!", which ran for 129 performances.
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Throughout the seventies and early eighties, Lex Luthor was portrayed as wearing a Super Villian costume. Luthor's use of such a costume for the movie was jettisoned as part of the filmmaker's desire for a more realistic looking approach.
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Success of the film largely inspired DC Comics to revamp Superman during the mid 1980's. Many elements of the post-Crisis Superman were adapted for the comics from those of the film.
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The of the S-shield as a a Kryptonian herald for the house of El was originally created for this film. It was then incorporated into the comic mythology and subsequent Superman-related productions.
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In the early 1970s, literary agent David Obst suggested to Stan Lee and Carmine Infantino, the then-editors of Marvel and DC Comics, respectively, that they create a "Superman vs. Spider-Man" film. Lee and Infantino liked the idea, but since the Superman (1978) film and The Amazing Spider-Man (1977) TV series were already planned, they decided to instead to make the idea as a comic book.
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Harrison Ford auditioned for the role of Clark Kent/Superman.
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In October 2017, decades after the Extended Television Cut last aired - a version with a running time at 3 hours long - this version was prepared by Warners and released to Blu Ray. This version is famous for having over 40 minutes of new footage, scene extensions, alternate music cues and much more screen time between Lex Luthor, Miss Teschmacher and Otis. This version was prepared by the producers who were able to negotiate payment for running time, rather than a flat fee, hence their decision to include much that Richard Donner had cut out from it's theatrical cut. To date, this is the longest version of Superman The Movie and to the die-hard fan, results in a very difference experience.
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Christopher Walken was considered for the lead role, but he was thought to be wrong for the part.
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Christopher Reeve is the first of five actors with the variation of the name "Chris" to play a superhero, followed by Chris O'Donnell (as Robin in the Joel Schumacher Batman movies), Christian Bale (as Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy), Chris Evans (as The Human Torch in the original Fantastic Four movies, as well as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Chris Hemsworth (as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Chris Pratt (as Star-Lord in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
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At one point, Mark Robson was in talks to direct.
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When Otis is being followed through Grand Central Station, a porter announces a train boarding for Poughkeepsie. Gene Hackman's portrayal of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection (1971), rousts a bar and, famously, intimidates one of its patrons by asking him if he ever "...picked his feet in Poughkeepsie."
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The first of two films, in which Christopher Reeve plays a character, who travels back in time for a woman. He would do so again in Somewhere in Time (1980).
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Unknown at the time, John Travolta auditioned for the role of Clark Kent/Superman. The Salkinds however, turned him down. Travolta would later star in Grease (1978) of that year which became the highest grossing film of all time.
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Cameo 

Noel Neill: Lois Lane's mother. Neill played Lois Lane in Superman (1948), Atom Man vs. Superman (1950) and Adventures of Superman (1952). She appears when a child (Lois Lane) sees Clark Kent running extremely fast from a train window.
Kirk Alyn: Lois Lane's father. Alyn played Superman in Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). He appears when a child (Lois Lane) sees Clark Kent running extremely fast from a train window.
Larry Hagman: The Major, after Miss Teschmacher's car "accident", when Lex Luthor reprograms the nuclear missile.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When they meet at Lois Lane's penthouse, Lois asks Superman how fast he can fly. He responds that he never timed himself. At the end of the film when he orbits the earth to set back time, at peak speed, he appears to orbit the earth 44 times in approximately 10.5 seconds at a diameter of approximately 1.75 times the earth's diameter. This means at peak speed, he traveled approximately 183,000 miles per second. The speed of light is 186,000 per second. So essentially, Superman was traveling at the speed of light, which is possibly Richard Donner's intention, and is extraordinarily "faster than a speeding bullet!"
The entire prologue to Adventures of Superman (1952) is used in the movie: "Faster than a speeding bullet!" Clark Kent catches a bullet. Superman flies last enough to break the time barrier, which is considerably faster than a speeding bullet. "More powerful than a locomotive!" Superman supports a train on his back. Superman moves tectonic plates bare handedly. ""Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" Superman catches a falling Lois Lane and helicopter and replaces them on top of the Daily Planet in a single motion. "Superman! Strange visitor from a distant planet." The infant Kal-El is sent to Earth from the dying Krypton, is raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and becomes Superman. "Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers;" Superman dams up a flooding river. "Bend steel in his bare hands;" Superman bends the steel railroad rails in his bare hands. "And who, disguised as Clark Kent," Technically, he is Clark Kent; the Kent's adopted him and named him Clark. "Fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!" Superman literally tells that to Lois Lane as his mission statement... and adds that he never lies.
According with Jor-El (when he talks to his son in the Fortress of Solitude), Superman is eighteen years old at time of their meeting in the fortress, passing twelve years together studying life and the cosmos. When Superman appears in Metropolis, he is 30 years old. Christopher Reeve was only 26 years old at time of this movie.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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