This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences held a commemorative event in Los Angeles to celebrate's Richard Donner's decades-long contribution to the entertainment industry.
While the director may be best known for classics like The Omen, Lethal Weapon and The Goonies, he was also in charge of the jumping-off point for our modern superhero film era, known as #SupermanTheMovie. Through it, #RichardDonner stripped away superheroes' still image and made people look at comic book characters as the awe-inspiring individuals they were supposed to be.
As the result of that, many years later we have the #MCU and #DCEU; the former is the most profitable franchise of all time, and the latter recently found its footing with Wonder Woman. Interestingly enough, their two champions, Kevin Feige and Geoff Johns, got their start in the industry by both working as assistants for Richard Donner.
Despite the rivalry fans often try to create between #Marvel and #DC, Feige and Johns proved once again there's no such thing when they took to the stage together during this week's ceremony to honor their mentor. Here's what they had to say about him:
Using Richard Donner As An Inspiration For The MCU –– Kevin Feige
#KevinFeige revealed something we've never heard before: Richard Donner's Superman has served as a template not only for movies like Spider-Man, X-Men or The Hulk, but also for almost every MCU origin stories:
"The films Dick made inspired me to even wanted me to go down that track. And of course in particular, 'Superman The Movie.' [It's] still to this day, the archetype of the perfect superhero film origin story and we watch it before we make almost any one of our films and that's been the case for the past 17 years."
Feige also brought up Donner's motto: Verisimilitude. The director stood by that word throughout the entire production of Superman to make sure they would honor the character and treat him with the respect he deserved. As the producer stated, that same motto is used for every MCU film:
"Dick has a very good vocabulary, and there was a word that I was never able to pronounce but I always understood, which was 'verisimilitude.' And he used that word while making 'Superman 1' [...] It basically means be truthful, honor the source material, believe in it, take it seriously. And that is what we strive to do and Jon Favreau on the very first Marvel Studios production copied that and put it above his doorway."
He Said 'I Have To Save Superman' –– Geoff Johns
#GeoffJohns recalled enjoying going through a storage room of Donner's in order to learn as much from the director as possible. One fateful day, Johns found the first Superman script sent to Donner, written by David and Leslie Newman:
"When I worked for Dick [...] he had this giant bathroom at Warner Bros. and it was basically just storage for him. He just threw all sorts of things, and I was like this creepy guy going through his trash and I found this Superman script that was like 300 pages and I pulled it out and went, 'Dick, what is this?' and he said 'Oh, that's the first script from Superman that they sent me.' I couldn't believe it."
Johns revealed he read the script alongside Kevin Feige and both were amazed by the film's extremely goofy content. That outrageous approach though, was what encouraged Donner to take on the project, as he was determined to give Superman the respect he deserved:
"Kevin and I looked at it, and they had a scene in it where Superman's looking for Lex Luthor and he flew down, and it's a bald guy and he turns around, it's Teddy Savalas and he's like 'Who loves you, baby?' [...] Dick said... he's told this story a lot, how the Salkinds called him and said, 'we're gonna give you a million dollars to direct this movie [...] He said 'Give me a million dollars but then I got this script and it was so terrible,' he said 'I have to save Superman.'"
Richard Donner played a large role in getting #Superman made. Aside from directing, he also took a chance on Christopher Reeve, and was the person adamant to make the Man of Steel's flying look realistic, to give audiences a true experience of what it would be like if the superhero lived in our world.
However despite those efforts to bring the utmost quality to the production, Donner was treated horribly while making Superman: The Movie. After a long period of mistreatment –– and what felt like harassment at times –– he was ultimately replaced with Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers) right before completing #SupermanII.
But Donner had the courage to endure all of that in order to deliver an incredible piece of entertainment that to this day is regarded as one of the best comic book movies ever made. And considering its almost 40-year-existence, that's an impressive achievement. Seeing all of that, I'm beyond happy to know he was honored by his former mentees, who are now as successful as he is, thanks in part to the path he laid out all those years ago.
What did you think about Geoff Johns and Kevin Feige's tribute to Richard Donner? What's your favorite film directed by him? Let me know in the comments!