At 90 years old, Richard Donner is gearing up to direct the fifth movie in the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. “It’s both my privilege and duty to put it to bed. It’s exciting, actually,” the director recently told The Telegraph in a career-spanning profile in which he looks ahead to his next film and reflects on his magnum opus, 1978’s “Superman.” The Warner Bros. release popularized the Hollywood comic book film and set a standard for superheroes on film that inspired the likes of Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, and more.
When asked about today’s onslaught of comic book movies, Donner said it’s staggering to see the film genre he helped introduce to the masses become the dominant form of theatrical entertainment. “When you see it done right, by my standards, it’s so fulfilling,” Donner said. “I’m very happy and proud when I see them. When it’s done wrong, it’s such a disappointment.”
Donner said he’s a fan of comic book films like Jenkins’ 2017 “Wonder Woman,” which he said “had the same feeling of emotion” as his 1978 “Superman.” Donner’s film was defined by its idealism and optimistic heroism, a far cry from the brooding nature and gritty atmosphere that came to define superhero movies in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy and DC movies directed by Zack Snyder.
“There are so many people that make superheroes so cynical, it’s depressing,” Donner said. “When they’re dark and bleak and angry with themselves and the world, I don’t find it entertaining. I think there’s enough reality going on for that. We just got over four years of that. I think we crave the opposite.”
When asked about Martin Scorsese’s viral comments about Marvel movies feeling like “theme parks,” Donner quipped, “Well, I’d like to be able to make one of those theme park rides!” The director added more seriously: “The problem is, a lot of times, we see in our industry that when the technical lens becomes readily available, it’s totally misused. But at the same time, every once in a while you really see quite a wonderful story with one of these films.”
As for Snyder, Donner shares somewhat of a connection to the “Justice League” director due to the production of “Superman II.” Donner was fired from directing the “Superman” sequel well into production and replaced by Richard Lester, who reshot a lot of what Donner had planned for the movie. The events recall Snyder exiting “Justice League” and the film being reshaped by Joss Whedon. Donner got the chance to reinstate his “Superman II” footage for a 2006 director’s cut, and now Snyder is getting to do the same with HBO Max’s “Justice League” director’s cut. Donner said he has no idea who Snyder is, but thinks “it’s wonderful” he’s getting the chance finish his cut.
Head over to The Telegraph’s website to read Donner’s latest profile in its entirety.