Peter Jackson is going to split The Hobbit into two movies and shoot them back-to-back. He famously employed the same time consuming, money saving method for all three Lord of the Rings films. The Wachowskis were so confident in their narrative flow that they shot Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions the same way. How much do you want to bet that James Cameron’s going to do the same with Avatar II and III? In the '70s, producers Ilya and Alex Salkind wanted Superman and Superman II to be shot back-to-back. The first movie went well, but eventually, when Richard Donner started cutting Superman II, something went terribly wrong.
Donner had a very particular vision for the Superman movies. He saw The Man of Steel as an American myth and wanted to grate the icon against the depressed America of the day. After the first film played so well, Warner Bros. wanted to protect its investment and started to worry about what it was that Donner was doing. Ultimately, they pulled the legendary director and hired Richard Lester of A Hard Day’s Night fame before Gene Hackman walked. Lester re-shot what he could and ended up using 75% of what Donner filmed. Superman kissed away Lois Lane’s memory and the rest is history.
Until four years ago, when Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released.
If you want some insight into what editing means, how studios think, what the personality of a director can do for a movie or just want a lesson in storytelling, I strongly suggest you watch both the original and the Donner cut of Superman II. It’s fascinating.
I’ll give you one example of the differences between the two movies.
In the Lester cut, Lois Lane’s suspicions that Clark Kent is Superman (spoiler!) come approximately 40 minutes into the film, during the Niagara Falls chapter when she cleans Clark’s glasses. That gets her convinced enough to jump into a river to make him turn into Superman. He gets out of that, but later in their hotel room he accidentally drops his glasses in the fire, fishes them out, and when Lois discovers he doesn’t have any burns on his hands, he gives himself up.
In the Donner cut, meanwhile, Lois suspects Clark from the very beginning, and it’s her mission to reveal who he is. Fifteen minutes in, she jumps out of a skyscraper to force Clark out into the open. Once they get to Niagara, she’s got him convinced that she’s given up – until that night in the hotel when she pulls a gun and shoots him.
That’s just one of the features of the Donner cut: The lines of the emotional narratives are longer and cleaner. It’s difficult to imagine the Lois Lane that Donner and Margot Kidder created being so foolish as to not notice the similarities between Clark Kent and Superman, and in his cut we don’t have to think about it. He addresses it from the get-go.
Another bonus is much more footage from Marlon Brando. In order to prevent having to pay Brando more money, the studio made it clear that no footage of him was to appear in Superman II. The Donner cut brings that Brando footage back and the conversation between Kal-El and his father brings a great deal more clarity to his decision to lose his powers.
Any student of Hollywood would do well to watch both versions. It’s an object lesson in the power of editing and personality in film. Don’t pass it up.
Tom Mankiewicz, who helped Richard Donner make the world believe that a man could fly in 1978's Superman, has died, reports WENN. He was 68.
Though far from a household name, fans of science fiction and action films are very familiar with Mankiewicz work, which included some of the biggest films of the 1970s. His first credited screenplay, the surfer-beach-drama The Sweet Ride, failed to catch on with audiences who were already growing tired of the Beach Party genre, but James Bond producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli saw a playful tone in his dialogue that he wanted to bring to his flagship franchise and hired him to pen the adaptation of Diamonds Are Forever. This partnership continued with the next two Bond films, Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.
Mankiewicz was in demand following his tenure with 007 and his status as a screenwriter capable of both witty dialogue and epic action led to a hatrick of his screenplays being produced in 1976, including the comedy Mother, Jugs and Speed (which he later adapted as a TV movie), the thriller The Cassandra Crossing and the all-star action adventure film The Eagle Has Landed with Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Rober Duvall. All of this impressive work would be overshadowed by his next project, the ambitious adaptation of the seminal superhero Superman. Mankiewicz was hired as a "creative consultant" by Alex and Ilya Salkind, producers of the film, and though his dialogue material ultimately went uncredited, all parties involved with the production have later stated that he was a major force in realizing The Man Of Steel for the big screen.
After the monstrous Superman production, Mankiewicz was again back to work as a screenwriter, this time on Superman director Richard Donner's adventure film Ladyhawke. He'd finally get the chance to direct in 1987 with the big screen transfer of Dragnet, which starred Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks and became a big hit, leading to another directing gig on 1991's John Candy comedy Delirious. Additionally, as Warner Bros. treasured script doctor, Mankiewicz polished more pages of dialogue than you can possibly imagine, including the screenplays for films like Gremlins, War Games and even Tim Burton's landmark Batman.
The prolific wordsmith also left his mark on the small screen as a writer, director and creative consultant with the classic adventure series Hart to Hart. The beloved program gave him his first crack at directing and he stayed on as a consultant throughout it's run. He also had a few directing credits in the 90s, including an episode of Tales From The Crypt and telefilm Taking the Heat.
With a storied career like this, it's easy to overlook the fact that Mankiewicz was, in fact, a second generation filmmaker, following in his father's and uncle's footsteps. His father, Joseph L Mankiewicz, the Oscar-winning writer and director of the 1950 film All About Eve, was one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his era while uncle Herman J Mankiewicz co-wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles - not too shabby for one Hollywood family.
Mankiewicz passed away at his home in Los Angeles after battling cancer. He underwent the Whipple operation, which is used to treat pancreatic cancer, three months ago. The cause of the death was not immediately known. He is survived by a large family that includes Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz.
Source: WENN, The Auteurs, Real Bollywood