Superman Homepage contributor Jeffrey Taylor attended an advanced screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice several weeks before its theatrical release, where he also scored an interview with Laurence Fishburne, who plays Perry White in the movie. Here is the interview with an introduction by Jeffrey…
My interview with Laurence Fishburne before the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was amazingly fun. When I interviewed Diane Lane and Holly Hunter I told them who I was and how big a Superman fan I am, and they both asked me if I had interviewed Laurence yet. They knew he was also a comic book fan and something of a geek.
Jeffrey: I need to start off by saying I’m a huge fan. You’re actually one of my personal heroes.
Laurence: Thank you!
I went to the premiere of Man of Steel and the after party in New York City and my only disappointment about the evening was that I never ran into you just to tell you that. So it’s amazing for me to get to talk to you.
Well, thank you so much. It’s nice to see you, man.
Just to explain a little about what I’m hoping to get from the interview, I got my start as a journalist writing for the Superman Homepage.
Oh wow! So it’s like an official homepage?
It’s a fan website, but if you Google “Superman” it will always be one of the first things up there. Henry (Cavill) told me he did his online research for the character using it. And that’s how I was found by Movies.com and Fandango to do all this cool stuff with Man of Steel and now I’m here doing this. I have a podcast about Superman that’s pretty popular. I have an almost complete 40 year run of the comics. So that’s just to explain my background since it’s probably different from most others you talk to today.
Woooooow. That’s so cool. I get it. I totally get it.
Were you a fan of comics as a kid?
I started reading those when I was about 6 years old and I didn’t have money. I would go to this candy store and I would steal comic books. Mostly Marvel because I grew up in Brooklyn and New York, and that was Marvel. It had to have been around ’68, so I was 7 years old. They had gone from 10 cents to 12 and I thought hmm. But when they got to 15, it was time to steal.
(We both laugh)
I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do. And it was the stories and the art, and particularly because it was New York based. So it was Spider-Man and Fantastic Four and it was all just across the bridge. And they were doing a lot of social commentary about what was going on at the time. So it was like my world, but with heroes you could get attached to. And of course I was watching Adam West and George Reeves on television. And when I started making money acting, I had a huge stack of those oversized Justice League books that are now 40 years old. And they’re pieces of art.
Who’s your favorite character in the Justice League?
Flash is my favorite DC Character. Barry Allen, not Golden Age.
There’s a saying that you can always tell when someone got into comics by which Flash is their favorite.
Oh yeah. That makes sense. He was my favorite of the DC characters. But then again, you can’t not love the Batman. And you can’t not love Superman. You just can’t. Also on the Adam West show, you had all these great actors. Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriwether, Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and all these great character actors, so I was learning acting watching them as well. When I was doing Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and people asked what that’s like, I said I imagine it’s like what it must have been to be on the Batman show in the 1960’s. Silly, implausible, crazy, weird …
High energy, but fun. So that’s where my love of all this came from. It’s part of my DNA and my psyche and I love it. I can’t believe I’m in this movie. I’ve been waiting 30 years just to see it.
Not to geek out too much, but you’ve done your fair share of instant classic films. Apocalypse Now comes to mind.
Yeah! And that’s good stuff!
And of course all 3 of the Matrix movies.
I’m so proud of those flicks.
I have to say that I was the guy outside the theater after the third one arguing with my friends about how much I loved it. I just don’t think they got it.
Oh yeah. They’re all awesome.
And the Matrix is one of three movies I have bought four times.
Why’d you have to do that? I mean … you know, thanks.
(Laughs and pats his wallet sitting on the desk behind him)
Well, VHS, then DVD, then the boxed set on DVD. Then Blu-ray.
What were the other two?
Terminator 2 and the first Superman.
That’s so (expletive)-ing badass.
Where did you get your inspiration for your version of Perry White?
Ed Bradley (60 Minutes). I knew Ed Bradley a little bit and I’d see him down in New Orleans at Jazz Fest a lot. So I’ve seen him outside of work. You know, his lighter side. And he was tough. So I thought “That’s the cat.”
Any inspiration from any previous actors who played him?
Well, I loved the guy on the George Reeves show. I don’t know his name.
I loved that whole “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” thing. That was hilarious. And people keep asking me “How come Perry doesn’t know that Clark is Superman?” Since it’s just a pair of glasses. And I figure “He’s the boss.” And like Sean Connery says in The Untouchables, “If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell the boss.” He’s not supposed to know.
My podcast cohost and I like to play with the idea that Perry does know. I mean in every version he knows the secret. But he’s just old school and thinks what Clark does outside of work isn’t his business so he never lets on.
And that’s a very good argument too. I could say “Of course he knows.” And why would he say anything about that? He’s gotta protect Lois. Lois is his favorite child, and star reporter. And if it makes her happy…
Maybe something to think about for the next one?
I mean you don’t have to take anything from me. Just keep doing your thing.
No no no. I like that a lot.
Now I want to get into something that might be a little sensitive. There was a little bit of backlash when you were cast for Man of Steel.
Was there? I never heard anything about it. I’m not active in social media at all. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t Tweet. I do have a website because I have a friend who’s been with me most of my life. And he said I should have one. So I do have one, but I don’t really pay any attention to it. My public and work life is for media. My personal life and social life is not. I’m just not comfortable with that. So I don’t spend any time out there wondering what people are saying about me.
Well in this case it was about certain people having an issue with Perry White being played by someone who … isn’t white. I wrote this piece for Movies.com at that time about how the one person whose opinion should matter on the subject should be … Perry White. And I gave references from the comics and other Superman stories.
That is soooo awesome. Excellent! (Laughs and puts up his hand for a high five).
And that was at around the same time that Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics had just killed off Spider-Man and were going to replace him with a kid who was half black, half Latino.
I mean, Spider-Man had J. Jonah Jameson in the Daily Bugle in New York, right. And he had a second in command guy named Robbie Robertson, who was black. So it wasn’t like that couldn’t happen in the comic book world, right? And when I heard that Spider-man was going to be a black kid or Hispanic I thought “That’s makes sense! In New York?”
Did you have any background in your mind at all for your version of Perry White? As in how he came up in the world of journalism to become editor in chief at a major metropolitan newspaper.
You know, I didn’t for this character. I just don’t think he’s going to be that involved that he needs a back story. I do that for some or most of my characters, but didn’t think I needed to this time. But then again … it’s easy enough to invent. (Laughs)
In this movie it seems like you have a lot more screen time than you did in the first one, but with less action and Metropolis falling down around you. How did that work out as far as actual days spent filming?
For days actually filming, there weren’t that many for me. They were very clever about how they interspersed me through the movie. So it feels like I’m in the movie a lot, when in fact I’m here and there and peppered throughout the film and it’s nice. But it was really just a couple of days in the beginning with Lois, Clark and Perry. And the rest was just me with Lois figuring out how to get her where she needed to go. But the relationships I think were established really well in Man of Steel. And it will be really easy to slip it into whatever comes next. However this Justice League thing evolves.
I don’t even know if you can talk about it, but do you know if you’re going to be in Justice League at all?
I don’t know much. I know as much as everyone else knows. That’s it’s happening. That Dawn of Justice means there’s going to be a Justice League movie. I know that. (Laughing) I don’t know who’s going to be in it, but I know there’s gonna be one. And I can’t wait to see it.
Do you still read comics?
I read comics occasionally now. I don’t really have a lot of time to do that. But every once in a while I’ll pick something up.
Do you have any favorite Superman stories?
You know, I don’t. But just to be real honest, this story, this movie is what I want out of my superheroes. I got lucky enough to be in a movie in the late 90s called The Matrix.
I agree. I like that. And it’s funny because that was when everyone was waiting for Star Wars to come out and this looked like something cool to hold us over. And it was better than anything we would have thought.
And that was the first movie to really deliver on what comic books promised. And Keanu (Reeves) played Superman, and I played Batman. And Carrie-Anne (Moss) played Wonder Woman. But this movie, to finally see those three characters on screen together, as a fan is something I’ve been waiting to see since I was a kid. Just being a part of this for me is really super special.
I know what you mean. I was lucky enough to get on the Man of Steel set and interview Henry (Cavill) while he was in the suit between shot setups. That was hugely exciting for me.
See! You know what I mean! Really!? Well, I gotta wrap this up and make a phone call. And I just gotta get some pictures of this Batmobile in the big room before they take it down.
It looks really amazing up close and you can get your head in there and see all controls.
Did they put a red batphone in there?
Not that I noticed, but I’ll have to take another look. Also be sure to check out the Kryptonite display. Thanks so much for your time. This meant a lot to me.
Absolutely. It’s been a real pleasure. This was a fun interview. Any time I can geek out a little is fun for me.
Such a great interview! I love that it wasn’t the usual, sound bites and by-the-numbers type but a real conversation. Very cool!
I’ve always liked Laurence Fishburn. A cool, intelligent dude with a lot of charisma and presence.
Is there some way to change the skin of the homepage?
Great actor and interview, but Fishburne was entirely the wrong choice for Perry White. Perry is not black. We have not only a description but pictures of what Perry White is supposed to look like…just because he is white doesn’t mean he should be “corrected” and that his creators didn’t realize how they meant to create him.
That said, Fishburne would have made a good voice for the Martian Manhunter, I thought (if he hadn’t already played the Silver Surfer, maybe).
i saw your point, but in the case of Perry, as a supporter character, how he looks or the color of his skin isn relevant… i preffer a good and compromised actor, than someone who just look like the draw. Lawrence Fishburne gave the character of Perry White a tone of authority, experience and empathy with the enthusiasm of its journalists, younger and risky, guiding Lois to confirm her “crazy theories”, and lands back to earth to Clark of their blind idealism to the harsh reality of the 21st century