Superman Returns Screenwriters Dougherty and Harris

Screenwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, who worked together with Bryan Singer on X2: X-Men United, reunited with the director for Warner Bros. Superman Returns. Superhero Hype! got a chance to talk to the duo about bringing back the character:

Q: The film is a new story, but you hit the main themes of the first two movies. The Daily Planet and the Kent farm. How deliberate was that and why did you choose to do that?

Mike Dougherty: It was very deliberate. I view this is almost like a second origin for the character at least in terms of the film universe. He has been off the big screen for 20 odd years. He’s persisted through comics and things like Smallville. But, the character of Superman has been absent and I think we really want to make sure that if we’re going to be reintroducing the character then you have to reintroduce audiences to the Daily Planet and Jimmy Olsen and Perry White and to the Kent farm just to reacquaint everyone with old friends in a way.

Dan Harris: We believe the first Superman is our can and our bible for these characters and these situations and theme and tone and all of these things. Along the way it was changed and kind of got lost and fell off the tracks in the third and fourth movie. This was our opportunity to move forward with the story and yet retell some of the things from the first movie that we love to bring the audience up to speed.

Q: Is this a sequel to the first two?

Dougherty: My philosophy is and I’m sure Dan and Bryan are probably sick of me saying this, but think of it closer to the James Bond series in right now they’re making “Casino Royale.” Is it Bond 20? James Bond 19? I don’t know. It’s a new chapter in the story. Each James Bond film doesn’t necessarily reference specific events that took place in the prior films.

Q: But, some of them do and this film does address some specific references like the Fortress of Solitude and the article that Lois Lane wrote just like some of the James Bond films reference his wife.

Dougherty: Right. In other words the comparison matches. What I’m saying is, don’t get too caught up in specifics.

Q: What I’m saying is I think that makes it a sequel.

Dougherty: Sure.

Harris: I just don’t know if it includes three of four. You don’t want to be rude here, but I don’t know if I thought of three and four when I was working on this.

Dougherty: It doesn’t necessarily dismiss three and four, but it’s not referencing Gus Gorman and Nuclear Man either. We’re not saying they didn’t happen.

Harris: We’re not saying they did.

Dougherty: Exactly. Much like James Bond films. They’ll reference certain films, but necessarily other ones.

Q: How did you update Lois Lane to make her fit into the 21st century?

Dougherty: She’s a mom for one.

Harris: And she’s an unmarried mother. Lois Lane has always been a kind of feisty kind of contemporary, you now, forward character. I think she’s been ahead of her time for a long time and Superman has been the classic guy. This time around I don’t think I think they just fit into their roles.

Dougherty: I think you know what’s really interesting is there’s this great scene in the first film where she’s telling Clark the last thing she wants to do is settle down and be a mom. ‘My sister has two kids and a mortgage. I’d go bananas.’ All of a sudden, she has a kid. She has a house. She’s got a mortgage and she’s got a fiancé. I think she’s actually a more modern portrayal of working women these days and there was a period at least I think, and women can correct me if I’m wrong, no offense where it was, ‘I’ve got to be a career woman. I’ve got to have big shoulder pads and be like working girl.’ The Sigourney Weaver character. ‘ I don’t have time for a long-term relationships or kids.’ And I think women are coming around to realize that it’s okay to be a mother. It’s okay to be a wife and yet still have a career. So Lois is still very much this feisty career woman, but at the same time she is a mom.

Q: Are there scenes that you love that were cut out of the film?

Harris: There’s an extended return to Kyrpton sequence in the beginning of the film that isn’t part of the movie. You can read it in the screenplay which is going to be published which has everything we shot and probably has an hour more of footage.

Q: Where he just sees the devastation and the ruins by himself?

Harris: He’s exploring the ruins. He goes looking for it. He finds devastation and barely escapes with his life. It was good, but it just wasn’t right for the movie in the end because it’s better that that question is left unanswered so the audience wants to know. By the time Superman answers the question you feel that’s the right moment in the story to tell what happened.

Q: Was there another entire sequence that was cut?

Dougherty: I don’t know about another sequence, but more like bits and pieces of each scene. You know for running time and other reasons they were cut out. There’s a moment where James Marsden’s character is talking to Lois and he’s kind of doing the research on Superman. It’s in the movie. The entire sequence. ‘So how tall is he again?’ He’s asking about the super powers and there’s a moment where James goes ‘and what is it? He fires lasers out of his eyes.’ And she’s like ‘heat vision.’ It was just a moment where James Marsden is talking about a superhero who fires lasers out of his eyes. It was just kind of a funny moment.

Harris: The movie used to open different. There was an extended opening that incorporated footage from “Superman” the movie and then kind of moved forward. In the script so you can see it. It was cool, but it didn’t feel right for the movie.

Dougherty: It had too many prologues. Originally it had theatre curtains and the theatre curtains open up and you had a kid at the counter…

Harris: The curtains open to a comic book and the comic book opens to a 1970 version of the film and that turned into the title sequence. It didn’t work.

Q: Can you talk about working with Bryan and how closely was he involved in the process and did that make your job harder or easier?

Dougherty: It’s a close collaboration. Unlike other films that are made these days where the screenplay gets written and developed before a director is even hired. This is a story by the three of us and it’s a very close collaboration everyday from writing the script all the way through shooting it even through post production.

Harris: When the movie comes out it will be about two years to the day since we started working on this film. Since the day we started working on it and until now we’ve been together two years working on it everyday.

Q: You guys have a cameo in the film?

Harris: Our cameo survived for the first time ever and we must have been on Bryan’s good side that day because the only reason it survived is because you can not cut out of the shot. It’s used as a grid.

Q: What scene?

Dougherty: The museum.

Harris: It passed by us as it hits Lex and we were in “X-Men 2.”

Dougherty: In a museum scene that got cut.

Harris: I was wearing a fake mustache and Mike and I were technicians working on Wolverine. It was ridiculous.

Dougherty: You look like a little Hitler.

Harris: ‘Cause I had that mustache on. My movie that I directed I put myself in and cut myself out so this is the first time I’ve survived.

Q: Why does he keep putting you in his movies if he cuts you out?

Harris: Because we keep guilting him to. He’s puts all of his other friends in the movie so we’re like ‘Bryan you know for two years put us in a movie.’

Q: What’s going on with Logan’s Run?

Dougherty: I haven’t read the latest draft so I don’t know.

Harris: I don’t know what Bryan’s doing with the movie yet.

Q: What about Ender’s Game?

Harris: Same question. I don’t know. “Ender’s Game” has been reverted at this point back.

Dougherty: Which is weird because Ender’s and Logan’s we were almost working on concurrently for Warner Brother’s and then the moment Superman came back up we had to pretty much leave both projects for this and they got handed off to other people.

Q: What about Charlie Chan?

Dougherty: Again it’s in development and we don’t know what’s going on.

Q: Are you signed on to do the sequels for Superman?

Harris: If there is a sequel with Bryan involved we will do it.

Q: Were there other plot lines to the story?

Harris: This was our entrance into the franchise. It’s a return story. It’s called “Superman Returns” for the reason that he’s returning to Earth, but he’s returning to us as movie goers as audiences. This version of the story let us do that. It’s bringing him back and now that he’s back we can do anything.

Superman Returns flies into theaters on Wednesday, June 28th.

Source: Heather Newgen