Richard Donner
Richard Donner
Birth Name Richard Donald Schwartzberg
Birth Date 24 April, 1930
Location New York City, New York, USA
Directed Superman
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Richard Donner is an American film director and film producer.


In 1978, Donner directed the film Superman, starring the then-unknown Christopher Reeve. The film became a hit worldwide, projecting both Reeve and Donner to international fame. It succeeded at the box office, grossing $134 million.

Superman and the sequel Superman II had been originally planned as two-parts of the same film, to be released in close proximity with each other. Both were originally based on an epic singular screenplay by Mario Puzo, that was later split into two parts. In anticipation of releasing them as two-parts of the one epic-length film, Donner shot principal photography for both films at the same time.

Donner approached the story material with the explicit philosophical goal of verisimilitude, a believable ambiance to the fantasy of a powerful superhero appearing in the contemporary world. However, the original ending for the first part where Superman flies from accident to disaster was deemed to be missing a certain something by the film's independent financiers Ilya Salkind and his father Alexander Salkind. The scripted time reversal ending of Superman II was taken to pad out and fulfill Superman once the film had been identified as a priority with a view to piece together an alternative end to the second film later. The idea of releasing Superman II in close proximity to Superman was then scrapped, and further, the 'to be continued' ending of Superman was also disguarded.

After the first film's successful release in December 1978, Donner was offered the director's role a second time, but demanded that producer Pierre Spengler be removed from the project. Rather than give in to this demand, the Salkinds replaced him with director Richard Lester, who worked with them on The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers and as an uncredited producer on Superman. The decision to remove him from the film series, made by the Salkinds, has been widely viewed as a huge mistake on the Salkinds' part, as the subsequent Superman films helmed by their preferred director Richard Lester, though still breaking the $100 million mark for domestic USA alone, were perceived as being of poorer quality and quickly resulted in a downward spiral in popularity for the series.

A no-flexibility attitude from both Marlon Brando and Donner saw both removed from the series until 2006 when Donner's definitive (or at least, as close to definitive as possible) version of the movie, simply titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on November 28, 2006 on the same date as the DVD release of the summer hit, Superman Returns. The footage includes never-before-seen footage of Brando, a new opening, a new ending and approximately 83% of Donner footage. Some Richard Lester footage was used to fill in the gaps caused by Donner's never completing principal photography for the sequel before his removal. Some entirely new pickup shots, involving lookalikes/Standins, and also general crowd shots of Metropolis, were filmed to fill gaps, particularly in the time reversal sequence towards the end. These important shots are often filmed in most Hollywood productions by a second unit, or after the main production is over and the actors are no longer required, but this had naturally not originally occurred for this film as Donner needed it to. Michael Thau, the editor of the Richard Donner cut also made some minor use of CGI. However, he did not create CGI villains in order to complete the "villains rule the world scene" which was in the original script, but was never shot by Donner.

Post SupermanEdit

Donner went on to direct The Goonies, the Lethal Weapon series, Scrooged and Ladyhawke – which both have enjoyed large cult followings. In the case of Superman, it was Donner who insisted the subject of the comic book superhero should be treated "straight" rather than "camp", an approach that strongly influenced later genre directors such as Tim Burton (Batman, Batman Returns), Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2, Superman Returns), and Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), who have made successful superhero films of their own. The influence of Superman can, to this day, be seen in superhero films outside the Superman storyline, and even outside the DC Comics universe. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man film is debatably one of the strongest examples of that influence. In the early 1980s, Donner proposed to Warner Bros. a non-camp film version of Batman, to star Mel Gibson.