Exclusive 2005 Cult TV Superhero Celebration Superhero Expo Coverage
Part 1: One-on-One with Margot KidderDate: February 8, 2005
By: Barry Freiman
Note: The opinions expressed in the following interview questions and article are mine alone. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Superman Homepage, Steve Younis or any other member of the Superman Homepage staff.
This is the first in a series of exclusive interviews and stories from the 2005 Cult TV Superhero Celebration Superhero Expo. Hosted by DG Promotions, the Superhero Expo featured the unveiling of "Christopher Reeve as Superman" an eerily lifelike and beautiful sculpture unveiled by Sculptors Bob Dullam and Bob Causey. The sculptors discuss their creation in Part Two later this week.
Part three is an in-depth one-on-one interview with Jack O'Halloran - that's Phantom Zone villain Non from "Superman" and "Superman II". Non may be mute but O'Halloran is a well-spoken and out-spoken man with a diverse background in acting, professional boxing and pro football. He speaks candidly about his working relationships with Christopher Reeve, Richard Donner, Richard Lester, Marlon Brando, and the Producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler. O'Halloran learned the acting craft from luminaries like Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen and his easy-going personality reflects a masculine self-confidence that emulates an old Hollywood-style.
Part four features a one-on-one interview with Sarah Douglas, the evil "Ursa" from "Superman" and "Superman II". Douglas played in the DCU twice more after Ursa. She returned to the Phantom Zone to play villainess Mala on "Superman: The Animated Series" in 1997. And heterosexual males will likely remember the time she and Heather Locklear spent in the company of DC's muck monster, the Swamp Thing, in 1989's "The Return of the Swamp Thing " Adding to this already impressive Sci-Fi roster are roles in the "V" series and "Conan the Destroyer". Evil may be her on-screen forte, but her comments show a woman of good humor who appreciates her fans. She even flew in from the U.K. for the Superhero Expo.
Finally, part five will feature a pictorial spread of the event including exclusive looks at the statue and even a re-enactment of the scene from "Superman II" where Non and Ursa threaten to rip Lois Lane in half.
Margot Ruth Kidder's childhood certainly didn't foretell a future spent in the company of men in tights. Born in Yellowknife, Canada, her mother did not let her read comic books. In fact, Kidder jokes that she's a "closet nerd", reads lots of books, and watches only BBC news and F/X's "Nip/Tuck" on TV.
Her first acting role came in 1969 in the Norman Jewison film "Gaily, Gaily" She appeared in her second flick alongside Gene Wilder - 1970's "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx".
Kidder studied acting in New York, paying the bills with television work. She returned to film work with 1973's "Sisters" directed by her then-boyfriend Brian De Palma. This film's success led to a slew of hits like "The Great Waldo Pepper" and "Reincarnation of Peter Proud." A short-lived marriage to director Thomas McGuane resulted in the birth of her daughter, Maggie.
On returning to acting as a single parent, Kidder's agent submitted her name into consideration for the role of Lois Lane in "Superman: The Movie" which she played in three sequels. After "Superman", she played the lead in the 1979 cult hit "The Amityville Horror" currently being remade. She worked with Donner one more time, in 1994's Mel Gibson vehicle, "Maverick".
Of course, Kidder returned to the Superman Universe last year, playing Dr. Bridgette Crosby on the WB's "Smallville." While Kidder is certainly closely associated with Lois Lane, she appears quite contented with that association. She takes very seriously the time she spent playing the Girl Reporter and this translates into an eagerness to participate in the new "Superman Returns" movie as well as genuine regret about her decision not to return to TV's "Smallville".
A: I was thinking that I'd be signing a lot of autographs but there's not a lot of people here. I'm just having a great visit.
Q: What's happening with "Smallville"? Are you going to reprise your role as Dr. Bridgette Crosby?
A: No, we had a contract problem and so I will not be returning. They offered me a part and then, for various reasons, I ended up saying "no".
Q: I had that feeling...
A: You did? (surprised). How come?
Q: Just from some things I'd been reading on the internet about how they were going to deal with Dr. Swann's death.
A: It was a little tacky. Don't you think?
Q: Yes, I think you can say that.
A: I thought it was quite exploitive and I said so, but they (the Producers) didn't see it that way. I mean, Christopher was my friend so to go on and do a scene where I announce his death on "Smallville" so that they can get publicity, it just seemed to me to be exploitive, personally. Probably didn't to other people and so it just didn't work. If you're going to get me to be exploitive, you're going to have to pay me an awful lot of money. (laughing).
Q: And, speaking of which, "Superman Returns" has now been announced as having a June 30, 2006 release date.
A: Ah, ya, that sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Q: Has anyone from the production approached you?
A: No, but I would approach them, because I think that would be fun. You know they had Noel Neill in ours, so now I can be Noel.
Q: How would you feel playing Lois Lane's mother?
A: I think it would be just a hoot. I think it would be wonderful.
(Reflecting briefly on her earlier comments about "Smallville":) Be careful how you put the thing about "Smallville", I have to put myself in your hands because I don't want to burn bridges. We just didn't see eye-to-eye.
Q: I think "Smallville" has jumped the shark anyway.
A: Is that what that's called?
Q: When the show just gets a little bit too out there and strays too far from its prime directive...
A: Right, ya, uh-huh. I thought this was a creative mistake. I just thought it was not right.
A: We had so much fun. It was like 20 years hadn't passed. We just sat down and picked up where we left off.
Q: She was really one of the actors that you actually spent most of your time with during "Superman III."
A: Mmm-hmm. We sat down and yakked and yakked and yakked. Old husbands, and children, and friends... We had a hoot. She's so wonderful and so delightful. It was great to see her. And I guess Jane Seymour was on it...
Q: She was on this past week and she's playing a somewhat mystical character but she's playing her like Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington on "Dynasty."
A: Oh she did. Now that would be fun. (laughs wickedly).
A: Well, it's a statue. I mean, I knew Christopher, I didn't know Superman. They were not the same to me at all. To viewers, and fans, there's not as much separation. So my dear friend Chris is entirely different. That's why I thought that what they (the Producers) wanted me to do on "Smallville" was just a little tacky... But they didn't get that.
Q: Yes, but I don't think they're getting a lot right now.
A: Oh really? That's a shame. That's interesting.
Q: I think they've also been having some problems dealing with the production of the new film alongside the TV show.
A: Ahhh. Well, that's actually helpful for you to tell me that because I thought "Man, this is going too far." That's what you mean when you say "jumping the shark" right?
A: I mean, I know it may be some pages in some magazines, but Jesus, this is a dear friend. I'd rather not if that's OK.
Q: Now Dr. Swann and Dr. Crosby, if you had come back, the idea was that you...
A: That they had a romance, ya. But Chris and I never had a romance. In fact, we bickered as we hung there. I mean, we were like brother and sister We were like a bickering brother and sister. You know how you can get pissed off at your sister in a way you just can't with other people you're not close with? We had a lot of that. Ya, we had a real chemistry. My older brother looks just like him (Chris) and I know his family, especially now. I mean it really was like family. But oh we had some times there hanging there from the ceiling. And the crew would all look away and they'd go "Action" and we'd go (makes a loving face, then laughs).
Q: OK, now a little bit about the "Superman" movies - well, I guess, first of all, tell me a little of what it was like working with Chris.
A: You know that, at the point where we finished "Superman IV", we knew each other so well that it's like asking me "What's it like hanging out with your brother?" Do you know what I mean?
A: It's everything, sometimes it's fun, sometimes you're annoyed with each other, sometimes you're laughing at each other, sometimes you're silly, we went through such a big hunk of our life together so it's really hard to say what was it like working with him and putting it succinctly, it was a big slice of my life.
Q: You, Chris, Jackie Cooper (Perry White), and Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen) played co-workers for over nine years and you were in fact co-workers for that time.
A: Well, we were co-workers for a long time, ya we were. So you get a very familial relationship in that situation.
Q: Do you ever see anyone else?
A: I saw Chris. I haven't seen Jackie Cooper, but I saw Marc a few times. He is just delightful. He's just wonderful. You know, Donner cast a pretty good crowd. And there was a great chemistry with us. Everybody had just enough mischief in them.
A: Ya, I saw that. I would've cast Stockard Channing. I thought she was brilliant.
Q: Well, I thought you were so much better than Stockard.
A: See, now I watched it and I went "Oh God, I was awful, but Stockard - now I would've cast her."
Q: I thought Stockard seemed too much like the character she played in "Grease" - it would've been Rizzo as Lois Lane.
A: Oh. She was pretty funny though.
Q: You were very demure and you had the short hair - did Donner have you grow your hair out for the role?
A: No that was a wig (in the screen test). Because they wanted me to have black hair and I had brown hair.
Q: What did you think when you first met Chris at the screen test?
A: I thought he was a skinny dork. I mean, his pant legs were halfway up his leg. And he had these big old clunky Oxfords on. And he was skinny as all get out. And I just thought "That can't be my Superman." (laughs). And I just couldn't buy it at all.
Q: How did you come in? Who found you? Was it Donner?
A: My agent actually put my name up and I flew into L.A. from Montana and did a reading and they really liked it and then called and said "Can you be in London in a day?" and I went "What?" And so I flew to London, but I didn't have a clue that it was such a big deal because I grew up without comics. I had a very fierce English teacher mother who felt that children should not read comic books. So I didn't know anything about it. I read one comic before my screen test and it was about the Daily Planet having a bowling tournament with those terrible women's libbers. And I thought of myself as a feminist so I read this and went "What is this?" So I based my interpretation on the script.
Q: Lois was like "Mary Richards" from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" - the career woman who wanted it all, the way that you played her, I thought.
A: You know what I played? I played what Tom Mankiewicz's rewrite of the script was - he had some funny stuff. I just took it right from that so I don't know what it was based on, but I thought it was fun.
Q: Did you smoke?
A: Yes, we all smoked in those days.
Q: Lois smoked Marlboros. Were you a Marlboro Person?
A: No, I was a Salem Light 100s.
Q: Now, obviously, you filmed a lot of "Superman II" twice.
A: Well, we filmed different scenes. And if you or somebody would go find that reel footage, I'd be eternally grateful. It's in a vault somewhere. I can't imagine they've destroyed it. There's a different ending, there's a whole other "Superman II" or half of "Superman II", somewhere that, legally, they couldn't sell because they had to make sure that (Director of Record) Richard Lester directed half of it. In fact, Donner directed most of it.
A: The one where I shoot him, ya. That was originally in "Superman II". Oh no there's just a ton of footage. And I don't know where it is but I would love to see it because I think that it's probably better than what was in there, because Donner's take on it was so sincere and wonderful. Not that Lester's wasn't clever and funny, but it was not that sincerity that Donner put into it.
Q: Now whose decision was it for you to have the limited role that you had in "Superman III"?
A: The Producers screwed Dick Donner so I said to the press that they were beneath contempt as human beings (laughing). And so, they decided that they'd rather not have me.
Q: Time to bring in Lana...
A: Exactly. (giggling).
Q: Then, when the Salkinds sold the rights to Canon, you felt you could come back or did Chris talk you into it?
A: No. I was always wanting to come back to it. It was Menachem Golan who said (mock European accent) - "Come back. You ver da soul of da movie."
Q: What have you heard about the 45 minutes of missing footage from "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace"?
A: There is? "Superman IV" was not a good movie so I didn't have any emotional attachment to that. I didn't know that (about the footage). What happened to that?
Q: Apparently, right before the film's 1987 release, director Sidney Furie freaked out because the test screening didn't go well and cut out about 45 minutes.
A: Oh, I had no idea. I sat through it once. And it just wasn't a good movie.
Q: It's certainly not edited well, the effects weren't good, it seems like it would have been a better, more coherent feature with the footage included though. I actually thought that "Superman IV" had some great moments for you and Chris.
A: Which one?
Q: After you and Chris flew and he says "You remember, don't you." And you look at him, and say "I remember everything."
A: Ahh. Ya. I remember that one, ya.
Kidder's camaraderie with her "Superman" co-workers is evident not just in her kind words about Reeve, Donner, and Lester, but also in her ease alongside O'Halloran and Douglas, though the three hadn't been together in years.
As she reminisces about a decade playing Lois Lane, she recalls one funny mishap with Douglas, asking her "Didn't I hit you by mistake?" Douglas doesn't miss a beat: "Yes you did. And I fell. And nobody paid any attention to me." Kidder laughs as she remembers filming the scene where she is supposed to hit Ursa in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. "Apparently " she says, "I decked her and she passed out." The two giggle like old friends.
The newness of living in a world without her friend, Christopher Reeve, is still obviously raw as it should be. When a fan walks up to her wearing a T-shirt that depicts Superman's head stone from when DC killed the character in 1992, Kidder can't help but think of Reeve. "'Here lies Earth's Greatest Hero.' Oh, oh wow. That's sort of sad. I still have a hard time thinking of Christopher as dead."
Photography, unless otherwise noted, by Mark Szalkowski.
Biographical information adapted from information obtained from DG Promotions and Dean Gibbs, Superhero Celebration Program © 2005, DG Promotions.