June 9, 2006: “Superman Returns” Press Junket

Roundtable Interview with Bryan Singer

Bryan Singer Bryan: Thank you, I have so much Pepsi, I don't know what to do with it all.

Press: How did it feel to finally accomplish this dream of yours, to make a movie as a fan of the comics?

Bryan: Um, at the present moment, I'm so very physically exhausted, I don't have much perspective. Unlike the actors and a lot of the other participants who wrapped up, I was last night finally...I put in my last, I finaled my last CBB we call them, visual effects shots -- could be better, and last night was the last one, and I, and we just did a shot to honor the last shot, and I was at filmouts all the night before trying to make sure you had a film to see...

Press: The two great women in film? Were you there? (unintelligible)

Bryan: I was so tired and sketched out when I was on stage, and then...I presented this award to Lauren Shuler Donner, the Women in Film, two nights ago, so I leave the lab, come straight to this thing, and I walk out onto the stage in front of a thousand people, all black tie, mostly women, and I'm so awkward and nervous and I read my little speech, we show a clip of Lauren's life and work, and then a woman comes out and hands me the award, which is made of crystal, and I'm like, "Oh, I'm gonna drop this thing, I'm so gonna drop this thing" and then I hand it to Lauren and this stupid podium was designed at a slight angle, and she was the first award up, so who knew? They learned, and she put it on the podium and then a few seconds into her speech this big crystal thing, crashing down, it cracked and broke, and she was like, "AHH!" and fortunately, the two of us, we were both there and we could both laugh about it, and we had each other to laugh about it, and thank God it wasn't me. It was her award, she was allowed to drop it. I was so scared that I was going to drop it.

Press: Was that the only time you'd been out in weeks?

Bryan: Yeah, I went right back to work, that's why it was the first award up that evening, because the schedule, and I so much wanted to be there, I wanted to present it to her, I wanted to be the one to do it, it was important for me to do that.

Press: How much perspective are you allowed to give yourself as a filmmaker when you're a fan and there's so much history riding on this?

Bryan: It's a delicate balance which I learned while making the first two X-Men films. I hope I've succeeded but it's a constant balance.

Press: But this one's got more riding on it than the X-Men movies.

Bryan: I agree.

Press: I knew nothing about the X-Men before I saw the first film. I've grown up on Superman and I love the Donner movies and I think you did a great job. You must be terrified.

Bryan Singer Bryan: Constantly. Constantly debating nostalgia over what an audience today expects from Superman and what people who grew up with the character expect from Superman. I want this to be a movie that teenagers will go and say, "Wow, that's cool," and they've never seen things like this happen on a screen before, but at the same time I want a grandparent to be able to bring their grandkids to go see it, and each have it, a special and unique experience. And you're never gonna be able to please everybody all the time, but when it comes to Superman, you gotta please a lot of people.

Press: At San Francisco WonderCon, you had it at 2:55 the cut, 2:45, were you a little disappointed (in the cuts)?

Bryan: No, not at all, I don't desire to make exceedingly long movies, I've never made exceedingly long movies, the first X-men was like 80 minutes...no, what happened was I had this cut and it was time to now sit with an audience, and we had what we call a friends and family screening where a number of people sit there and as I'm watching it, I looked at certain things in it, and felt certain things, and one of those was really tough because it was the return to Krypton sequence, a whole sequence in space, very expensive, elaborate sequence, but in the context of this movie, it just didn't, it just wasn't necessary, it wasn't important, and it could live afterwards in some other dimension, we could show it, and also in 3-D, it would be amazing in 3-D, and with what IMAX has done, this has been my latest, and I don't want to get into it because I don't know if I could or how I could do that, but I think it could exist in the future, but in the context of the movie, that and a few other pieces just were not...and you know, you feel it in the audience, and you know it, and you just look at your friends, and you sit down and you ask for straight answers from friends you trust and you say OK, and boom boom boom and those fifteen, twenty minutes came out, no problem.

Press: So you might have a flashback sequence in a sequel-type thing?

Bryan: No, but in some other presentation of the film, maybe on a DVD or 3D IMAX or something, or just, you know, just put it up. Some things you just don't finish because you know you're going to cut them. That scene, I actually completed and there's some very elegant things in it.

Press: Talk about the casting process for a movie like this, and a particular challenge you had in casting very iconic characters.

Bryan: Well, because they exist in your collective consciousness, it's better, I found it better with the case of Wolverine and also Superman is casting people who are not necessarily recognizable and well known, therefore it isn't such-and-such playing Superman, or Wolverine.

Press: So they don't have a persona.

Bryan Singer Bryan: Yeah, you feel like you're watching Wolverine, or you feel like you're watching Superman, and it's Superman, it's not such-and-such as Superman, and it's not any particularly original wisdom on my part – casting Christopher Reeve, same age, same situation, different background, but similar circumstances.

Press: Plays a lot of roles, use him in a sequel (unintelligible)

Bryan: No, you would, because he's Superman. So he can always...if you didn't use him, there'd be a problem. It's like I would never make another X-Men film and have another actor play Wolverine, wouldn't occur to me, because he's defined that character. Well, now Brandon has defined this character, and this is why they make three picture deals. (laughter)

Press: While you were doing Superman, you were very busy doing pre-biz on Logan's Run, a lot of time and effort on that, writing, are you or are you not going to direct Logan's Run?

Bryan: At the moment I'm not, at the moment I'm buying myself sort of a vacation of the mind, I'm going, I need to because this film and all the things I was doing simultaneously with this film were a monumental stress to me, both physically and mentally, and as of last night, the last CBB (laughter), I need to take an active, I mean, I need to do a tour and talk, and things, and I'm more than happy and excited to do that because I'm proud of the movie, but I have to take a mental break, and actually not have any scheduled demands. Something comes up, I don't vacation well, so I'll probably wanna go back to work at some point, but for that movie, it's a huge movie, potentially a huge movie, and I was not ready to dive into it right yet.

Press: You've talked about how exhausting this process was. Was there anything you could have done to lessen this exhaustion?

Bryan: Well, half and half, part of it is just exhausting, you just have to deal with it. Two, I could have not produced a six-hour miniseries for the SciFi network, I could have not had a series on the air, and I could have not been producing and developing other things and dealing with the global brand management of the character, which I feel very responsible for, and I wanna make sure that images like this and objects like this are all done right, I could have not produced a documentary which is in your gift bags (laughter), I could have also built in a break time in the middle, and I should have done that, and that's why at about day 95, I said, I have to stop 'cause I'm going to start wasting money. Contrary to what you might read in the paper, this was a pretty fiscally responsible movie, and I was fearing that I was starting to shoot things that weren't gonna be in it, but I needed to step back from the movie, so at day 107, I came home, exhausted, and just took a little time to look at the movie and then went back to Australia and finished it up, which was really, really...it worked out really well because I ended up shooting one day of pickups in Los Angeles. We have one day with Brandon on the stage. A close up, then a pan, and then another close up.

Bryan Singer Press: For a sequel, you've obviously learned a lot. Making the sequel would obviously be less demanding, do you think?

Bryan: I hope so, but you know, of course, you wanna top yourself. I tried to do that with X-Men, make a bigger, better movie, so I would ultimately try to do the same thing, so who knows how difficult would it be.

Press: Would you come back?

Bryan: I don't know yet. Maybe. Unlike actors who sign multi-picture (deals), I do these things one at a time, because you never know how you're gonna feel after you're done, and you don't wanna commit yourself. So right now, we're discussing it, and we're discussing if and when that would be, and that's another reason Logan's Run makes it difficult, because of the scope of the two movies, I just don't know, I just don't know.

Press: A little bit more on Brandon, in terms of picking that straw out of the pile of hay, what was it about him? You must have seen 200 audition tapes.

Bryan: I did.

Press: What jumped out at you, or not?

Bryan: Oh, it did. And it wasn't a particularly good tape, the first one. It was an audition he'd come in for, a prior incarnation of the role, it was a test that he had done. There was something about his eyes, and something about his vulnerability.

Press: (unintelligible question, about his eyes)

Bryan: No, but they function a certain way. Which is really interesting, when you see him, you've met Brandon...(chorus of yes), you see...as dark as they are (his eyes), as un-Superman as they are, remember Christopher Reeve was blond, I mean, really...dirty, dark blond...but there's something about his character, his quality, his presence, and his stature, so there's something about him in the tape, the way he said something, the way he carried himself that had this kind of little vulnerability that interested me. So then I looked at another tape, and in the other tape, he was wearing a red shirt as I remember, could have been a blue shirt, but I think it was a very bright red shirt, and he was doing more face on to the video camera, and he felt more to me...and that got me going more, and I said, you know, I at least have to meet this guy before I go on my location scout to Australia, so I went to a coffee shop and I met him, and that's when the true process in my mind clicked. So that's how the sequence of events happened, but I knew, I knew he was...he was the guy to. I had a strong feeling, I kind of tipped my hat, too.

Press: He didn't want it right away?

Bryan: He did.

Press: Was Australia a cost effective thing or...

Bryan: Cost.

Press: Would you go back again?

Bryan: Yeah, sure.

Press: What are the advantages of Australia?

Bryan: Weather, money, and a great crew. A great crew. I mean, our crew was amazing. And then I got a lot of folks off Kong, New Zealanders coming in, and a great Australia crew. They were phenomenal.

Press: From X-Men to Superman, they seem to be almost antithetical.

Bryan Singer Bryan: Exactly, and that's what made it kind of appealing to me...is the fact that in X-Men you have a very normal world, very cynical characters trying to fit in a normal world, and here we have an idealistic world, an idealistic character trying to live and exist in a cynical world, and that's kind of the fun of it for me, after spending six years in the X-Men universe, that was what was different for me. Plus, I'm a huge Superman fan, I love Superman.

Press: Was there something that you had in your head as the ultimate Superman movie since you saw the first one?

Bryan: Yes, not a retelling of Donner's movie, something that would celebrate Donner's movie but at the same time, offer something for today's audiences, and take today's technology, and apply it. Between the water and the flying, I'm telling you, whooo...that stuff's a balancing act.

Press: What did you think of X-Men 3?

Bryan: I thought it was great. You have so many characters that have to be serviced, and you have to introduce new characters. It is a monumental task, and on that level, I was incredibly impressed. Then I saw it, it was fine, a great night seeing it, I ran into Brett, I was theater-opping, it was great. (laughter)

Press: How does Lois not know that he's Clark?

Bryan: Because he's got his glasses. (laughter)