It might have originally seemed like a dream come true for Superman creatives to get Marlon Brando in the 1978 Superman movie. But this DCU dream could have quickly turned into a Dr Seuss-ian nightmare from the sounds of Brando’s eccentric plans for the superhero movie.
Brando, who was of course one of the most famous actors of his generation and will always be a powerful name in the industry, seemed the perfect choice to play Jor-El, the biological father of Superman in the ’70s action movie.
However, when producer Ilya Salkind, director Richard Donner, and Tom Mankiewicz, who was working on script rewrites, went to meet with the Hollywood legend, they found themselves worrying for the fate of the movie after hearing some of his outlandish ideas.
As the story goes, the three arrived at the home of the star ahead of the shoot to discuss some costume ideas. However, Brando kept the three waiting, building anticipation.
“He made us wait for an hour and of course we’re looking at the front door and a little door opens in the back. So of course we turn around and it’s Marlon Brando,” says Salkind.
But things took a strange turn when Brando suggested that the movie feature a little less…well, him. It was then that he put forward his completely wild idea of having Jor-El appear in the form of a suitcase or a green bagel. (Yes, we had to re-read that, too.)
His pitch was that he portray the character of Jor-El through voiceover form, the idea of which naturally shook Salkind to the core.
“I was really young and I was sweating it out. I said, “My God, this is finished, the movie will not happen…. The man will destroy everything. This is impossible. Jor-El will be a bagel.””
Luckily, director Richard Donner held steady on the matter.
“Dick hit me on the leg and I saw he was calm as hell,” Salkind continues. “Marlon after this long rambling, he just looks straight at Donner and he says “Don’t you think it’ll be great, Dick?” And Donner said “Marlon, I think that people want to see Marlon Brando playing Jor-El. They don’t want to see a green bagel.” So that was it. There was never another problem with Marlon – he even gave [the production] a free day.”
Good thing he did, too. We’ve been witness to some pretty offbeat visuals in superhero movies (MODOK, anyone?), but a talking green bagel might just have ended the genre before it even took off. Even if it would have been Marlon Brando voicing it.