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Interview Today's Date:

Kevin Burns, page four...
part 1, part 2, part 3

Oh yes. I'm jealous.
Derek McCaw: Have you seen a cut of Superman Returns?

Kevin Burns: Oh, yeah.

Derek McCaw: What do you think?

Kevin Burns: I have to say I saw an early cut. It was about twenty minutes longer than what everybody's going to see, nearly three hours. And I loved it.

When I saw it, it was very early. I've since seen pieces of it in more finished stages. I've seen the effects shots emerge and evolve.

It was very funny, because when I saw it - and I'm not…it would be very easy for me to say, it was fabulous. But the word I would use, which I didn't expect, was "emotional." It was extremely emotional.

Not that it doesn't have action, because it does. Not that it doesn't have a great story, because it does. But I have to say the single greatest find was Brandon Routh. If you don't believe that kid, then there's no movie.

It's astounding how quickly you buy him in that character. It's not just because he reminds you of Christopher Reeve, which he does. He looks like a blend of Christopher Reeve and Tom Cruise.

This is a generalization, but Christopher Reeve was just so g**damned perfect looking. You know, those Anglican features with the thin lips and tiny nose, big jaw and piercing blue eyes. Chris Reeve looked like Superman. He looked like he stepped out of an artist's drawing. He didn't look human, especially when he was bulked up.

He was Superman playing Clark Kent. Brandon is Clark Kent playing Superman.

That's just my impression. I'm not saying it was conscious, or that it was Bryan's intention or that that's Brandon's interpretation. It's just that Brandon, to me, especially when you meet him, he is Clark Kent. He's an Iowa farm guy.

He's a nice kid. He's like six four. He's a good-looking kid, with kind of a swimmer's body. He's kind of gangly. But he's well-built. He doesn't have the big physique that Chris Reeve put on, that "Body by David Prowse."

It's not that kind of an imposing strength. What it is, it's this quiet moral center that I think Brandon possesses, and Bryan saw in him. So when you see him as Clark, you totally buy him as Clark.

You realize that Superman is this persona that Clark Kent affects to fit in. It's who he is, that's his birthright, but there is this conflict.

It's awkward to talk about it this way, but I was so impressed that Brandon had this kind of quiet strength. He just exuded this kind of a goodness in the part. It's not a big "acting" role; he doesn't say big speeches. He speaks with kind of a halting, quiet - almost a Jimmy Stewart - kind of a quality.

Of course, when he's Superman, you expect him to do all the great Superman things, like fly and be strong and be certain and zoom.

This is not why Kevin is impressed.
I just like the picture.
I had never seen an episode of Smallville. I had never given two instances of thought to Smallville, then I started the doc. I then started working with the material, interviewing Millar and Gough and of course Annette O'Toole, who I thought was a doll.

After looking at some of it, I thought "this looks good. So I bought the first season on DVD. I couldn't. Stop. Watching.

And I bought the second season, and the third season and the fourth season. It's fabulous.

I loved it, and I tell you, it raises the bar a lot. It has actually been in some ways somewhat of a guidepost for Bryan, though not intimidating, because it is so good. I will say that fans of Smallville will be reassured because there's a lot of harmony there, to the extent that Tom Welling plays this kind of good soul who becomes the superhero.

It's so compatible with the way that Bryan and Brandon interpret the role, because you really like Clark. When I say emotional, I mean you ache for his relationship with Lois. It will break your heart. You know how badly he wants her, and in effect he can never have her.

He aches to have a family, and he's an orphan. He aches to belong, somewhere, and he can't.

That was kind of the thread that came through in all the interviews that we did. Ultimately, no matter how invincible or strong, impenetrable or impervious Superman is, his weakness is not just kryptonite. It's his loneliness. Ultimately, he's emotionally very vulnerable.

Derek McCaw: Did you talk to Nicolas Cage at all?

Kevin Burns: No.

Derek McCaw: Did you want to?

Kevin Burns: We tried to, yeah, but he wouldn't do it. I think part of it is "what good could come of this? I didn't get the role, so I'm not going to talk about it."

Derek McCaw: So what do you have?

Truly best friends forever.
Kevin Burns: We have (rare) stuff like the Christopher Reeve screen test and the George Reeves Kellogg's commercial.

Frankly, interviewing Jack Larsen and Noell Neill was great. First, Noell came in and we interviewed her, and then Jack came in and the two of them started doing schtick together, and it was very charming. So I said, "why don't we do your interviews together?"

I had Noell sit next to Jack, and we did three interviews. One with her, one with the two of them and one with just him. We got three very different kinds of interviews. The two of them together were just cute as a button. You could tell there was such a tremendous affection there.

But then when I got Jack by himself, you could tell, and I think everybody felt this way, he really opened up about George Reeves, in a way that I don't think he ever had before. It's not in the documentary. About going to the house afterward with Toni Mannix, seeing the blood-soaked sheets in the bathtub that the police had left there. Crossing the yellow tape and the whole thing; it was just really riveting.

One thing he does say in the documentary, "I heard George had committed suicide; I believed it then; I believe it now."

No talk of conspiracies, no irony, no attempt to conceal. It was just, you know. Basically, this was sitting here with a guy that knew him. When he heard it, he wasn't shocked. He saw it coming. Then he proceeded to describe the decline and the alcoholism. The break-up of his relationship with Toni Mannix and what an unhappy man he was, deep down.

Derek McCaw: Did you do anything with the upcoming Ben Affleck movie, Hollywoodland?

Kevin Burns: No, we didn't. It just didn't come up. At the end of the day, this was a guide for a lot of our choices - there's so much story.

There's two basic kinds of documentaries like this. One's where you go wide and one's where you go deep. I have to tell you, I generally prefer the deep ones. Where you take one movie and really go into it, like we did with The Alien Saga, like we did with Behind the Planet of the Apes, like we did with Star Wars, like we did with Cleopatra. More like we did with Marilyn: The Last Days, which Bryan also became obsessed with.

I like it when you go deep. Superman's tough, because it's a seventy year saga. It's wide. On one level, it's a survey show. And that was the strongest challenge to do the documentary, keeping it emotional. Again, there's that word, but I didn't want to turn it into a chronicle of "…and then they did, and then they did, and then they did…"

Derek McCaw: We talked about this before, and you mentioned that people who'd seen it had complained, "how could you leave out this," or "how could you leave out that…" Was there any one thing that you wished you could have talked about but there just wasn't time?

Kevin Burns: I would say yes, throughout. George Reeves would have been a great story. Chris Reeve would have been a great story.

Derek McCaw: They're all worth their own.

The man of steel.
Kevin Burns: They're all touched upon. That's how we kept it emotional. In other words, part of the through line is that Superman is such a Rorschach test. He's a reflection of who we are as a country and who we are as a people.

When George Reeves dies, it's a very emotional moment in the doc, understandably. But then I had Billy Mumy and Mark Hamill talk about it. I had Gene Simmons talk about it. And not just because they're (who they are), but because they were the fans of the TV show in the fifties.

Billy Mumy has this picture of himself as a three year old, wearing a Superman costume. It is just adorable. He said it was his favorite show, that and Zorro. Those were the two things he was crazy about as a kid.

It's so great. When they talk about George Reeves' death, it really hits you. They're the kids whose faith was shattered.

Later, when Christopher Reeve (died), who you see in his screen test…you see this incredible, perfect-looking guy. I interviewed his mother. That was incredible, to go to Princeton, New Jersey to this tiny little house, very very unpretentious. Here's this quiet, saintly little woman, who in a sense had just buried her son.

She has three other sons. Chris had a full brother and two step-brothers. But to go into the house and see the family pictures… There's Christopher Reeve on the mantle. And she's making us little sandwiches and serving us cookies. It was just incredible.

Here she is. She's patrician. She looked like something out of a Katherine Hepburn movie. And she was trying so hard not to cry. The very last thing she said, at the end of our time, was "Chris was my Superman."

We were bawling. Of course, the moment in our show, there's great emotion within the story. That's what we were trying to convey.

It's been a lot of work. Getting this done, and doing The Girls Next Door and executive producing Poseidon and trying to get a new version of The Time Tunnel off the ground…

The men of steel.
Derek McCaw: I'm sure we'll be talking about that in the future.

Kevin Burns: Wait! I think I can finally come back around to your question, what surprised me the most.

Interviewing all those involved, it's was surprising how Superman has touched the lives of these people in an extraordinary way. Dick Donner, Illya Salkind - when they talk about their connection to Superman, they glow. They glow. They're kids. It's exciting.

The power that character has. The good humor of the character, the integrity of the character, the goodness of the character. The people that have been associated with Superman have been proud to be.

Even in its most inane musical form.

Look! Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman will be available Tuesday, June 20 at outlets everywhere. However, shoppers at Best Buy will have the exclusive option of a two-disc set which features an extended interview with Bryan Singer and several other extras not available elsewhere... for now.

Derek McCaw

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