Superman Director Recalls Getting Death Threats When Film First Came Out

Superhero movie fans being vocal, aggressive, and often threatening violence against filmmakers they don't like has become somewhat de rigeur since the genre took over as one of the most dominant forces in modern blockbusters -- but apparently this is nothing new. During a new interview, 90-year-old filmmaker Richard Donner revealed that the Christian iconography in Superman: The Movie earned him death threats from evangelical Christian viewers, with the filmmaker still able to quote one of the letters back to an interviewer more than 40 years later. Probably a good thing these particular viewers never got around to seeing Man of Steel.

"They threatened my life," Donner told The Telegraph. "One woman wrote a letter saying how dare I compare Brando to God and Christopher Reeve to Jesus. She said my blood would run in the streets. I guess you make a good movie, somebody takes it as a reality."

The article quotes Donner as explaining how screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz was called in to punch up The Godfather writer Mario Puzo's draft, saying that he viewed the first pass as being campy and disrespectful to the character. He brought James Bond veteran Mankiewicz in to help out, and lured him in by wearing a Superman costume when Mankiewicz came over to talk about it.

"The whole thing was to save an image of what I thought Superman should be, and what he meant to me as a kid, what I respected in the character’s creators, and what I hoped the public, especially the kids, would latch onto,” Donner said. "It seems stupid to say I wanted to save Superman, but from the direction it was going before Tom and I got on, I think we did to a degree save it."

Given the backstory of Superman II: The Donner Cut, which got a DVD release in 2006, The Telegraph asked Donner to weigh in on Snyder's dilemma. Donner, now 90 and the elder statesman of superhero cinema, isn't familiar with the specifics of the situation, but on principle supports the Snyder Cut.

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Donner says in a new interview that it's "wonderful" that Snyder will have the opportunity to see his vision for Justice League through.

Donner's Superman movies, along with the Wonder Woman movies he pretty clearly influenced, can be seen on HBO Max now. In the coming months, Donner plans on getting into production for a fifth and final Lethal Weapon film, bringing back members of the original cast.