Writer Adam Howard contacted me last month to discuss the 40th anniversary of “Superman: The Movie” for an article he was writing. That article is now online at Playboy.com.
The film’s producers – Pierre Spengler with Alexander and Ilya Salkind – hedged their bets by casting two of the biggest stars of the era: Marlon Brando (for an infamous estimated $3 million-plus) and Gene Hackman to fill the smaller but pivotal roles of Superman’s father Jor-El and the villain Lex Luthor, respectively, in what was already a big-budget studio extravaganza.
This move proved groundbreaking and highly influential, paving the way for other unlikely A-list actors like Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and Christian Bale (just to name a few) to lend their credibility to a genre that could be dismissed as child’s play. “I think initially having Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman attached to the movie brought a sense of size to the movie – nobody knew Christopher Reeve much at the time, so for many people, he was Superman,” Steve Younis, editor-in-chief of the Superman Homepage, tells Playboy. “It’s Christopher Reeve that’s kept people coming back to watch the film.”