Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
Plot: Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, young Clark discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor, while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane
Initially, Gene Hackman refused to cut off his mustache to play Lex Luthor. In early one-sheets of the movie, his face is featured with a mustache. Before director Richard Donner and Hackman met face-to-face, Donner proposed to Hackman that if he would cut his mustache, Donner would cut his too, and Hackman agreed. It turned out later that Donner did not have a mustache at all. He wore a false moustache that he peeled off at the last moment.
To obtain the musculature to convincingly play Superman, Christopher Reeve underwent a bodybuilding regime supervised by David Prowse, the man who played Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
According to Roger Moore's autobiography, he witnessed Christopher Reeve walking through the canteen at Pinewood Studios in full Superman costume, oblivious to the swooning female admirers he left in his wake. When he did the same thing dressed as Clark Kent, no one paid any attention.
Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and James Caan were all offered the movie's title role. All three turned it down: Redford wanted too much money, Eastwood said he was too busy, and Caan said, "There's no way I'm getting into that silly suit."
Marlon Brando refused to memorize most of his lines in advance. In the scene where he puts infant Kal-El into the escape pod, he was actually reading his lines from the diaper of the baby. He told the director that the only way to keep his performance fresh and not over rehearsed was to record the first time he read the lines.
Marlon Brando sued the Salkinds and Warner Brothers for $50 million because he felt cheated out of the film's considerable box office profits. This is the main reason why footage of Brando does not appear in Superman II (1980).
Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million plus a percentage of the profits for twelve days of shooting. The payment also covered the sequel, which was shot at the same time. Brando did not appear in the sequel because he'd sued Ilya Salkind, claiming Salkind had not paid him his percentage of the profits. He ultimately received about $14 million for ten minutes of screen time. The footage shot for the sequel was used in Superman Returns (2006). Marlon Brando's salary made him the highest-paid movie star in the world at the time.c
Clark Kent and Superman's hair part on opposite sides.
Richard Donner was not asked to return to complete Superman II (1980) because he'd publicly criticized the Salkinds. Margot Kidder, who had openly supported Donner, found her role as Lois Lane reduced to a cameo in Superman III (1983).
Gene Hackman flatly refused to shave his head or wear a "bald cap" to play Lex Luthor. To get around this issue, Hackman's own natural hair was styled differently from scene to scene to give the appearance of him having changed hairpieces. Numerous hairpieces are visible in his underground complex. Hackman relented and wore a skullcap in one scene, when he is taken to prison by Superman. It is visible when he angrily rips off his hairpiece to address the prison's warden, who questions who he is.
Casting director Lynn Stalmaster was the first to suggest Christopher Reeve for the title role, but director Richard Donner and the Salkinds felt he was too young and too skinny. Nevertheless, Reeve did an excellent screen test that blew the director and producers away. Once he had the part, he underwent a strict physical training session for months, going from 170 pounds to 212 in the period from pre-production to filming.
It was Marlon Brando's idea to have Jor-El wear the same "S" symbol on his clothes that Kal-El would later wear as Superman.
The Superman "S" logo that Marlon Brando wears on his white cloak looks the same as the one used for George Reeves' costume in the TV show Adventures of Superman (1952); this was probably an homage. Since this film, the idea of the "S" symbol being a Kryptonian family crest of the House of El has been incorporated into Superman's comic books and subsequent adaptations.
Dustin Hoffman turned down the part of Lex Luthor.
After the success of Rocky (1976), Sylvester Stallone lobbied hard to play Clark Kent/Superman, but he was ultimately turned down (he was deemed "too Italian"). Stallone found out that Marlon Brando, who had casting approval, turned him down for the role. Stallone subsequently went on Merv Griffin's talk show and denounced Brando, saying he had no respect for the superstar as an actor or as a man. This surprised many, as the early Stallone had clearly modeled himself after Brando, particularly Brando's characterization of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)
The movie's original ending had Superman saving California, restructuring the San Andreas fault and then throwing the second missile into space, which cracked the Phantom Zone and released the three super-villains. Superman turning the world around was originally conceived as the ending of Superman II (1980) to make Lois forget Superman's secret identity.
Christopher Reeve was actually a qualified hang glider pilot, which is why he was such a natural when it came to the flying scenes.
Lois Lane's parents, Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn played Lois Lane and Superman in Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). They appear when a child (Lois Lane) sees Clark Kent running extremely fast from a train window.