illustration by John Ueland
Jeff Jensen
April 08, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

TRUE OR FALSE: After establishing his superhero franchise skills with the first two X-Men films, making Superman Returns was, like, super-duper easy for director Bryan Singer.

A: ”False!” declares Singer, who burst on the scene in 1995 with the neo-noir thriller The Usual Suspects. For all his expertise, the young auteur says Superman’s five-month-plus F/X-intensive shoot in Australia — mostly on the same Fox Studios soundstages where George Lucas filmed his last two Star Wars prequels — taxed his filmmaking superpowers to the max. ”It wasn’t Apocalypse Now or anything,” says Singer. ”And it’s not that there weren’t moments that were gratifying and fun, but to shoot for that long, so far away from home, was an exhausting experience.” In fact, at one point, Singer suspended shooting for three weeks to clear his head. ”I went back to Los Angeles, edited, and in general took a step back and looked at everything objectively. Next time, we’ll definitely plan for a hiatus in the schedule, because it certainly proved beneficial here.” Brandon Routh, the Iowa-native newcomer who fills out Superman’s blue-and-red skivvies, agrees: ”There came a point where it was hard to know if we had shot too much, or not enough. Especially the flying scenes, because they involve so many little pieces; you don’t really know if you got everything you need until you put them all together. So I was happy that Bryan was able to take some time to figure out what he needed to complete his vision.”

MULTIPLE CHOICE: Which of the following super-powers did Superman not originally possess, according to the 1939 comic book Superman #1?
A. Superspeed
B. Superstrength
C. Supertough skin
D. The whole flying thing

A: D, ”the whole flying thing,” says Routh. And he’s right! Originally, Superman’s superstrong legs allowed him to leap tall buildings in a single bound — but no flying. ”Which is weird,” says Routh, ”because when you think Superman, you think ‘flying.’ That’s, like, his thing.” Routh admits that being airborne for the film ”was often an awesome experience when it wasn’t totally uncomfortable because of the harness. But I was always aware, ‘This is cool.”’

In the 1978 film Superman, what were the first words Superman said to Lois Lane?

A: After Lois (Margot Kidder) tumbles out of a helicopter that itself is tumbling off the roof of the Daily Planet building, Superman catches her and says, ”Easy, miss. I’ve got you.” Alas, pop culture’s newest Man of Steel was stumped by this question…until his girlfriend, actress Courtney Ford, came to the rescue with the answer. In fact, over the phone, we even heard her shout Lois’ rejoinder: ”You’ve got me?! Who’s got you?” (”She was a Superman fan even before I got the part,” says Routh.) In Superman Returns, that classic moment is echoed in an early scene in which Lois (Kate Bosworth) finds herself aboard a malfunctioning airplane, and the hero once again saves the intrepid reporter from plummeting to her death. However, the relationship between Superman/Clark and Lois is much more complex this time around. ”In the film, Superman/Clark is returning to the world — and Lois’ life — after a mysterious absence of several years,” explains Routh. ”Lois has moved on. She has a child. She’s in a relationship. So when Superman reenters her life, they both have to grapple with the fact that things have changed.”

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