Doing Superman Justice

Besides Superman, director Richard Donner's films include the Lethal Weapon series, Scrooged, and The Omen. His TV credits are a list of just about every memorable show made in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, including The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone, Get Smart, The Fugitive, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan's Island, Kojak, and The Six Million Dollar Man. -- J.K.

Why reconstruct Superman rather than just cleaning and repairing it? Well, this is 2001. In 2020 I assume there's going to be a whole different look, sound, and approach, and we will view this present period much as we now view the '70s -- that it was the Dark Ages. Maybe we'll be able to take an old image and digitally rework it into 3-D. Who knows? But if you're going to rerelease a film, why not bring it up to date and make it as contemporary as is humanly possible?

Both the original cut and the new one are yours . . . Yesssssiree, bub.

So why the change of heart? Why make the new cut 8 minutes longer? I was scared stiff when I made that movie. I just wanted to keep cutting down and cutting down, making it as short as I could because I didn't know how it was going to hold. The producers wouldn't allow me to test the film before an audience. They thought Warner Bros. was going to steal the print from them! Ridiculous thing, but that's what they did. Supposedly the only one who had any objectivity was me, and that's stupid because I didn't. Cutting is usually based on the emotion of the moment or the instinct of the moment. The 8 minutes that went back in are things that I was probably oversensitive to. But Superman belongs to everybody.

We had John Williams's music for it all, because everything had been scored apart from two little pieces. We took other sections of John's score that I hadn't used and put them in there, and it seemed to play. Hope to God that he still talks to me after that.

You've got to really go back in time when you're re-editing a film, though. You can't just cut it the way you would today, because that picture was right for its time. We didn't alter the sound mix beyond the original concept. We just made it stronger, better, cleaner. Otherwise, it would be like going back and redrawing the comic books.