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Interview Today's Date:

Kevin Burns, page two...
Page 1: Talking about his history with Bryan Singer...

Go ahead. Card him.
Kevin Burns: So I was very flattered when a year ago last February, I got a call from Bryan. I'd had lunch with him maybe a couple of weeks before. Of course, my office got all excited. For most people, it's (hushed) "Bryan Singer's calling! Bryan Singer!"

I knew Bryan was about to go to Australia to do Superman Returns. We met at one of his hangouts. He said, "I've just cast the actor that's going to do Superman."

It was so funny because at one point (during the lunch) Bryan was on the phone with Brandon. And I didn't know who Brandon Routh was; I'd never laid eyes on him. Bryan was kind of giddy, talking to him. He put the phone up to my ear while Brandon was talking.

And Bryan was excited, "that's the new Superman!" and he was looking at me like he could have been on the phone with Charlie Chaplin. "That's him! That's the new Superman!"

When he hung up, I said, "Bryan, he's the new Superman because you made him the new Superman." He was excited to be talking to the guy that's going to be Superman, and he'd made it happen!

Derek McCaw: So there's a part of Bryan that's separate, that's still able to tap into that feeling of being a fan…

Kevin Burns: He loves it and he appreciates it. He hasn't lost that childhood love of it. It's one of the things I most respect about him.

He said to me, "I've met with the people from Warner Home Video about how they're going to put my movie out on DVD. They were going to put these kind of very traditional twenty minute behind the scenes documentaries, and I said, 'no, no, no. That's not what I want.' This is Superman. This is big. This is huge. This has to be special."

This is a documentary you're looking for...
He said, "I know Kevin Burns. He's a friend of mine. I just watched the documentary he did on Cleopatra" - which I didn't even know he had seen - and Bryan just went on at that point gushing about the Cleopatra documentary as if it were the best thing he had ever seen. The best film about the making of a film, primarily because he felt that it was so honest and so accurate. And about Empire of Dreams and about Behind the Planet of the Apes.

I honestly had no idea, knowing Bryan as long as I did, that he was such a fan of my stuff. I was truly flattered. And he said "I want you to do the definitive documentary on the history of Superman."

"I want us to do it together. It's very important to me. I would love to work with you, I've always wanted to work with you," and I said "I've always wanted to work with you. I've never forgiven myself for turning down the gig to produce your first feature."

He said, "we need a point of view. If we're going to do this, it has to have a hook, it has to have a point of view."

I said, "it has a point of view."

He looked at me like, "I just told you about this, how could you have a point of view already?"

"The story of Superman is the story of America. He's the ultimate immigrant. He comes from another planet. He's trying to assimilate. It's his dilemma. He can never really become one of us, even though he tries."

Bryan was getting more and more excited. He was building up like a volcano as I was talking to him.

I said, "his story mirrors the story of our country. He was created by two Jewish kids in Cleveland. He was born in the Great Depression. He has kind of bathed in the blood of World War II, where he comes to full power. He becomes a symbol of everything that's right and good about America. In the fifties he becomes institutionalized and almost square and middle-class. Suburbanized with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and everything about the suburbs and the Baby Boom - the George Reeves television show."

"And then George Reeves' suicide tarnishes the character. Between that and Kennedy's assassination, it disillusions those very same baby boomers who, like myself, grew up loving him.'

"Then by the 1970s after Nixon and Watergate and Viet Nam we've become cynical and disillusioned; he becomes a joke. Batman was a joke, Superman was a joke. All of our institutional icons have become a joke."

After all, it was you and me.
"The Christopher Reeve movie did something to rehabilitate it, but to me personally, Christopher Reeve played that movie straight and everyone around him was playing it for laughs. Really, Superman has not had an opportunity to be reborn in my lifetime until 9/11."

"9/11 changed the way we think of heroes and gave us an opportunity to embrace them. In short, it's not only the story of America, it's the story of death and resurrection."

I swear to God, this was my conversation with him.

Bryan just went nuts. "Have you ready my script?"

I said, "no."

"Oh, my god, this is my script. This is my story. I can't believe what you're telling me. It's so perfect for what I'm doing."

I said, "well, it makes sense, Bryan, because it's Superman."

It's who the character is.

I kind of knew this because I'd just done this show for Bravo, Ultimate Superheroes, a countdown show. I had a lot of familiarity with it.

We wrote up a proposal. It was a very easy deal. We agreed to be partners and everything was fifty fifty. We would agree to agree and have mutual control, which was a big deal.

Everyone around Bryan was just shocked that he had such confidence in me and was so willing to share control. God bless him, he's such a control freak. I was somewhat unaware, because I hadn't seen Bryan all that much in recent years. Not for any reason other than our paths had gone in different ways.

I then became aware of a kind of cult of Bryan Singer and the world of Bryan and the entourage of Bryan. So it was fascinating, because they don't know me. I'm not one of the guys he hangs around with.

We have always just had that kind of relationship. Doing this was a total dream. First of all, the folks at Warner Brothers - they were modestly impressed with my credentials, but they were very obliged to let Bryan bring his guy in, meaning me, to do the doc.

DC is very protective of their characters. You've got the control freak in Bryan, and the perfectionist in me. It was just a very big deal. I had to go to New York and meet with DC and I had several meetings with people at Warner and Warner Home Video.

It was obvious that Bryan was the one opening these doors, and Bryan was the one who the studio had a tremendous amount riding on because of his movie. Everyone wanted that movie to succeed.

And also, it was Superman. I would literally sit in a conference room at Warner Home Video, surrounded by a lot of these executives and lawyers - tons of lawyers - and I would stop myself in these meetings where I would hold forth and spin my yarn. The treatment that I just told you, that was really the treatment that we had on paper. These people would sit kind of mesmerized. I would stop and say, "guys, think about it. It's Superman. How fun is this?"

These hard-boiled corporate types would find themselves turning into a ten-year-old again. At the end of the day, everyone was just so buzzed about doing it.

It didn't take long to put a production team together. I brought in my core group of people I love to work with, editors who I love to work with. For producers, I brought in Mark McLaughlin, Stacy Zipfel and also Scott Hartford, Kim Sheerin and Steven Smith, whom I work with all the time.

We also had a kind of dream team of editors, including Dave Comtois, who I worked on with Behind the Planet of the Apes and The Alien Saga. Dave and I went to film school together. We've been best friends for years; I was Best Man at his wedding, I'm godfather to his daughter…and he was also one of the key editors on Empire of Dreams.

So it was great. It was a lot of work. It was very expensive, even though the clips were virtually free. It's just that it was shot on high definition. We did about forty-five interviews with every major character because we knew that this had to be definitive. This had to be the comprehensive story, covering as many of the bases as we could.

Part Three: Seeing Superman Returns

Derek McCaw

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