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as published on supermanhomepage.com

One-on-One Interview with Producer Ilya Salkind
By Barry M. Freiman

Salkind, 58, conceived of the idea to do a big-budget "Superman" movie, and, along with his late father, Alexander, and childhood friend, Pierre Spengler, co-produced the first three "Superman" movies and "Supergirl", and also produced the television series "Superboy". Without Salkind's germ of an idea, there would never have been a "Superman" movie franchise. Christopher Reeve would likely have continued to evolve as a competent soap opera actor and Broadway staple. There would have been one less "blockbuster" in the triumvirate that helped usher in a new era of film-making that respected and exalted science fiction, fantasy, and adventure stories. And the plethora of big budget comic book movies that have followed would never have been made (not to mention a little project called "Superman Returns").

"The clearest memory I have - this is late [19]73 - is I'm walking [in] Paris and seeing a billboard of Zorro - that film was a French film [of Zorro] and featuring a local French star - I just digested that," Salkind said. So with a costumed hero in mind and ready to produce another film with a big American audience, Salkind suggested "Hey, let's do Superman." The next hurdle involved acquiring the rights to the characters. At the time DC Comics was known as National Periodical Publications, which was owned by Warner Brothers. The contract with WB gave the Salkinds the right to produce "Superman" film and television properties for 2 decades years. Although Warner Brothers owned the rights to the Superman family of characters since they acquired DC, the company had no interest in bringing those characters to life on a movie screen. The live-action "Batman" television show had left a taint on film depictions of comic book super-heroes. Warner "absolutely didn't think it was worth it," Salkind maintained.

In theory the Salkinds had "access to any character that had appeared in a comic book with Superman." This part of the contract was most telling about Warner's own disbelief in the viability of a comic book film property. The Salkinds had access to Superman's supporting cast of good guys such as Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Supergirl, Superboy, and Krypto the Superdog. They also had access to the villains like Luthor, Brainiac, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Beyond the characters typically associated with Superman, however, the contract was so open-ended that Salkind believed it gave them the right to include any character that had appeared in any Superman comic book including team books like Justice League of America and World's Finest. "We could've had Wonder Woman in a Superman movie," Salkind explained. "Same with Batman or Flash. Definitely we could not do Batman on his own, but we could surely [have] put him in [a Superman movie]."

Salkind and his father saw "The Omen" and liked what they saw. "I said the film works on all levels," Salkind remembered. "'The Omen' had it all in terms of energy" so they eventually chose Dick Donner as director.

Meanwhile efforts to cast Superman and alter ego Clark Kent reached a fever pitch. In addition to leading man Newman, the Salkinds considered other established actors like Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds, and Jon Voight. "Neal Diamond wanted to play it," Salkind recounted. So did bodybuilder turned actor turned California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "When I met [Arnold] at the premiere of the first film, he said 'Ahhh I should've been Superman'", Salkind said, adding, "With that accent... not too good." Casting director Lynn Stalmaster introduced Salkind to the late Chris Reeve. Salkind remembered meeting Reeve with Donner in New York about five months before shooting began with Brando. "[Chris] was terrific but was extremely skinny. Six foot four in height, but like a string bean. So we went back. Then we tried more people."

Casting became so desperate that a full screen test was arranged for Salkind's wife's dentist who bore a striking resemblance to S
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