With it common practice these days of seeing “Director’s Cut” versions of previously released films, it seems now that a director’s job is never finished, with numerous filmmakers going back to tinker with past projects, whether it be adding whole new scenes and effects like George Lucas did with his original Star Wars Trilogy or Francis Ford Coppola changing his mind and restoring entire sequences to Apocalypse Now.
Directors going back to get closer to their vision is one thing, but what if the director never saw his vision at all? This is the case with Superman II, a film on which Richard Donner had shot 75% of the film before being fired by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and replaced by “A Hard Day’s Night” director Richard Lester. The dispute between Donner and the Salkind’s is rather complicated and can be read here, but basically revolves around Marlon Brando asking for 11.75% of the grosses to appear in the sequel. Donner’s version of the film required a 15 minute scene with Brando. He insisted on having creative control and complained in public about the Salkinds, who coldly responded with a telegram to Donner that said, ‘Your services are no longer needed.’
This November director Richard Donner finally gets the film he wanted as a new cut of “Superman II” is being released on DVD. The film has numerous changes, including a new beginning and ending, 15 minutes of new scenes, and even some newly shot footage with a double for Christopher Reeve. The DVD will be part of a box set (trailer here) that also features the original Richard Lester “Superman II.” This must be a first, in which there are two significantly different versions of a film by different directors.