Back in 1996, Clerks director, Kevin Smith, had just finished filming his third feature film, Chasing Amy. Smith’s new agent, Phil Raskind, decided to get Smith’s work out there to a wider audience and sent the Chasing Amy script to a bunch of different studios. Though the film was already made, a few of the studios loved the script and were interested in working with Smith. One of those studios were Warner Bros. Smith chose to meet with Warner Bros. mainly because he loved the Batman films that Tim Burton had directed for the studio.
Smith met with Warner executive at the time, Basil Iwanyk. The two discussed Smith potentially writing a future script for the studio. Smith had seen a Sweeney Todd script behind Iwanyk’s desk and asked if he could work on that script, in which Iwanyk told Smith that they were saving that project for Tim Burton. (Burton would eventually make the Sweeney Todd film eleven years later in 2007). Now back to our story; Iwanyk then revealed to Smith that they were working on a sequel to Burton’s Beetlejuice. The working title of the the film was Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. Sounds bad already, doesn’t it? The idea of the film was the everything went tropical. Smith turned down the offer saying that he felt that everything that needed to be said about Beetlejuice had already been said in the first film and that if they wanted to make a sequel, they should just go back to Burton for it.
After these first two ideas didn’t workout for Smith, Iwanyk then mentioned that Warner Bros. was working on a Superman film. Right away, being the comic book lover that he his, Smith asked if he could write the script for the Superman project. Iwanyk said that the chances of Smith writing such a huge film like Superman, was a long shot but Iwanyk let Smith take the script home to give it a read.
Smith read the script and recalled that the script for Superman: Reborn was a dumbed down version of Superman, made for the general audience. He hated the title and suggested to Iwanyk that WB shouldn’t make that film. A couple of months went by and Smith was called back by Warner Bros. to met with some more executives to give his thoughts about the Superman film. He told them how he felt and suggested that he have a crack at writing the script. The executives listened to his suggestions but nothing came of it until a couple months later. After a few meetings with numerous WB executives, they finally decided to give Smith a crack at the Superman script.
Smith then met with producer Jon Peters, where the two discussed ideas for the film. This is were things get really interesting and led to the infamous Peters’ version of Superman. From what Smith recalls, Peters needed to have three things happen (or not happen) in the film. One of the things that Peters didn’t want to see was Superman flying in the film. Umm…what? How would he be Superman without the ability to fly? Peters’ reasoning behind that idea was that flying looked too fake. The second thing Peters didn’t want to see in the film was Superman wearing a suit. Okay, this is just ridiculous. Peters just didn’t like the look of the suit. The third thing that Peters needed to see in the film was a fight scene involving Superman and a huge spider. Smith thought these three things were just absolutely ridiculous but decided to go ahead and try to write a script for Peters’ version of Superman, thinking that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Smith wrote the script with all of Peters’ suggestions and even added his own ideas in the film. Smith’s ideas would make for a very comic book fan-friendly film, which included an enormous amount of DC characters. Characters such as Batman, Black Manta, Metallo, and other Justice League members. He even renamed the film Superman Lives. Ultimately, after a few rewrites of the script, Warner Bros. decided to scrap Smith’s Superman film and the rest is history. Funny enough, here we are on the verge of a Justice League film.
So there you have it for this week’s “Did You Know?” To hear the full story, you can watch Kevin Smith talk about his Superman Lives experience in the bonus features of Jon Schnepp’s The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?