In December 1978 Richard Donner’s Superman hit cinema screens to critical acclaim and more notably success at the box office earning over $300m worldwide. This success, without a doubt, in part due to the great casting of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.
Despite the many incarnations of these two iconic characters many are compelled to cite Donner’s original feature length portrayal as their favourite. At Showmaster’s Film & Comic Con Glasgow we caught up with Margot Kidder, the original and still the best Lois Lane, to discuss the film that made her a global star.
I remember when we were making it I thought it was going to be a flop. A lot of it was arduous and dull. The flying I didn’t think would work either. Nothing prepares anyone for that sudden thing of being world famous, it was such a shock. It wasn’t something I really liked or something I was very good at. I didn’t realise how good the movie was until I seen it at the premier in Washington.
Did you take any props or momentous from the films?
No – we didn’t really do collecting in those days. It wasn’t a thing. My best friend Rosie took a copy of the Daily Planet from the set that had the story “I Spent The Night With Superman by Lois Lane”. So I’ve got in my home in Montana.
You’ve spoke a lot about the brother-sister relationship between yourself and Christopher, so how challenging was it to create that romantic chemistry on-screen?
Well, we didn’t. The magic of movies is such that if you blow somebody up 60ft tall, you can tell several things. You can tell if there’s an energy, sexuality there or if the three or four people have a relationship but not necessarily tell what kind.
What came across was an intimacy that Chris and I did had, because we came from similar backgrounds and he looked like one of my brothers. So the energy we had was one of brother and sister, which was often bickering, that took the place of romantic energy. No one noticed the difference one from the other – it worked. We didn’t have to create a different reality.
Would you say that’s why people always seem to prefer Christopher’s and yours portrayal of those characters?
No, they always go back because that film was better written and directed. They go back to them because they were so much truer to the comic books. Kids learn the morality tale of Jesus in a way; a guy away from his dad, floundering around on Earth and is this purely good person. Superman responds to women by saving them, saves the children and beats up the bad guys, if you will.
In that sense, it’s so much simpler than the later films made it out to be. I think there was a cynical decision on the part of the studios, which are now owned by multi-national conglomerates just like everything else on the planet. So they would make these artistic decisions by non-artists – guys would want to hit the millennial demographic because they literally make up about one quarter of the population.
Probably, my guess is what happened is when they decided to hit the demographic of the millennials in the later films. I think the directors were good, the actors were good but the basic approach wasn’t there.
How badly do you think the recent Superman films suffered due to their portrayal of Lois Lane?
They took one of the best American actresses’ around, Amy Adams, and didn’t give her anything to do! I mean, how stupid is that? They made her what used to be the girlfriend, which kind of ended in the 60s with women’s rights.
Looking back at when Richard Donner was fired from Superman II, what did you learn from that after speaking out?
Well, I had done that in other areas of my life. I think I learned that I felt very confident and strong that I had done the right thing. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I played it a bit more politically or manipulatively. Yeah, I got a lot of flak for it – I basically got penned out of the third movie for starters and lost a lot of money because of it.
You spoke about believing the film would be a flop, so had you already signed onto do more when you were originally cast?
Yes, I had a contract – a very thick one. They weren’t going to risk having a hit with Superman and then not have those same actors in the second because you could then go back and ask for $20m to do the sequel.
Chris and I were the most inexperienced so we got the lowest salaries of anyone. For the second one we renegotiated our contracts because I found out they had things with Chris in Japan holding Pepsi cans in his hand – which I teased him about relentlessly. He then found out they had Taco Bell glasses with my picture on it and we weren’t getting part of the proceeds so we were able to sue the producers.
Chris was too nervous about it all so he turned up to work every day but I said through my lawyers that I wasn’t going to turn up until we renegotiate my contract for it to include part of the merchandising. So they upped both of our salaries.
You’ve been pretty open about the failure of Superman IV – did you get any feeling or a sense from reading the script it wasn’t going to turn out well?
It was not a very good movie. It was funny because at the time I was spending a lot of time campaigning for Nuclear Freeze. It’s something in which the United States would promise, but which of course they wouldn’t in real life, to use nuclear weapons as a defence only.
The theme of it appealed to me but the writing was not good – it didn’t work. Since we done three and it was years later it wasn’t exciting – I didn’t think it was going to be a big hit. I had a good time making it but it didn’t mean the same as the first two.
You were in a couple of episodes of Smallville. How open would you be to appearing in other DC TV shows?
Yeah, sure. Depending on the script or what they wanted me to do. I am 67, I am an old broad now! So I look back at this with much more amusement than I did. I don’t have a career I need to worry about protecting. My life has nothing to do with movies anymore. I live in a little town in Montana and basically do political activism. So I guess it would be fun to fly-in and do a couple of days work.
Showmaster’s Film & Comic Con Glasgow returns next year and for more information click here