The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? CS I: Krypton
Sfilm that never was, due to be directed by Tim Burton, produced by Jon Peters, and starring Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel – might have redefined Superman for a generation. It might have been a turkey. We’ll never know as production was cancelled three weeks before cameras were due to start rolling. Now Jon Schnepp, director of the Metalocalypse cartoon, has turned movie archaeologist with his documentary The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened?
Schnepp funded his cinematic excavations through a Kickstarter campaign and set about tracking down people who had worked on the project, including production designer Rick Heinrichs and costume designer Colleen Atwood, all the while aiming for the big names. “I thought I would be able to make the film in eight months, which was highly stupid of me,” he says. “This is just not possible with documentaries. The first year was mainly interviews with just a few artists who had worked peripherally on the production. It was very hard to get in contact with Tim Burton, with Kevin Smith [ who wrote the first draft of the screenplay], it was particularly hard to get
sci- fact! in contact with Jon Peters, any of the main, big people. You just can’t cold- call them.”
Finally one of Burton’s team replied, saying the director was interested, but very busy for several months. How long could Schnepp wait? “I said, I can wait forever,” says Schnepp, whose persistence was rewarded with both an interview and access to Burton’s archive of production art. “It was like opening the door to the Raiders Of The Lost Ark tomb,” he says. “Just an incredible array of artwork that no one has ever seen. It’s beautiful and eye- opening and transformative. That’s when I felt, ‘ Wow, I really have a film here that will be worth seeing.’”
While Nicolas Cage declined an interview, Schnepp now had access to 45 minutes of test footage featuring Cage trying out different costumes. “It was the most incredible fly- on- the- wall experience because you’re there in 1997 and 1998 while they are talking about making Superman,” says Schnepp. “We have him in the film talking about Superman as Superman and as Clark Kent. To me it was the holy grail of footage.” The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? comes to VOD on 9 July.
Rdebut in Deliverance as the nice guy who duelled with a banjo- plucking local. Some 15 years later he bagged the role of one of the ’ 80s great villains as RoboCop’s evil corporate monster Dick Jones, the Senior President of OCP who was unceremoniously fired – then obliterated – at the end of the film. “Hollywood had typecast me as a boy scout kind of guy,” he tells Red Alert, “so when I got to play Dick Jones it all of a sudden opened up whole new systems for me – I much prefer playing bad guys!” Cox later reunited with RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven on Total Recall, and now tours extensively as a musician ( see www. ronnycox. com for info and videos). He will soon be seen opposite Michael Douglas in Beyond The Reach, released on 31 July.
I f Dick Jones hadn’t died, would you have wanted to return to the role?
It was funny. When they were going to make RoboCop 2, the producers called me up. I don’t know how serious they were, but they said, “Ronny, we’re going to make RoboCop 2.” I said, “Yeah, I died.” They said, “They put RoboCop back together, how would you feel about playing RoboVillain?” So they were thinking about reconstituting Dick Jones and having him be robotic too.
I s there anything you wish was real i n
RoboCop? It’s a cautionary tale for us all. You look around at how militarised our police forces are and how this corporate world is running everything – I think it presages the future pretty darn well.
Did you get any souvenirs from the set?
Actually I did. The scene at the end when they shoot Dick Jones and he goes out of the window, they actually set up this incredible shot and it ended up not working. They made a little dummy of me, an absolute replica with the three- piece grey suit. It looked exactly like me. It was only about I think 18 or 20 inches high, and they built the building that scale. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but they gave the dummy to me. It was kind of freaky to have a little Ronny – I have a maid and she wouldn’t even go in the room where I kept it because she thought it was haunted!
What would i t say on Dick Jones’ gravestone?
“I was right!”