Batman is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and well-known superheroes of all time — whether we’re talking about DC, Marvel, or anything in-between. Of course, that might have something to do with how long he’s been around, and how much time he’s gotten on the big screen. Many actors have portrayed the Caped Crusader, but one of the most old school is undoubtedly Adam West. He and Robin may have been a tad corny, but they’re nevertheless iconic. Here are 40 wild facts about Adam West and the Batman he portrayed…
We Just Barely Missed a Fourth Season
Batman had pretty solid ratings for its first season, but by the time the second one rolled around, its popularity was already fading. Even the addition of Batgirl in season three didn’t raise the ratings back to what they had once been, and thus, ABC canceled the show.
However, Burt Ward claimed in 2016 that NBC had looked into picking up the show for a fourth season. Unfortunately, all of the expensive sets had already been destroyed, and NBC didn’t think it would be worth the cost of rebuilding them to bring back a fourth season. Holy bad timing, Batman.
The Car That Became the Batmobile Only Cost $1
Yes, you read that right — auto customizer George Barris bought the 1955 Lincoln Futara concept car that would become the Batmobile for just one dollar. Ford didn’t think the car had any success in its future, and so they practically gave it away for a dollar. Little did they know it would sell for $4.62 million in 2013.
Honestly, we’re more curious about why Ford bothered charging anything if they cared that little about it. Were they just not allowed to give it away for free and so had to ask for something?
The Green Hornet and Kato Appeared on the Show
Crossovers are nothing new in today’s superhero fiction, but even decades ago, Batman was already ahead of its time. The Green Hornet and Kato — the latter of which being played by Bruce Lee before he became a legend — appeared in a two-part adventure on the show.
This isn’t so surprising when you realize that this crossover happened thanks to Dozier, the man that produced both shows. Unfortunately, we only got to see our guest crimefighters for a handful of episodes.
A Special Two-Face Episode Was Never Made
Two-Face is one of the most popular villains to not show up in Batman. However, he was actually supposed to appear at one point, in a two-parter written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison. Supposedly, Clint Eastwood was even in talks for the role.
However, the producers apparently thought Two-Face’s gruesome appearance was too much for their lighthearted show. That said, the story did make it into a comic in 2015, which is quite a lengthy delay.
The Villainous Egghead Was Played by Vincent Price
The 1960s Batman is a legend mostly due to how silly of a show it was. Case in point — Egghead, a villain exclusive to the show, with a bald egg-shaped head who speaks almost entirely in egg-related puns. No, we are not making that up.
Egghead was actually played by horror icon Vincent Price, who claimed to love the role. His character even managed to deduce Batman’s identity one time, though Robin saved the day with a memory ‘egg-straction’ machine. No, we’re not making that up either.
The Most Feared Original Villain Was King Tut
Batman was a crazy show. Aside from the most often appearing villains — the Joker, Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Penguin — there was one other major villain, that being King Tut, Professor of Egyptology at Yale University with a split personality that made him believe he was King Tut caused by a whack to the head.
As you may imagine, this zany character was an original for the show and is not a comic villain of any renown. And yet, he appeared in eight episodes, making him the fifth most common appearing villain in the show.
Anne Baxter Was the Only Actress to Play Two Characters
Anne Baxter won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1947 thanks to her performance in the film The Razor’s Edge. By the time the ’60s rolled around, she regularly appeared on television and held the noteworthy distinction of being the only actress to play two villains in Batman.
The two villains that she played were the nefarious magician Zelda the Great in season one and Olga, devilish Queen of the Cossacks, in season three.
Chief O’Hara Was Created for the Show
The Gotham City Police Chief Clancy O’Hara was actually created explicitly for the show, and he was represented perfectly by actor Stafford Repp. Eventually, O’Hara was soon brought into the comics, but unfortunately, he only received a handful of appearances throughout the late ’60s and ’70s.
Ultimately, O’Hara came back to the scene in Batman: Dark Victory in 2000. Unfortunately, this once goofy character ended up being killed by a villain in that iteration. Weird choice, we know.
Batman Is What Resurrected Alfred in the DC Comics
Alfred Pennyworth is the name of Bruce Wayne’s butler and effective father figure, and these days, he is considered an extremely important part of the Batman universe. He was played in Batman by Alan Napier. As bizarre as it sounds, DC actually killed Alfred off in 1964.
Thankfully, Alfred managed to become a major player in the Batman mythos again thanks to the popularity of Napier’s portrayal of him. Even more thankfully, he was only brought back as a murderous zombie for a brief while.
Penguin’s Iconic Laugh Was Actually a Smokescreen
Burgess Meredith’s bizarre but iconic “quack, quack, quack” laugh when he portrayed Penguin is impossible to separate from his version of the villain. However, this laugh was actually a matter of necessity, according to some sources.
Meredith had quit smoking twenty years before starring in the show, so when his villainous character took puffs on his cigar holder, it caused the actor some irritation. In order to hide his coughing, he came up with the quacking laughter.
Mr. Freeze Got His Name From the Show
Few people know that Mr. Freeze’s iconic name was not actually his original moniker — it originated in the ’60s show. Starring in three two-part episodes and played by three different actors, the now-iconic villain was actually known as Mr. Zero in the comics.
Apparently, DC took a liking to the new title, because in 1968, Mr. Zero re-debuted as Mr. Freeze in Detective Comics #373. We’re not sure if we actually like it better, but it definitely gets the point across.
Catwoman Had Three Different Actresses
If one looks at the show’s three seasons and the one spin-off movie it had, Catwoman was portrayed by a trio of actresses — those being Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt. Without question, Newmar was the most popular of those three, although Kitt’s performance was highly lauded as well.
We can’t help but feel it would be a little jarring to have the face associated with a character change that many times, but there’s no real harm in it either.
The Riddler Was Played by Another Actor for One Episode
Thanks to Gorshin debating with ABC over an issue with his pay, Dozier had to re-cast The Riddler for the villain’s appearance in the second season. This is how we got John Astin for one episode, an actor who is best known for his performance as Gomez in The Addams Family.
Unfortunately for Astin, he didn’t get to stick around for very long. By the time the third season rolled around, Gorshin was back in the driver’s seat as the Riddler.
A New Character Was Created During a Dispute With Gorshin
Being one of the first season’s most popular breakout characters, Gorshin felt that he deserved a raise in order to play the Riddler in season two. Because of this, he ended up in a contract dispute with ABC. With their actor unavailable, the show producers did the only thing they could.
They took the scripts with the Riddler in them, and replaced him with an original character called The Puzzler. We say original, but really, he was just a British version of the Riddler.
Gorshin Received an Emmy Nomination for His Riddler Performance
Frank Gorshin’s manic yet enthusiastic portrayal as Riddler was one of the most beloved parts of Batman. Not only was he the villain for the pilot episode and in the first season, but he had more appearances than any other villain.
In fact, Gorshin is the only one to receive an Emmy Nomination for the show, being up for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy accolade in 1966.
Romero’s Iconic the Joker Laugh May Have Been Unintentional
Anyone who knows anything about the Joker knows that one of the most important parts of the villain is his laugh. Thankfully, Romero’s laugh was perfect for the mischievous portrayal of the dastardly villain. However, it turns out that it may not have been intentional.
Supposedly, Romero created the laugh by accident when he laughed at some concept art for the Joker that the producers had shown him. The story goes that they heard it and immediately proclaimed it as perfect for the role he’d play.
Adam West Was Chosen as Batman Due to a Chocolate Milk Commercial
Batman producer William Dozier was convinced that Adam West was the perfect fit for the titular character after seeing him play a parody James Bond character called Captain Q in a commercial for Nestle Quik. Dozier believed that West’s deadpan delivery and comic timing was ideal for a campy superhero show.
Needless to say, few people know that the iconic ’60s show received its hero from a chocolate milk commercial, but somehow it doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Batman Was Not ABC’s First Choice of Superhero to Adapt
To the surprise of many, Batman was not actually ABC’s first pick when they were considering a superhero comic to turn into a TV show. Not only was it not the first, but it was also not even the second — coming after both Superman and Dick Tracy.
Moreover, the network only chose Batman because the rights to Superman and Tracy weren’t available. Dozier actually did get the rights to Dick Tracy eventually, but the pilot episode he made in 1967 didn’t get picked up by anyone.
The Dynamic Duo Was Almost Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell
Little known fact — Adam West and Burt Ward almost weren’t Batman and Robin. ABC actually screen-tested two pairs of actors to play the dynamic duo. Obviously, the actors we’re all familiar with were chosen in the end, but the footage of Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell’s test was tough competition.
In the end, most of us are probably happy with Adam West and Burt Ward, because we just can’t imagine anyone else in their shoes. Even so, we almost had a different Batman and Robin. Waggoner did get a role in Wonder Woman, though.
ABC Intended to do a Movie Before a Show
Initially, Dozier planned to produce Batman as a movie in hopes of introducing his campy vision of the hero. The TV show was supposed to come after, with Dozier able to reuse expensive production elements such as the Batcycle, Batboat, and Batcopter that had already been built for the movie.
However, ABC’s 1965 schedule didn’t do very well as far as ratings are concerned. Thus, the show was fast-tracked for a January debut in 1966 in order to boost the network’s faltering ratings.
The Show Had the Lowest Test Audience Score in History
According to Adam West, Batman’s very first episode received “the worst score in the history of pilot testing.” He revealed this startling information in his autobiography, Back to the Batcave. West said the producers tried adding narration and a laugh track after the low scores, but this didn’t improve matters.
Fortunately for society, the public disagreed with test audience scores, as the show became a major hit soon after it hit the air.
Frank Sinatra Tried to Play the Joker
Burt Ward claimed in the book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV’s Most Famous Myths that Frank Sinatra actually lobbied to play the Joker in Batman. As Ward put it, “From what I understand, Frank Sinatra was very upset because he couldn’t play the Joker. Cesar Romero had already been signed.”
Later on, Ward made this claim again on the DVD commentary track for Batman: The Movie. That being the case, we’re inclined to believe him.
William Dozier Was Both the Narrator and Producer
The old Batman show has a narrator who delivers every line in as melodramatic a fashion as possible. Dozier apparently wanted the narration to sound akin to an old movie serial, but even though he auditioned many voice actors, no one delivered the performance he wanted.
That being the case, Dozier decided he would just do it himself, a practice that would follow him into The Green Hornet, which he also produced.
The Two-Part Cliffhanger Episode Design Wasn’t the Plan
If there’s one thing fans loved about the Batman TV show, it was the two-parter episode design — the show aired in two 30-minute installments, with a cliffhanger always marking the end of the first. This setup encouraged fans to keep watching the show, with the iconic tagline, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!”
However, this two-part design wasn’t the original plan. ABC initially wanted each episode to be an hour-long, and ultimately chose two thirty-minute episodes only due to a problem with scheduling.
The Small Ears on the Costume was for Practical Reasons
Compared to other iterations of the iconic hero, the ears on Adam West’s cowl were quite short and stubby. However, the reason for this was not about aesthetics, but for practicality. The costume designers realized that tall ears would often be cut off during close-ups, so they decided to cut them in order to fit.
Frankly, this is the only explanation that makes sense, because there’s no way anyone could have thought it looked better aesthetically. Or at least, we hope not.
Burt Ward Was Often Injured Doing His Own Stunts
In the show, Burt Ward actually did most of his own stunts, though not because he wanted to. Apparently, because his mask was more revealing than his partner’s cowl, he had to do his own stunts as a double would be too noticeable.
Ward revealed later that doing this earned him many injuries. Apparently, he’s been whacked in the face with a two-by-four, almost fell out of the Batmobile at speed, and was burned several times by pyrotechnics.
Robin’s Catchphrase Did Not Come From the Comics
“Holy heart failure, Batman!” Phrases such as this were extremely common when it came to Robin’s lines in the show. However, they were not inspired by any of Robin’s dialogue in any of his comics. Rather, writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. borrowed the idea from the Tom Swift novels he read as a kid.
We’re glad they made it into the show, of course. Campy and ridiculous as these lines were, they were always amusing and sometimes pretty creative.
The Batusi Dance Was Improvised by Adam West
The “Batusi” dance is practically a legend on the internet nowadays. Fans of the show know exactly what we’re talking about — the dance was performed by Batman in the pilot, but was actually just improvisation from Adam West. Having been drugged by the Riddler, the script said West had to do something goofy, and so he did.
The way Adam West put it, “I began to move on my car seat, and people looked at me strangely. I was watusing, then batusing, while I drove.”
West’s Performance Was Influenced by Sherlock Holmes
In the comics, Batman is often referred to as the “World’s Greatest Detective.” West took that quite literally, as he looked to Basil Rathbone’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes for inspiration. West even said that “Batman had a certain speech pattern that I established because he was always Sherlock Holmes-ian. He was Basil Rathbone. In other words, he was always musing about something.”
We can’t complain, seeing as how that was part of Batman that we all liked. There are certainly worse places to take inspiration from.
The Show Is the Reason the Comic Wasn’t Cancelled
It’s hard to imagine — considering how popular Batman is today — but DC Comics actually considered killing off the character for good at one point. According to Batman co-creator Bob Kane, in 1964 DC Comics considered getting rid of the Caped Crusader because sales of the monthly title had fallen dramatically.
However, Kane claimed that the popularity of the show helped increase sales for the entire comic book industry. Campy as it may be, the ’60s show saved Batman as a character.
The Show Was Actually Quite Faithful to Its Comics
Due to Batman being a dark and brooding character these days, many modern fans dislike the ’60s iteration of the character. And yet, the show was actually a pretty accurate representation of the Carmine Infantino-drawn comics of the time, which were often light-toned and very colorful.
In fact, the show was so faithful to the comics that many of their plots were taken directly from those stories. It was just a different time.
Adam West Recorded “Miranda” at the Height of the Show’s Popularity
The popularity of Batman led to a whole lot of merchandising. However, it also led to a hit single, one of the strangest pieces of tie-in material — Adam West’s single, “Miranda.” In this very odd song, West sings as Batman trying to talk sweet to his girlfriend but is constantly interrupted by Robin.
Needless to say, this is probably something that neither Christian Bale nor Ben Affleck would do in order to promote any modern Batman movie.
The National Safety Council Wanted the Dynamic Duo to Wear Seatbelts
Every single episode of the show had the stock footage of Batman and Robin sliding down the Batpoles, hopping in the Batmobile, and speeding away to police headquarters. What it didn’t have at first was the heroes buckling their seatbelts. However, the stock footage was altered to add that in.
The reason is due to the fact that the National Safety Council wanted it, believing that heroes need to set a good example for the public. Honestly, we can’t disagree with that argument.
It Took Six Crew Members to Rotate the Batmobile’s Turn-Table
The Batmobile from the show is iconic and loved even today. It was always prominently parked in the Batcave, sitting on a turntable that would rotate it before the dynamic duo embarked. The car looked fantastic, of course, but it cost a lot of effort from the staff.
Supposedly, it took a whopping six crew members to rotate that turn-table 180 degrees. A lot of work, needless to say.
The Map of Gotham City Was Actually a Map of St. Louis
Everyone knows the Batcave had a large map of Gotham, but not many fans know this. The map is not a fictional one that was made up for Gotham, nor is it a map of New York City, which was the source of inspiration for Gotham in the comics.
Nope, it’s actually just a reversed map of St. Louis, Missouri. You can tell thanks to a number of landmarks from the city, such as Horseshoe Lake and Forest Park.
The Show Had Tons of Celebrity Window Cameos
Most everyone remembers the charming but campy scenes of Batman and Robin climbing up buildings. Lots of people are even aware that the camera was just turned sideways, with an imitation city put behind the heroes. Not exactly high-quality stuff, but that’s not the point.
The point is that these scenes included many celebrity cameos in the form of citizens hanging out the windows to acknowledge our heroes. Such cameos include Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, and Dick Clark.
Batgirl Was Created for the Show
Batgirl came around in the third season, but she actually appeared in the comics first, so readers could be prepared for her show appearance. However, she was actually created for the show. Because of declining ratings by that time, Dozier asked DC Comics to invent a female character to attract a young female audience.
It was even Dozier’s idea that the character be Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon’s daughter. Artist Carmine Infantino took the idea and delivered Barbara Gordon, and she has since been a major part of the series.
An 8-Minute Film Was Made to Convince Execs of Batgirl’s Necessity
Allegedly, the executives for the show had to be convinced that Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl was a needed addition to Batman. In response, Dozier made a short film that was only eight minutes long, featuring Batgirl rescuing Batman and Robin from Killer Moth.
Batgirl didn’t actually punch anyone in the film, since that was considered un-ladylike in the era, but even so, the film convinced the executives and thus, Batgirl became a part of the story.
Romero Refused to Shave his Mustache as the Joker
Without a doubt, Cesar Romero’s excellent performance as the Joker framed audience expectations of the villain for decades. Funnily enough, though, Romero refused to shave off his mustache even to play the character, forcing the makeup team to cover it in white face paint.
As you can see in many close-ups throughout the show, it didn’t actually work that well, meaning the facial hair was pretty visible most of the time. Oh well.
The Villain Ma Parker Was Based on Real Criminal Ma Barker
Shelly Winters, who won two Oscars in her career, played the villain Ma Parker in Batman. An elderly crime boss who took control of State Penitentiary with her sons and daughter, she was actually based on a real criminal, Ma Barker.
Ma Barker was the real matriarch of the Barker-Kapris Gang. Even more interestingly, Winters would go on to actually play her in the 1970 film Blood Mama. Needless to say, it’s quite the coincidence.
They Got Very Close
Rumors about an on-set romance between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder have spread over the years. However, the two repeatedly denied such claims and insisted that they were nothing more than friends. Nevertheless, they were very close, right up until Reeve’s death in 2004. “When you’re strapped to someone hanging from the ceiling for months and months, you get pretty darned close,” Kidder said. “He was such a huge part of my life… He was complicated, very smart.”
Although Superman made a ton of money at the box office, the producers decided to fire director Richard Donner anyway. Due to their toxic relationship, they no longer wanted to work with Donner and replaced him with Richard Lester, who had co-produced the first movie. However, it turns out that the real reason the Salkinds brought Lester on board was that they owed him money from previous movies they worked on, including The Three Musketeers. Donner’s exit caused all sorts of problems…
The Cast Threatened to Quit
After firing Richard Donner, the producers were put in a difficult situation. Numerous members of the cast didn’t like the Salkinds’ decision and threatened to quit. One of the most notable names to do this was Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane. She didn’t like the idea of Donner not being on for Superman II and said as much while promoting the first movie. As a result of this, Kidder only ended up having a cameo role in Superman III. Gene Hackman also threatened to quit.
The Studios Sued “Superman”
Another actor who was not on good terms with the producers was none other than Christopher Reeve. The actor claimed that 12 hours after finding out he had been cast in the role, the producers sent him a letter ordering him to be available to shoot Superman II. A few months later, the producers sued Reeve, accusing him of breaching his contract after “walking off” the set of the sequel. After Donner was fired, Reeve demanded more artistic control during his contract renegotiations.
Brando Read His Lines from a Diaper
Notoriously difficult to work with, Marlon Brando seemed to take things to another level on the set of Superman. Apparently, Brando refused to memorize his lines. In one scene, he reportedly read his lines from the diaper of a baby he was speaking to. On the first day of filming, Brando reportedly told Richard Donner to start filming during rehearsals. Apparently, the first take from the rehearsal ended up in the final cut.
Brando Wanted to Play a Green Bagel
Another strange incident involving Marlon Brando came when he suggested to Richard Donner that he played Jor-El as a green bagel. He believed that Kryptonians didn’t need to look like humans as they were aliens. According to screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, Brando even suggested that Kryptonians should make electronic noises instead of speak. Although Donner declined all of Brando’s ideas, it was later revealed that Brando made all of those wacky suggestions to test him.
“Darth Vader” Trained “Superman”
In order to prepare himself for the role, Christopher Reeve was instructed to gain a staggering 50 pounds. Funnily enough, one of the actors he beat to the part was David Prowse, who would go on to play Darth Vader in the Star Wars series. Prowse didn’t get the role of Superman because he was British. However, he was hired to train Reeve, giving him a strict bodybuilding routine. He ended up going from 170 pounds to 212 during the pre-production period, which lasted just six weeks.
Brando Got $3.7 Million for 12 Days of Work
At one point, Marlon Brando was the highest-paid actor in the world because of his role as Jor-El. The Hollywood star was paid a staggering $3.7 million for just 12 days of filming. When everything was said and done though, he received approximately $14 million for just under 10 minutes of screentime. However, that wasn’t enough. Brando ended up suing the producers and Warner Brothers for a whopping $50 million because he felt like he deserved more of the box office profits.
The Hardest Casting Choice Ever
The casting of Superman is just a legendary as the story itself and the list of actors that were linked to the role is quite astonishing. These include James Caan, Christopher Walken, and Jon Voight. Actors such as Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood turned down offers to play Clark Kent. One of the most surprising people to audition for the role was Olympian Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, while Patrick Wayne was cast in the role but dropped out after learning that his father John Wayne had cancer.
Studios Didn’t Want Christopher Reeve
While the late Christopher Reeve will always be synonymous with the character of Superman, there was a time when the producers of the 1978 classic didn’t want him to play the alien superhero. Both director Richard Donner and the Salkind producers thought he was too skinny and too young for the part. Despite this, Reeve still impressed them in his audition and went on to play Kal-El/Clark Kent. In fact, Reeve beat a staggering 200 other actors to it…
Brando Turned Down Stallone
One actor who reportedly had a chance of landing the role of Superman was none other than Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone. Despite his interest in playing Clark Kent, it turns out that Marlon Brando wasn’t as enthusiastic about working with “The Italian Stallion.” Brando apparently had casting approval and turned Stallone down. Following the rumored incident, Stallone told Merv Griffin that he had no respect for Brando. He called Brando hypocritical, accusing him of taking the role of Jor-El simply for the money.
Reeve Got Margot Kidder the Role of Lois Lane
Another role that had a long audition process was for Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane. Just a month before principal photography began, Margot Kidder beat the likes of Stockard Channing and Anne Archer to the part because she was the only actress who found the following line funny: “What color underwear am I wearing?” Ultimately though, it was Christopher Reeve who recommended Kidder for the part after watching her as Robert Redford’s girlfriend in The Great Waldo Pepper.
No One Wanted to Play Lex Luthor
It seems like nobody wanted to play the role of Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. While the likes of Gene Wilder, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson were all considered for the role, they ultimately declined. Apparently, Paul Newman was offered to play Superman, Jor-El or Lex Luthor for $4 million, and still declined. Even Gene Hackman was reluctant to play Lex Luthor at first. He firmly believed that the role would have a negative impact on his acting career…
Gene Hackman’s Hair Issues
One of the strangest stories behind the scenes of 1978’s Superman revolved around Gene Hackman’s hair, both on his face and on his head. The actor who plays Lex Luthor refused to cut off his mustache for the role. However, it was revealed that it was in fact, a fake, and he eventually agreed to peel it off his face when filming began. Hackman also took issue with shaving his head or wearing a bald cap. Eventually, though, he caved in.
Cary Elwes Was Marlon Brando’s Trailer Boy
A Superman behind-the-scenes easter egg surfaced when Cary Elwes told a funny story on the NPR show Ask Me Another. According to The Princess Bride star, one of his first jobs was to bring Marlon Brando out of his trailer every day during filming. However, Brando wasn’t exactly an easy person to persuade to get out of the trailer. According to Elwes, the iconic actor wouldn’t refer to him by his actual name. Instead, he would refer to him as Rocky.
When in Rome, Don’t Film Superman
The producers were determined to film some scenes in Rome, Italy. They specifically wanted to shoot scenes of Superman flying. However, a series of aborted flying tests ended up costing the studios over $2 million. To make matters worse, they had to cancel all filming in Italy when they learned that Marlon Brando was not allowed to enter the country. This was because of a warrant for his arrest for charges of obscenity.
The Producers Hated the Director
One of the biggest problems that went against 1978’s Superman‘s chances of success was the toxic relationship between director Richard Donner and producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind. With the production budget getting bigger by the day, tensions grew between both parties. Eventually, the producers brought in another director, Richard Lester, to essentially be the middle-man between Donner and the Salkinds. Despite the movie going on to be a box office hit, things ended on a sour note…
They Nearly Canceled Superman II Last Minute
From day one, the plan that the producers had agreed on was to shoot Superman I and II back-to-back. So by the time the first movie was nearly done, Richard Donner had already shot about 75% of Superman II. However, the studios told Donner to put it to one side and focus solely on Superman I until it was completed. This way, if Superman I didn’t do well at the box office, they wouldn’t have to worry about spending any more money on the sequel.
It wasn’t just the characters of Superman that had long audition processes. A long list of film directors was linked to the project, with arguably the biggest name being Steven Spielberg. The producers decided to “wait until [Spielberg’s] big fish opens.” After Jaws became a huge hit, they offered the role to Spielberg. However, he was forced to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts. Sam Peckinpah was also in the running to direct but apparently pulled out a weapon during a meeting with Ilya Salkind.
It Could’ve Been a Musical
It’s no secret that the man behind the iconic Superman score was the one and only, John Williams. But there was a time during the development process that the producers considered having characters sing some songs throughout the movie. They originally planned to have Margot Kidder sing a song called “Can You Read My Mind” when Superman flies her into the sky. However, Richard Donner hated the idea and kept John Williams’ score playing instead.
The Cinematographer Caused the ’77 Blackout?
An urban myth that has been speculated about for many years is what the cause of the infamous 1977 blackout in New York could have been. The late Geoffrey Unsworth, who was the cinematographer of Superman, believed that he caused the blackout while on set. According to him, he connected a spotlight to a lamppost, and at that very moment, all the lights went out. “As he plugged in the plug, the lights went out in New York,” Tom Mankiewicz said.
The Baby With Many Roles
He might not be as well known as Christopher Reeve or Gene Hackman. However, Aaron Smolinski has appeared in his fair share of Superman movies, albeit as different characters. He first appeared as infant Kal-El, before having an uncredited role in Superman III as a boy standing by a photo booth that Clark Kent is using to become Superman. Fast forward 30 years, and Smolinski appeared in the Superman reboot Man of Steel, this time as a communications officer.
While Superman was undoubtedly a commercial hit, many fans forget that it was also a hit with critics. Most notably, the movie was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Music (Original Score), and Best Sound. It also won a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects. However, Richard Donner expressed disgust after his cinematography team didn’t receive any recognition for their work. He couldn’t believe that they weren’t nominated for Best Art Direction after creating a fictional city in the Arctic.
The Superman Curse
Many believe that there is a curse attached to the character of Superman. This is due to the fact that many actors who have starred in movies related to the superhero have experienced huge misfortunes and in many cases, have died. Back in the 50s, George Reeves, who is best known for playing Superman in a popular TV series, died under tragic circumstances. Christopher Reeve also suffered a terrible horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed.
A Mixed Legacy
It is arguable that Superman on the big screen never quite repeated the commercial and critical success of Richard Donner’s 1978 classic. While Superman II was also very successful, III didn’t hit the same numbers as its predecessors and Superman VI: The Quest For Peace didn’t even manage to break even. Then there was the soft reboot Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, which was relatively successful. Henry Cavill’s iteration of Superman has also had some hit and miss performances, which brings us to the present day.