Filmmaker breathes new life into failed 'Superman' project - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


Filmmaker breathes new life into failed 'Superman' project

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Superman returns to theaters this summer after a seven-year absence from the big screen, and while early looks at "Man of Steel" show promise, fans of the DC Comics hero have been burned before.

Once the star of Hollywood's superhero scene, the character's popularity dwindled in the late 80s following the dreadful "Superman IV" and the emergence of Tim Burton's brooding "Batman."

Superman wouldn't be seen again on the big screen until the poorly-received "Superman Returns" in 2006.

During the nearly 20-year gap, the franchise was marred by a series of aborted takeoffs that piqued the interest of fans but were canceled in pre-production.

The most famous of these misfires was 1998's ill-fated "Superman Lives."

The would-be blockbuster had Burton back at the helm of a superhero film, working from a screenplay by Wesley Strick (a Kevin Smith version was famously scrapped by the director), and starred Nicolas Cage as Superman, with Tim Allen as the villain, Brainiac.

It collapsed before cameras began rolling, but elements of the two screenplays have become the stuff of urban legend:

Polar bears guarding the Fortress of Solitude? Superman fighting a giant spider? A robotic outfit for a de-powered Man of Steel?

What remains of the abandoned production – storyboards, costume concepts and script notes of two screenplays – is now in the hands of Jon Schnepp.

The Los Angeles-based filmmaker, whose credits include "Metalocalypse" and "The Venture Bros.," is hoping to tell the tale of the strangest Superman story never made.

His documentary, "The Death of Superman Lives," is being funded through Kickstarter, and will get the green light if Schnepp can make his $98,000 goal by March 10.

FOX5 caught up Schnepp this week – with his project was about 80 percent funded -- and asked him about his vision, the final stretch, and how crowd-funding could be the future of filmmaking:

FOX5: What motivated you to launch this project?

"I've been obsessed with [‘Superman Lives'] and I've been collecting all the images and I have all these folders at home and at work. I really would like to find out as much as possible because the project really interests me."

"I come from this perspective that, ‘Look, 15 years ago I would have been able to watch this bizarre version of Superman that would have been a lot more fun than a lot of the Superman movies that have been made in the past. It would have destroyed ‘Superman 3' and ‘Superman 4' easily.'"

"To me, making the documentary and finding out as much as I can about the ‘Superman Lives' project -- where everybody's heads were at when they were writing the script, how they would have executed these ideas, where everybody was at when it was in production – is what I want to find out."

"I think it would have been a very fun and entertaining film."

FOX5: What remains of "Superman Lives?"

"A lot of production artwork and design work went into this movie, right down to them actually building sets, getting the costumes actually made and people being cast. Over the last 15 years little bits of artwork and production design would slowly leak online and more artists who had worked on it would just release their art on Facebook or just publish it in a fanzine site."

"One of the cool things about starting this is a lot of people have come forth with an amazing archive of things that are, simply, just not legal to have. I probably will not be able to include them in the documentary to be honest with you."

FOX5: What was the reaction to your idea and why do you think fans still carry a torch for this project?

"The Internet kind of exploded over the idea. I was really shocked at how many websites covered it and how many people invested in it and how many letters I got from all these different people from all around the world who also had a similar interest."

"I think the reason why is because it was different. The overwhelming feeling about this project is – though it was strange and weird -- it was creative. It wasn't more of Lex Luthor plotting to buy land."

FOX5: Have you had contact with any of the key players?

"I'm right around the corner from talking with Kevin Smith and hopefully Nicolas Cage next week. I did meet up with Wesley Strick and we talked a little bit, and he's totally down with being in the film. I'll be having a lot of different people who are very familiar with Superman, like [writer] Grant Morrison, because the documentary is also about the character and the idea of making superhero films based on comic books."

FOX5: This week the first Kickstarter-funded project won an Oscar. What kind of impact can crowd-funding websites have on the filmmaking industry?

"I think a really good impact. It's allowing true creativity to be funneled through crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding. You're communicating directly with the people who are going to enjoy what you want to make, and they're going to pay you to make what you want to make because you're making it for them. It's a great thing for me and I really enjoy it because it's freeing, and I'm able to be as creative as I want to be without any kind of restraints."

If Schnepp can meet his fundraising goal, fans should expect to see "The Death of Superman Lives" on Blu-Ray in the fall.

His Kickstarter page can be found here.

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