Revisited – The Mystery of the Uncredited Baby Kal-El

Nicholas BretonIn January 2017 the Superman Homepage received an email from Nicholas Breton claiming, “I was the original baby in ‘Superman: The Movie’! For some reason it’s been recorded down as a girl playing that part, this is not the case.”

In fact, two children are connected with the role of baby Kal-El as seen in the early scenes on Krypton in the 1978 movie. Elizabeth Sweetman, the girl mentioned above, and a baby boy named Lee Quigley.

It’s a common practice for filmmakers to use two child actors for the same part (usually twins), as a child actor can legally only work for a limited time, while movie shoots tend to go much longer than a single child actor is allowed to be on the set.

The scenes in question are early in “Superman: The Movie” when Jor-El (played by Marlon Brando) and Lara (played by Susannah York) place their baby in the crystal escape pod before the planet Krypton is destroyed.

Lee Quigley is listed in the cast credits. IMDB.com credits him as playing Baby Kal-El. However their Trivia page for the film also states: “The first baby who played Kal-El in the flight sequence of the escape capsule was Elizabeth Sweetman. The filming took place at Pinewood in October 1978 when Sweetman was six months old. She earned £40 per day for four days work, netting a grand total of £120 after agency fee deductions.”

The date in this piece of “trivia” have been called in to question. The film was released in December 1978… While they were pushing the release deadline, filming a scene like that 2 months before the film’s release seems extremely unlikely. However, it is in fact true.

Marlon Brando was only on set for 12 days in March 1977, those scenes were indeed filmed with Lee Quigley. However, close up head shots of baby Kal-El in the capsule were not filmed until October 1978.

Mrs. Pauline Sweetman, the mother of Elizabeth, who was present at the filming, confirmed with the Superman Homepage that her daughter was indeed used as baby Kal-El during the filming that took place at Pinewood in October 1978 by sending us the call sheets (pictured right) for filming on Tuesday, October 17 and Thursday, October 19 in 1978. She wrote, “The sequence using Elizabeth was the close up head shot of the baby in the capsule, during the flight. Lee Quigley was already a toddler but he refused to lie down on the plate glass to be filmed, so he was left out of the sequence.”

Pauline Sweetman adds, “It was great fun being there when they did the filming of the interior of the capsule, and quite scary with the enormously heavy camera on a chain suspended over my baby!”

Lee Quigley was born August 13, 1976 in Eastbourne, London. It’s reported that he was seven months old at the time of filming, but the fact is he would have been 2 years old at the time of the filming indicated in the call sheets above. (This movie was Lee’s first and only acting job. Lee passed away in 1991 aged just 14 after inhaling solvents). So Quigley is definitely the child being held by Brando and York in the scenes filmed in March 1977 (when he would have been seventh months old).

In his January 2017 email to the Superman Homepage Nicholas Breton explained, “Only just recently has my mother found the photos from my audition in London. Beforehand I had no proof. I was born in September 1976 in London.”

This puts Nicholas as a similar age to Lee Quigley, and therefore too old to have filmed the part in October 1978, which we now know for a fact did have “a girl playing that part”.

Studying the photo Nicholas supplied to the Superman Homepage showing him in the arms of his mother apparently on set in London’s Pinewood Studios (is that the Salkinds and Donner in the background?), it’s hard to simply dismiss his claims when considering the visual similarities. While his hair appears to be lighter and the eye shape not necessarily the same, there’s a striking match when comparing the shape of his ears and nose to that of baby Kal-El in the movie stills and footage.

Pauline Sweetman, who was there in October 1978, says, “I have no knowledge of whether [Nicholas Breton] was used in 1977 when Lee Quigley was filmed with Brando. They might have had him on the set in case Quigley played up. He certainly wasn’t around in October 1978.”

While it’s not unheard of for actors to go uncredited, even adult actors. It’s hard to know if Nicholas’ claims are true or not. He may have been there in March 1977, but his objection to history having noted Elizabeth Sweetman as playing the part are unfounded.

Steve Younis

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Photos in the slideshow courtesy of CapedWonder.com and Superman1978.com

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