Credit: Superman Returns: David James

Bryan Singer likes to remember the movie Superman as he was — and even then, not quite all of him. Like most good Americans, he was no big fan of the Richard Pryor funny buddy of Superman III, or the nuke-hating activist of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. No, for Singer, the Superman franchise stopped with Superman II in 1981. And actually, in his book you don’t get more super than Christopher Reeve’s first Superman, which, along with Jaws, inspired Singer to become a filmmaker. The helmer even used Richard Donner’s 1978 film as his bible while shooting the first X-Men. ”It informed my entire approach to superhero movies,” says Singer.

During a 2004 vacation in Hawaii with X2 writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, Singer caught wind that Warner Bros. was searching for a director to restart the franchise, following the departure of McG from the project (reportedly, ironically due in part to McG’s fear of flying). Singer and the scribes quickly generated an outline. Their Big Idea? Treat the first two Reeve movies as canon and preserve the Superman of cultural myth. ”We wanted to explore the idea of Superman’s relevancy to the world, but we felt you did that not by changing Superman but everything around him,” says Harris.

Soon after returning from Hawaii, Singer was pitching to Warner Bros. president Alan Horn. Two months later, he was in Australia, prepping to shoot. The plot of the $180 million-plus film is still secret, but here are the basics: Returning to Earth after five years in space, Superman/Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) finds that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is a single mother and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is — surprise! — up to no good. But here’s a spoiler from Superman’s widowed mom, Martha Kent. ”I have a boyfriend,” says screen legend Eva Marie Saint. ”They probably don’t want me to say that, but to heck with ’em!” Nobody messes with Superman’s mom.

Superman Returns
  • Movie
  • 157 minutes