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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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).
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. "
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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."
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.
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.