It’s not often that a relatively unknown actor is called upon to star in one of the biggest movies ever made. It’s even rarer that they play the role of a 70 year old cultural icon, but that’s exactly what Brandon Routh (pronounced like ‘mouth’) is doing in Superman Returns. The 27-year-old former soap opera star plays Clark Kent, Kal-El, and Superman himself in the summer blockbuster. Routh’s greenness was apparent as he faced a horde of internet writers in Sydney last year. But like Clark Kent transforming into Superman, his confidence grew as the hour long discussion progressed and by the end we all believed what Bryan Singer already knew – Brandon Routh is a great Superman.
Q: I think Christopher Reeve stated that his inspiration for playing Clark Kent was Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby”, and I was wondering how much you were looking at Christopher Reeve’s performance?
Brandon Routh: I mean obviously it’s influenced by Chris’ performance because we’re somewhat using that as a vague reference. So it has to somewhat follow that character a little bit. And beyond that it’s within the writing. It’s within Clark’s relationship to Superman. It is “What is Clark to Superman?” What purpose does Clark serve for Kal-El and for Superman? And that ranges depending on the situation. But he’s always a bit of a spy, he’s the guy that can find out information. He finds out information about himself through how Lois feels about Superman. He’s always there. He’s the fly on the wall. So there’s that. It’s the way Superman gets to relate to everyone. How Kal-El gets to relate to the public. Clark is Superman. I mean he gets to be humorous and fun. And I think almost sometimes that is not just a disguise, but it is fun for him because Clark isn’t just completely made up I don’t think. It’s part of him. Just as Clark is part of me and Superman is part of me, you can’t be Clark without having that be a real part of you. So I think he enjoys that part of it as well. And I’ve heard how Bryan describes Clark and Superman. Sometimes it’s a spitting-image of Chris and sometimes it’s my own thing. And it’s hard for me to judge that, so I do my own thing. And also Clark is a character, that kind of character, something I’ve done before, whether it be in acting class or plays in high school, and just myself… getting into those situations and being nervous about things. So it’s all of that mixed together I think really.
Q: Does Bryan let you see the dailies, see your footage?
Routh: Yeah, I can watch whatever I wanna watch. Yeah. And that’s very helpful with the Superman stuff, with flying. Because a lot of it’s, “Okay, what am I really doing here?” because in the setups I’m not really flying, I mean I’m not even hanging from wires in some of it. I’m standing on a box or doing other strange things so it’s hard to wrap my head around it, because I might be standing this way, but I’m actually flying this way. So to wrap my head around how that actually looks it’s a must to watch the playback and see all that. And the Clark stuff is kind of fun to watch to see how others are reacting, what I’m doing, because sometimes I’m so into the character I don’t know what I’m… there’s faces on that Comic Con trailer that I don’t remember making. [laughs]
Q: Can you talk about going from an unknown to this potentially life-changing role? I mean Christopher Reeve did it and it completely transformed his life. And you’re in the shadow of Christopher Reeve and you’re taking on an iconic character and reviving him… I mean all these things, are these a factor for you? Or do you try screening them out? How does it work?
Routh: Well obviously they’re a factor, and all things I’ve thought of. I don’t let myself get bogged down by any of it. The process was very smooth for me and it kind of took a long time to happen. Several stages of, “Am I gonna get this?”, “Am I really gonna get this?”, “Wow, I think I’m gonna get this”, “I’m gonna get this”. So I had a while to become okay with it. To think about it a lot. It’s a big deal not only to be Superman, but to follow Christopher. It’s a high priority for me to do him justice and do Superman justice as well, and not to step on his feet. I mean there’s no way that I could have. But it’s a huge deal. I guess this role has been in my life ever since I moved out to Los Angeles really. Where my first manager mentioned that I looked a lot like Christopher Reeve and that’s one reason why he wanted to work with me. So he always said, “If there’s a Superman movie, you’re going to get it”. And that was six years ago now, I guess. I’m no longer with him.
Q: Before that didn’t anyone tell you that you looked like Christopher Reeve?
Routh: No. No one mentioned it until him. So, it’s been in the books for a long time because of that. And then when “Smallville” was auditioning I auditioned for that. I got a call back. Was really excited about that. And it didn’t happen and I was kind of like, “Well there goes that! There’s no way they’re gonna do Superman again!” But of course it’s been in the works before I even went out there, with [Nic] Cage and all that in the beginning. And I moved to New York right when “Smallville” was happening, that’s when I booked “One Life to Live”. So I was in New York at the height of promotions for “Smallville”, and Tom [Welling] was everywhere. [Laughs] And at that time I was like [pulls a face] [Laughter], but now it’s great and I’ve since, even after that, started watching the show.
Q: Have you met him [Tom Welling]?
Routh: I have not met Tom yet, but I eagerly await…
Q: To compare notes?
Routh: Well, you know I’m sure he has a lot of interesting stories and can help me out with a lot of stuff too as far as he’s been Clark a lot longer than I have and been in that universe more than I have.
Q: Do you wake up in a cold sweat sometimes and think “Oh my God what have I got myself into?”
Routh: I haven’t yet. No. I haven’t…
Q: Thanks for mentioning it! [laughter]
Routh: I’m not blocking it out, but I’m not fretting over the possibilities, because there are endless possibilities, and I know my life is gonna change. It changes every day. I mean this [indicates to the room full of reporters] is not something that I normally do. You know? But it has in the last couple of months. But yeah, there are a lot of changes and I’m gonna deal with them as they happen.
Q: We’ve heard Bryan Singer’s version of how you met. Let’s hear your version of it.
Routh: Well it was a long day. It was a Friday and I was having a migraine headache in bed. I didn’t have to work. At 10am or something my agent called and I didn’t want to answer the phone because I had a headache. She kept calling and calling. So I answered the phone… she said, the message said, “Bryan Singer wants to meet with you.” I was shocked and thinking, “Finally!” because I’d done several things in the process before that and kept thinking it was never gonna happen. So I called back and said, “I have a migraine. Can we move it any other time? And other day?” And she said, “No he’s leaving for Australia to do a scout.” And I said, “Well I guess I better have the meeting then, migraine or no.” Thankfully the meeting kept getting pushed back, pushed back, and we finally met around five o’clock or something at the Coffee Bean on Sunset. I waited for him, I was there early, I think I was reading “Atlas Shrugged”. He got there, we ordered coffee. He was a little bit nervous and I was a little bit nervous. We just started talking about my experience so far, and the film, and how he got on board, how he’d wanted to do it before and timing just wasn’t right and everything. We just talked for a good hour and a half about the film and so on and so forth. Then he got a call from Kevin’s [Spacey] agent actually and he told me about the conversation. He was open and forward about the character. And then we left and he said, “Would you mind coming in and reading? Doing some more stuff?” And I was like, “Yeah. Of course.” He went off to Australia. I had a really good feeling from that. Really, really good feeling. And as he said, he was pretty much sure from that meeting too. So it was pretty much what he said.
Q: What’s more difficult for you? Clark Kent or Superman?
Routh: Superman. I think a lot of people coming in said Clark Kent was… when they were doing auditioning Clark was more difficult for people to do than Superman. I am a lot like Clark. I’m becoming a lot like Superman as the process continues and I become more confident in myself. But Clark was always… close. Because I’d done other characters, like I say, like that. It’s comedy, which is something I love to do. You can completely step out of yourself and just become a different person, but it’s not a different person, because it’s part of me as well. But Clark was always a lot of fun. Superman carries a lot more weight. He’s got a lot more stuff going on in a sense… saving the world and all. Then you get into stature and how you move. There are many more things involved with Superman. And then you’ve also got Kal-El on the farm, they call him Farm-Clark, but he’s actually Kal-El in my estimation when he’s on the farm with Martha. So that’s a little bit different too. It’s Superman mostly, but he doesn’t have to perform for anybody. You know he can really be himself. He’s not necessarily very happy when he’s on the farm in this movie, but he’s Superman without all the pressure of having to perform when he’s in the public eye, because he can be whoever he wants to be in front of his mom.
Q: Can you talk about your training regime?
Routh: Yeah, I worked out for… I’ve been working out since November (2004) and trained for basically four months before we started filming any Clark stuff. Most of the suit stuff didn’t come till April/May (2005). So by that time I’d had five or six months training. I still train. I’m training tomorrow. The regimen has decreased obviously because I’m not building anymore. And also that’s a challenge too. Once you get to a certain place your body just wants to keep going, so maintaining that and not going further is kind of cool. I mean you get to a certain point and it’s easy to keep going, but also there’s certain restraints you have to keep on. It’s much better [laughs] that I don’t have to work out as much because with 12, 13 and 14 hour days it becomes very arduous.
Q: How many hours do you train?
Routh: Now, it’s about an hour, an hour and fifteen. But it had been two, two and a half, depending on what we were doing.
Q: Kal Penn, when we spoke to him yesterday, was talking to us about your friendship, and the reaction when you both found out you were in the movie together. Can you talk us through your reaction when they told you you’d actually won the part of Superman?
Routh: Well like I say, it was a long process, and I kind of knew three weeks before I actually got the go ahead that there was a 99% chance. I just had to have one more meeting. So I’d had a lot of time to think about it, to be prepared for it. So when it actually happened it was a relatively uneventful phone call. [laughs] Kind of like, the person on the other end, I think was from publicity or something, I’m not even sure who it was now, saying, you know, “Well congratulations you’re,” you know…
Q: You’re Superman!
Routh: Yeah! [laughs] And I go, “Great. Thank you.” And it was more of a big relief to finally have it happen.
Q: Who’d you telephone first?
Routh: I think I probably called my parents, told them.
Q: In Kansas?
Routh: No. [laughs] Close! Iowa. We’re pretty close. We’re neighboring states to Kansas. It was a great relief and I was very happy, ready, eager then to begin the next stage, which was then coming to Australia and beginning filming.
Q: Were you a Superman fan growing up?
Routh: I was. I was growing up. I’ve told this story many times, it’ll probably appear everywhere, but when I was five or six, the first time I was gonna see “Superman”, I was dressed up in Superman pajamas that I had, and a cape, which my mom still has. And I was jumping around the house, jumping on furniture, so excited to finally see the movie. I got so excited that I gave myself a migraine. Migraines have something do with Superman obviously. When I get very excited or something, I do that to myself. And I was so excited that I was basically sick to my stomach for the first half of the movie. Sitting in a daze on the couch watching the movie. I think I got better towards the end. So I was a huge Superman fan when I was younger. And I remember having seen the second film… I’m not sure that, I remember thinking I saw the third and fourth film growing up as a kid, but I don’t think I did until recently. Actually I think I did see the third film, because I remember the junkyard… the bad Superman in the junkyard scene from my youth. But my interest in Science Fiction/Fantasy went more, at that time, into Fantasy, and I started reading Terry Brooks, and then from then on Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, and all these other guys. So I’m very interested in that idea, in that world. But now have come back into more of the Science Fiction.
Q: Any mannerisms that you’ve worked on with Bryan in regards to how you play Superman/Clark Kent?
Routh: No. I mean I play with my glasses all of the time. I play with my glasses now and I did that before. Everybody who wears glasses probably does. The only thing really that we added sometimes were certain times to do… or, I think I kept going like this most of the time [indicates pushing up his glasses with his whole hand], or this most of the time [adjusts them from the right side arm], and we just wanted to have one good one. Sometimes I did this [pushes his glasses up from the bridge with his index finger] but who knows if they were gonna use that take. Sometimes he picked a time when maybe that was gonna work better, that that was more of a scene that he might use that in. Just to make sure we had some of that stuff in there, but other than that…
Q: What about posture?
Routh: For Clark, no. No posture, because I did a lot of those things instinctively. For Superman we talked about things. We also worked with Terry Notary, who’s the movement coach who’s been working with me and we did a lot on posture for that using the Alexander Technique, just spine alignment, taught a lot more I think to ages past of actors rather than my generation of actors I think. But it’s been very helpful in how I carry myself and all of that. And just embodying… and being relaxed in your body, rather than forcing things. It’s not just about puffing out your chest because that looks forced, but just having the right alignment and all these other things that make it happen.
Q: What about voice?
Routh: We worked with voice in the beginning on the screen test. Then we discovered that it wasn’t necessarily just about voice. It’s about intension. When I had clear intentions and knew exactly what I was doing after having read the real script and all that kind of stuff it made that happen naturally rather than forcing it by changing the voice. And the Clark voice just kind of happens because he’s nervous and it’s not a… I think to myself, “Am I doing this on purpose or is this unconscious?” And usually I think it’s pretty much unconscious. Unless it’s not until we go and do voice-over [laughs], that I go, “Okay now I gotta remember how I…” because it’s a different environment to do it in.
Q: I think most people can relate to Clark on some level. What are you doing to make Superman relatable to an audience, to people?
Routh: Very good question. I think what’s interesting about this film, and the script, is when Clark – and I think you’ll see a lot of that at the farm when I’m Kal-El – because… He comes from this journey… He comes back. He’s learned things about the world that have changed. And he’s not found what he went after, and all these things. And he feels alone. And he’s not sure if he wants to use his powers even. It’s at that point that he really tries to connect with the world, with humanity, with his humanity. I mean he’s an alien but he’s human. He lives here. He wants to be part of that world. I think I would. So he uses shovels, he uses human instruments/tools instead of doing things he could do easily on his own, to feel that connection with the world. It’s about his humanity. The whole movie’s about his humanity. He’s only alien because he [came from a different planet], I guess it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not human. I mean I don’t know the science behind that. But he can still be pretty much like us, except he has these other powers of course. But I think the love story is very relatable to everyone. You lose love. You get it back. The journey you take to get the person you love back. Giving up things. Finding the positives in the negatives. All these are human things. I trust that’s evident in the film, in my portrayal. That even though he exudes this confidence, that it doesn’t seem too far away as a possibility for all humanity to be like Superman. I mean I think we are able to obtain close to that level of clarity of mind. He’s very clear in almost all his thoughts. That’s why it’s easy for him to do things. He doesn’t worry over saving things. The one worry that he has is his love of Lois, because it’s something that he doesn’t understand, and it’s hard for him because that’s a very strong emotion, and it’s the first person, the only person he’s every truly loved in that way.
Q: Can you talk about the scenes you’re filming now?
Routh: Well I haven’t really shot any scenes for a while, I’ve actually been doing a lot of flying. I work with Kevin [Spacey]… I think we have our stuff on next week. Monday or Tuesday we start that.
Q: Have you worked with him before?
Routh: I haven’t, no. I’ve haven’t worked with Kal [Penn], I haven’t worked with any of the thugs, or any of that story line yet. The whole last two months have been pretty much all flying for me, and one scene in the Fortress of Solitude. It’s a very lonely last couple of months [laughs]. A lot of green screen. So I eagerly anticipate working with Kevin. We’ve had some run ins at the studio. He’s got this cart that he’s made up, with like a Superman with a circle around it with an X through it. [laughter] Then Kryptonite on the side. And he’s got this [Superman] doll chained to the back, and he drops it off and drags it. And yells on his megaphone, “Superman must die!” [laughter] So, yeah, I definitely feel his presence. [laughter] Definitely feel his presence.
Q: Can you talk about the flying stuff and how difficult that is?
Routh: As for flying, it’s quite an experience. It’s painful sometimes. Long and arduous many times. And there is fun in it, sometimes. You just don’t know what the day brings. The fun stuff is when I’m actually interacting – lifting something or saving something – because then I’ve actually got my hands on something, and I actually can see without having to visualize so much. I still have to visualize the rest of the object because we can only use so much of a piece of set before they CGI the rest of it. It’s gone through many modifications from flying in a body pan to the X-Y-Z rig, as they call it, to standing on a box, to spinning on a gimbal – I don’t know if they call it a gimbal – but a machine that spins you around, to actual wire work when I’m actually moving and flying vertical. That’s the most fun stuff, because I’m actually doing something and there’s that exhilaration of when you reach the top and that weightlessness. And I miss that. We hadn’t done it for like a month, and then we did it one day and I was really psyched because it was nice to be moving and not just standing still.
Q: I was lucky enough to speak with Terence Stamp earlier this year and by this time he’d played to comic book characters, General Zod in “Superman II” and then Stick in “Elektra”. I was surprised to hear that he actually took the comics of all the characters he worked with, and actually tried to fill in the movements, tried to figure out how the character moved in the comics in real life by looking at the comics. I wondered if you had looked at any comics in preparation for this role specifically and if you had maybe done anything similar to that?
Routh: Yeah. Well not as far as the movement thing. That’s very interesting actually. Because I had Chris [Reeve] to look at I think I took a lot of what he did in, and a lot of what was in the script and my own imagination. Because I didn’t want it to be, and nobody wanted it to be, a direct resemblance of Christopher’s performance. Because I don’t think I would have done that justice and I don’t think that’s what anybody wanted to see necessarily anyway. It would have been to eerie. As far as looking at comics, yes, before I actually got the role, many times I was in this place that was in L.A. that was close to my apartment looking at, and feeling kind of sheepish because my picture had already been out once, the first time I tested I think, so I thought if anybody might recognize me it’d be these guys working in comic book stores. So I was always kind of hesitant to even go in. But I did look at a lot of the… there’s so many, five different stories or something going on now… and I realized that Superman was married to Lois. There was “Birthright” I think… I won’t even attempt to be that specific. And I watched the Max Fleischer cartoons that they did in the 40s. My mom had bought some at Wal-Mart or something, I don’t know, for a dollar, and then I got some from somebody else. You know they’re these 10 minutes ones, and they’re pretty much the same scenario, they just change the villain every time. Lois goes and gets in trouble and Clark goes after her, and always says, “This is a job for SUPERMAN!” He changes, and he goes after her. I always find it funny how he’s never surprised that she’s there or where he finds her. You know he opens up the door of the plane not knowing really that she’s in there, unless he has intuition or using his x-ray vision, and then she’s there! He saves her and that’s the end of the story. So all that was interesting. Watching that old stuff to see the evolution of the character. As Clark becomes more subdued and not as boastful. The whole character, I think, mellows. Which I think is good. You know obviously it’s all about America and “Go America” in the 50s. A lot of that stuff is because the war’s going on and we’re selling war bonds and all these things, and Superman did things that maybe [laughs], you know looking back, politically Superman was used for things we wouldn’t agree with now. So I followed the evolution… and how Chris made the character much more real for that time in ’78. And for 25 years it changes a lot how we view, and even the comics change, are more open in the way in which they speak, it became more real as well. But I think what’s great about a film is that the characters can become even more real from the comics obviously because it’s a real person playing him not a photograph. But there’s difference in the language and how the actor can portray the story. I’m not sure if any of this is making sense. [laughs] I’m rambling now.
Q: How about Dean Cain?
Routh: I’d watched “Lois & Clark” and remembered that. As far as remembering his performance. I think I remember his Clark much more… It’s still a ways back, for me anyway, to remember. But that was fun, and that was a TV show, and television never quite matches the reality of… but even then it’s a step up from speech and storytelling, and reality from ’78 to early ’90s, whenever that was.
Q: It was because of that show that the characters in the comics had to get married. They got married on the show and DC scrambled to get them married.
Routh: There you go. It’s neat that we can affect, that we can both affect the universes and that makes for a lot of creative power. It has to always evolve, so one media pushes another media. So that’s cool.
Q: Can you talk to us about the first time you put on the suit?
Routh: It was really pretty great. Aside from just the fact that there’s a lot of people around watching you [laughter] put on this very skin-tight thing. I was in good shape, but I wasn’t in as good a shape as I am in now obviously. It’s very revealing. But instantly there’s a sense of power by putting it on because of how tight it fits. I use this analogy: It’s like working out. When you work out your blood is pumping throughout your body, the size of your veins, the blood pumping is bigger so everything feels more alive. Your skin feels tight. Same thing with the suit, it kind of elevates you to another level. You feel more powerful and confident about your body. Also, which is possibly the best aspect of it, I never once felt strange or goofy or funny or a fool. You know they did such a great job modernizing the suit that I always think of it as stately and graceful and “kingly”. I mean Superman is a king, last son of Krypton, and you feel like that. Especially with the cape. I mean we do a lot of stuff without the cape and I definitely notice when I don’t have the cape or the boots on… all these things. The boots are very important. You know the only thing you can do without, the belt is the only thing you feel you could feel okay without. Because the underwear, of course, you know they’re very helpful [laughs] because otherwise it looks like a blue suit, which feels very strange. But the whole thing together, it’s just extremely powerful and imposing, but not too much. I know it’s imposing because I see some children come to set and sometimes they’re a little bit frightened by the suit and me in the suit. But I don’t think it’s scary.
Q: Do you get to keep one?
Routh: I sure better! I think I’ll probably get one. The funny thing is they’re about this big [indicates a small gap between his hands], when you see them they’re about this big, cause they’re just a big rubber band. I could stick it to the wall. There’s also plenty of body mold of me that I could maybe get, but then I’m thinking, “Do I really want a mold of my body?” and I don’t have a place to put it right now. [laughter]
Q: You were pretty cool as Seth in “One Life to Live”.
Routh: Oh, thank you.
Q: But you got axed kind of early.
Q: And I’ve seen you in some of the small roles on TV. What kind of change of perspective have you had now in regards to life with all the ups and downs that you’ve had?
Routh: Well I’ve definitely learned a lot from the ups and downs. The soap experience is an interesting experience for any actor. I’m sure there are actors that love it. For certain people, and certain actors, at certain stages in their life it’s a very good thing or just a learning process. And everyone kept telling me, “It’s a boot camp for actors”, “It’s a great place to learn”. Because I wasn’t whole-hearted about it when I went. And I was on the show and I learned a lot. I was happy sometimes, but it wasn’t the best time of my life and I was ready to go when I went. I was always upset about the manner in which I was let go, not the fact that I was. But that’s the business and I held on to that and was angry about that for a while. I’ve since let it go because it’s not doing me any good. And then because of it I’m here. With all those let downs or things that I didn’t get, has allowed me to be where I am. So I don’t look down on any of those experiences now, they’re all really amazing, because I’m here. It’s interesting when you get to that level of being on a soap opera, not many people knew me but I did get stopped every once in a while in New York, twice or three times a month, not a big deal, saying, “Aren’t you Seth?” or they might not even know my name but they knew I was on “One Life to Live”. And you’re making a certain income, ah not a lot but pretty good for a 21 year old at the time, I think I was, 22. And then you’re done. And then you got back to L.A. and you think certain things are gonna happen. You think, “Oh I’m gonna keep booking work”, “I’m gonna do this”, “I’m gonna do that”… and a year goes by and you don’t book anything. And maybe there are other reasons for that, not necessarily my talent, but business stuff behind that. So you learn a lot in that, and getting a real job. I worked packing boxes. Three years ago I was working for this very nice guy, this internet company, who were selling stuff on the internet, and I was putting peanuts in boxes and for $8 an hour. And working at this bar outside of L.A., 40 minutes outside of L.A., in this small town. Where there really wasn’t anybody there, and they were regulars… but there were these crazy things, I’m thinking, “Where am I? What’s going on in my life?” You know, “I used to be an actor! I used to be in New York!” You know…
Q: Do you keep in touch with those people at all?
Routh: I did email the guy who I did the boxes, the shipping stuff for.
Q: Do you order peanuts from them now?
Routh: [laughs] No. No. I haven’t been back to the bar, although I’m thinking of stopping in maybe. I don’t know. It’s one of those things…
Q: In the costume?
Routh: Oh, well probably not that. I’ll probably leave that at home pinned to the wall. [laughter]
Q: Were you ever like, “Let me take the costume home and let me see how I look in it myself”? William Goldman wrote that he knew that when Warren Beatty took the costume home that he was gonna come in and say, “I don’t wanna do it” because he was gonna stand there and look at it in the mirror and go, “I just can’t do this”.
Q: That it was just too humiliating. Was there ever a concern of yours? And do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and go, “Oh I’m Superman!” or do you go, “I look, kinda… I’m in a blue suit!”?
Routh: No, I never went towards the negative side. Either because I gave myself over to it and it was fine no matter what it looked like, I’d like to believe. And I think that’s a lot of it. But I think if the suit hadn’t changed at all I would probably be a little bit hesitant. Just because… and that’s an interesting point you bring up because even in ’78 that suit was still not necessarily cool, I mean it was cool because it was Superman, but it wasn’t… it wasn’t… umm…
Q: Warren Beatty cool?
Routh: Yeah! Yeah! I mean I don’t know if Warren Beatty would be comfortable in this suit either. I mean we could have him come and try it on. Umm… But no, I didn’t. I was so… It’s great. It’s… I don’t know what it is. It’s the color. It’s the material, although it’s a similar material. It’s the style. It’s just very powerful and great.
Q: Can you say something about working with Bryan?
Routh: Bryan’s great! What I love about Bryan is that he allows for creativity at all times. It never seems that he pigeonholes himself into “This is how I’m going to shoot the scene. This is what I want you to do. This is how I want everybody to react. This is how it must be and we’re not varying”. He never does that. That can be… and at the beginning that was somewhat confusing and challenging because I was like, I need, I need… cause like I show up and I don’t know what’s going to happen and I want plan this, and I want to plan that, and this is how I’d done the scene, and if we’re not going to do the scene this way then what am I gonna do? I’ve since learned that that’s not always good for an actor. In fact it’s probably never good for an actor, because I need to be open as well, to change and manipulate, and not plan things. Because when you plan things as an actor that’s when it become stale, and that becomes when I don’t listen to the other actor. So he’s really helped in that aspect, and for me to be able to work on the fly and to think outside the box and all these things, and really to be creative. Which is great. He allows me to be creative and put my input back to him about things. Especially with Clark, because that’s like a big open canvas, and so much fun to go in and try things. And “Okay, now try do it a little bit this way”. Or “I like that. Keep that and add bits and we’ll see how it goes”.
Q: Are you allowed to improvise lines?
Routh: Ah, well, not so much improvise. A lot of it’s mood and feelings and stuff that we tweak. There are line changes that happen but if something’s not working, I don’t necessarily say that I improvise lines, I might change a “the” or vernacular slightly. Or ask he and the writers if they’re okay with that. Or he’ll come in and say, “You know what that line…”. We may do it five times, the take five times, and there’s something wrong. Say that… There was one instance in the Kent Farm where I did, I said something he didn’t like that wasn’t quite right. So I said, “Let me do something”, and we changed it, changed the line, and he seemed to like it. Whether that’s the take they use I don’t know. But yeah, it’s very nice to be able to do that.
Q: How about your chemistry with Kate. I noticed that Bryan said when she came in to audition that was something he noticed. Did you feel that auditioning with her?
Routh: Yes. There were five other girls I think at the time that tested, and I’m not sure what order Kate was in, but one would leave and we’d kind of discuss it, saying “Oh I liked this”. Or I’d think about what was it that was nice about their performance. With Kate, when we were done reading, she was still in the room and I’m going, “Wow, that was…”, I’m thinking, “I don’t know!” and she laughed, and we’re kinda… nobody says anything. We’re just waiting for somebody to say something. Bryan and Roger were sitting in there with him, the Casting Director, and we’re just, yeah, we thought she was great but I couldn’t put my finger on why. I kind of know what that is now. I knew I was waiting for somebody to do that. To just… for whatever reason, it fit. When it fits, it fits. Things like that just happen. Now I know that I think what she brings is real sincerity. She’s really feeling the relationship. She’s got the relationship. I mean she was with Superman and Clark and that back story really working for us, so that when we’re talking we’re both coming from a place that our past experiences are carrying us forward, are evident in our present.
Q: Are you concerned about being typecast?
Routh: You know I get asked that question a lot and frankly it’s a thought in my mind and obviously it’s one of the first things I thought of. But now, no I don’t. I mean there’s so much… there’s so many films being done now, I have the luxury of so many films being made, independent films are so big, that there are so many opportunities for me. And I have faith in what I can do as an actor to be more than this character, these characters, and step outside of it. So no I’m not… I’m aware of it but I’m not concerned with it.
Q: How many of these films are you signed for?
Routh: Well contracts are weird, but Warner Bros. has said it’s two more films. But there’s law technicalities and stuff… but two.
Q: Can you talk to us about the difference between the character of Superman in the original films to the character of Superman in this one?
Routh: I think the difference comes in the twenty five years that we’ve had since the first… well since Chris specifically. I’ll say that specifically, because that’s the one I know best and that’s what most people know best as well. In ’78 the first incarnation of Superman on film, besides the Serials with Kirk Alyn which were shown in the theaters, but this was the first film, and I know that when it first started out the script was like 500 pages, it was a huge script, and then they knocked it down. Richard Donner went in and did a lot of stuff to it, and it was really cheesy, and they cut out and made it to what it became… which was a great film in ’78, and still today. But we’re in 2005 and society has changed. Superman changes with society. With our view of society. He becomes more… he becomes bigger. In the ’50s Superman was America. “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” For me it’s not about that. I mean it’s Truth, Justice… but it’s not the American Way. How can it be? How can we be so simple minded to say that it’s just about America now. Superman came to save the world not just America. He can be used… you can use Superman for whatever purpose you want to use him. So that’s a big difference to me. And in ’78 I don’t think that was necessarily the case, it wasn’t all about America either. For me that’s what it is, and in this film that’s what it’s about. And it’s just more real. There’s not a better way to express it, it’s just more real this film then any other thing you’ve probably seen on it. Bryan describes it as a love story with all this action going on with this guy with super powers. And it really is. I mean you guys saw that Comic Con footage. There’s very little special effects in there, but I think it’s pretty gripping. The stories, the relationships. I mean James Marsden is so great. He’s got some good lines in that trailer, it’s just like heart-wrenching. And that’s without any action. I’m so excited that with the film, I think people will come in, see the film, and go, “Wow! That was a great movie!”. Not, “That was a great comic book movie”. I mean I think it rises above… it’s still a comic book movie. But it rises above. Which is not to say anything bad about comics. I think it’s amazing that something borne out of unreality can become so real. And the same thing with Superman, I think he grows because of the writing and becomes more worldly and just all-encompassing. And that’s not because of my performance or anything other than just the story itself. And he’s got a bigger message and really to change the world not just by saving things, but by being an influence in the world that other people can see. If Superman just saves things he just saves things, and people feel like he can do everything for them. That’s all they get from him. But if he can influence and say, “Hey you can aspire to be better in your life” or “different in your life”, you know that’s a great thing. And I don’t know if I’ve made that evident by anything speaking in the film, but that’s what I’m working on portraying.
Q: There’s a lot of history and previous relationships with cast & crew members having worked together on other films. How has it been for you not having had any previous relationships with others working on this film?
Routh: Fine. I mean I’ve got to meet all these great people, all these great actors who all have more experience than I have, so it’s a little bit intimidating, because I don’t have the experience they have. But it’s also learning. There’s a lot to learn from all of them and their experiences.
Q: Is there maybe something they’ve all got going on because they’ve worked together before?
Routh: No. I mean really you’ve got Kate and Kevin. And Kevin and Bryan. And I haven’t been a part of any of their stuff yet, so… but no, there hasn’t been any kind of Secret Club. There’s no club…
Q: That you know of.
Routh: Right! That I know of. Exactly! There’s a lot of lingo that I’m picking up on. Like on-set lingo and things like that that I just don’t know.
Q: Any Bryan-speak?
Routh: [Laughs] In a way I guess, but each person communicates things differently… but nothing tell-tale.
Q: Having worked on Soap Operas, what experiences have you learned from there in comparison to this?
Routh: I’ve learned that it’s a big deal. That there are a lot of people that have a lot of interest in me. I mean I’m money to a lot of people. There’s a lot of pressure I guess. I think I don’t know that it’s there sometimes, and I don’t look for it, I just try and let it be there and don’t put my finger on it. I’m doing what I’m gonna do and not concerned with other people necessarily… their worries about me. Because plenty of people worry about me. So there’s that. And what I’ve learned from green screen and just making a film in general is that you really have to know where you’re coming from and what you’re doing in each scene because there’s not another actor against you. You’re not really flying in the clouds. I mean that would be very easy to save things and really be able to fly, then I’d have that feeling and that’d show on my face, and I wouldn’t have to move my body a little bit to simulate the motion, and flying, and all those things. Have wind blown in my hair and in my eyes, and all these things. And wear blue contacts. So that’s been big. You have to really have a big imagination doing this green screen stuff, and letting yourself go somewhere that you may not want to because there’s a lot of heavy stuff that Superman goes through in the film. Looking at pictures… one of the first things we did in the [Kent] Farm is, the camera’s in my face, there’s camera operators and focus pullers and all these guys, and I’m on the bed looking at photos that are supposed to be there. I don’t see any photos. I see the guy’s elbow and that’s the picture of my Mom you know that I’m looking at. So you really have to just let that all fade and be really sure about what you’re looking at.
Q: Did you work a lot with Stephan Bender (young Clark Kent)? Did you see a lot of yourself in him?
Routh: There were things. He’s more mature looking and less goofy looking kid than I was growing up. I won’t show you pictures of that, but you might find them somewhere. But we don’t have scenes together, but we did work with Terry, Terry Notary my movement coach, on certain mannerisms. How we’d push up his glasses. Kind of connecting things. That was kind of neat and kind of fun. But he does have that goofy sense a little bit that I had. With the way he moves his body, that any kid that ages does before you really fully mature and get into how your body moves. But he’s a really good kid and I was really happy that he was because it’s good for the character and good for him to be like that. And I was happy to see that he wasn’t just some young actor that was pretentious and all that stuff, because he’s not. He’s a good kid.
Q: You mentioned the early American political aspects of Superman, and I don’t know if you guys meant this, but Superman is an American who goes out and helps people without them asking, and there’s certain people who don’t want his help. You know there’s Lex Luthor, and there’s a reporter who wrote an opinion piece saying do we need this person. So whether you guys meant to or not there’s a political aspect to this movie you guys are creating. So do you think there’s a political aspect to the characters and what you guys are doing?
Routh: To this film?
Q: To this film.
Routh: I’m sure there is. There’s a lot of things you can insinuate. If I can think of one now… I don’t think there’s anything hitting you over the head… or that hits me over the head, because nothing’s coming to mind necessarily. But it’s relevant on many levels. I mean you could find its relevance to our government, as you’re saying, maybe by us going in and doing things that other people don’t want us to do, for the better of the world, as we may say. Or maybe the reasons that we do things. I guess in that way you can say there’s a vague similarity, but I think the thing with Superman is that I don’t think he’s hurting… I mean he wouldn’t do something if it was going to hurt somebody. He doesn’t have to drop a bomb, so there’s no possibility of somebody else getting hurt. His use of force doesn’t include collateral damage of any kind. So even if he did do something that somebody didn’t want him to do, somebody who wasn’t a bad guy, who wasn’t Lex (because he doesn’t want Superman to do anything), a ruler of other land who was a nice guy but didn’t understand Superman’s methods, I think that Superman proceeds him anyway because Superman has a higher level of clarity, he’s reached a higher level mentally and intellectually that he knows more than everybody else, so he would know that it was good to do something.
Q: And another part of the question is the Jewish aspect. I mean Superman was created by two Jews. Do you have anything to say about that aspect?
Routh: I think it’s great. You know I think the funny thing is that there are probably a lot of people who are Superman fans that maybe don’t know that it was written by Siegel and Shuster. Or they may know the names but they don’t know that that’s two Jewish guys. And what’s their reaction to that? It’s interesting how a character like that, like Superman, can bring people together. That people can still be ignorant. But what’s great when it happens is for people to open their minds, and that’s what I’d love and what I intend for people to get from this film and from any film that proceeds, or that I do, I guess, from a personal statement… I’m sure not everything I do will have a great social meaning, but if I can do things that do and help open people’s minds then that’s pretty amazing and I think I have a lot of possibilities to do that, and especially in this role it’s one of the most important things. If we can bring people together and they can learn something about putting aside their hate or their ignorance about another culture or another religion than that’s pretty great. These guys have done that, you know… It’s really pretty awesome.
Q: Do you think it’s possible to separate Superman the cultural icon from the fictional character? In many people’s minds Superman is still connected with American imperialism. And secondly, who’s your favorite Super-villain other than Lex Luthor?
Routh: Building on what I was saying before, I think that Superman should be more than American imperialism and selling World War II war bonds or any of the things that he was used for. Superman is not single minded. Superman does not only care about America, even though he was raised in Smallville, Kansas, and his love is an American, and he works in an American newspaper. And Lex is an American… and okay all these things that happen, but he’s just not saving America when it happens. He’s saving the world. Everything maintains to be, to stay in the United States because Americans are writing and doing all these things, but there’s no way we can say that Superman should be just about the United States. I mean look at all of you guys, you guys are all from all over the world. And when I did press for the Foreign Press, how can you single any of that out? Superman wouldn’t be as big as he was if he wasn’t universal. And Bryan talks about Superman being the “ultimate immigrant”. People immigrate from all over the place to America. Yes America may be a place, but from all over the world. I have every intention of it not being about just America. And this film, thankfully, I don’t think we even say “The American Way”. Which I don’t know if it was a thought from anybody. But I never thought for it to be in there because I liked that it wasn’t, because it is so much more than that. And as far as villains… I’m not sure.
Q: Who would you like to fight in the next movie? Kitty Kowalski!
Routh: Kitty Kowalski. It’d be fun to fight myself some time. That’d be interesting if I had to do that again.
Routh: Yeah. [laughs] Either as bad Superman or Bizarro.
Q: Do you ever get on the Internet to see what people are saying about you?
Routh: I do, yes. So I know some of you guys and visit the sites, and that’s been a lot of fun. Actually back in the beginning when people were saying, “Who is this guy?” and “He’s skinny!” And I wasn’t even skinny at the time! I was still a big guy then, you know I was an athlete. So I get a little bit defensive about that, but it was fun to watch and to read everybody. And to watch people come over to my side and the film’s side. Which is great because we all should. We all want to be happy and love the character and everything. So yes, I have frequented many, but I’m quite busy now so I don’t get the opportunity to as much, but my parents and family do and they tell me and stuff. So I’ve learned a lot of news about the film still. That’s where I get a lot of my information. [laughs]
Read Part 4 of our visit, the first interview with director Bryan Singer!
Superman Returns opens in conventional theaters, IMAX and IMAX 3D on June 30.
Source: Scott Chitwood