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April 04, 2015

WonderCon 2015: ‘Superman’ talk fondly remembers the Donner films

Posted in: Movies

There’s no particular anniversary to celebrate, but the cast of Richard Donner’s “Superman” and “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” was introduced to loud applause as the group sat down to reminisce on the second full day of Anaheim’s WonderCon.

Moderated by Jim Bowers, founder of CapedWonder Superman Imagery, and Jay Towers, morning news anchor for WJBK-Fox 2 News Detroit, the room was filled to capacity to see a star-studded group that included Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Diane Sherry, Marc McClure, Jack O’Halloran, Aaron Smolinski and Ilya Salkind.

Memories were the order of the day:  Many of those moments shared, whether on-screen, behind the scenes or off-set, humanized a cast that at the time was thought of as superhuman.

Top of mind for Kidder, who played Lois Lane, and O’Halloran, who played Kryptonian thug Non, was the flying. Specifically, how uncomfortable and seemingly dangerous it felt.

“It was painful. Those harnesses would make your pelvic area so sore,” said Kidder. “And they had you in these costumes and suspended in the air. … It was very difficult to just use the bathroom.”

“I remember that, Margot,” said O’Halloran. “I remember we were suspended up in the air 70 feet with nothing but concrete below us, and Richard was like ‘Oh. No.’ Next thing, we had some mats down there. We also had these metal bars that held us, and we were assured they wouldn’t break. So I broke one and the guy said, ‘Well, that’s no good.'”

Not all breaks were bad.

“We broke the mold with technology with ‘Superman.’ That’s why it’s still as good today as it was back [in 1978],” said O’Halloran.

The cast also reflected on working with Donner himself, with each person asked to recount a moment with the director.

For Kidder, it was that not only was he “an amazing director, but he was an amazing man.” O’Halloran marveled that the director let him interpret Non in a more “childlike manner to relate to the kids.”

McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen, remembered meeting Donner on his houseboat in Marina del Rey. They talked about boats the whole time, and as he left, the director asked McClure if he knew anything about Jimmy Olsen. McClure said “Well, golly, Mr. Kent,” and three months later, after not speaking with Donner much, he got the part.

Sherry, who played Lana Lang, recalled that he was “very meticulous.” Smolinski, who was Clark Kent as a child, said that he actually remembered the director being “very fatherly. And if you’ve ever tried to get a naked three-year old to do anything, you know that it takes patience.”

Valerie Perrine, who played Eve Teschmacher, remembered “the Winnebago.” Instead of renting a car to take her to the set, Donner rented a Winnebago “because it was just more fun.”

Along the way, Perrine said that Donner would sometimes stop and get out among the trees. After much prodding from moderators, it was revealed that the director would say that he was “[having sex with] nature.”

The crowd was then treated to a video from Donner himself, who thanked the panelists and WonderCon for keeping the film alive. During his speech, he also acknowledged Christopher Reeve, saying that they all still miss him.

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Attendees photograph a cosplayer dressed as Wonder Woman during WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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Cosplayers walk through the crowds during WonderCon in Anaheim. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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A cosplayer walks to WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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A crowd gathers to photograph cosplayer Wolverine during WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center, (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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A cosplayer dressed as Capt. Kirk pushes a baby carriage through the crowd during WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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A cosplayer dressed as the Hulk walks through the crowd during WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention center. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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Chloe Miller of Valencia waits in line at WonderCon 2015 in Anaheim. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Cosplayers gather their registration materials while entering the Anaheim Convention Center on the first day of WonderCon 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Carter Stednitz, 8, as Star-Lord from "Guardians of the Galaxy" at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Elizabeth Pinchevsky as Raven from the comic book and TV series "Teen Titans" at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

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Larry Munoz as Dark Link in the action game "The Legend of Zelda." (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Harley Wettemann as the Joker at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

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Paul Forest, a.k.a. Spock Vegas, at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

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Chelsea Caracoza as Seras Victoria in the manga and anime series "Hellsing." (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Jeremy Fisher as "Ren & Stimpy's" Powdered Toast Man at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Azul Weldon as Briska from the web comic "Homestuck" at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Valentin Figueroa as comic book character Ghost Rider at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

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Katt McLaren as Majin Vegeta from "Dragon Ball Z" at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Jeff Sutter in steampunk wear at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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A life-size replica of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is held aloft by Huston Huddleston of the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum at WonderCon Anaheim 2015. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

McClure and Kidder may have worked most closely with the late Reeve. McClure remembered how, as a talkative guy, he was asked by Reeve to stay in character as Olsen as much as possible. McClure called him “one of the best teachers I ever had.”

And Kidder relayed an off-set story about how the two loved to ice skate together. In London, the duo would go to an ice skating rink where, according to Kidder, “the British were horrible ice skaters.” So she and Reeve would skate around the rink as fast as possible and see how many people they could knock down without physically touching them.

A few other tidbits:

– O’Halloran told a story about how Marlon Brando thought the cast and crew should get a day off. Producers said they couldn’t since it was $350,000 a day to film the movie. Brando said he’d pay for it.

– Perrine recalled a scene in which her character rescues Superman as he’s drowning. She was “terrified,” she said, because she “can’t swim. I can only baby-paddle a little.”

– McClure said that “Jackie Cooper was a cool cat. He looked like a little rascal all the way to the end.”

— Jevon Phillips | @storiz@LATHeroComplex

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