Man of Steel is finally here, and Henry Cavill's new take on the Superman character brings forth inevitable comparisons to the late, great Christopher Reeve. It was a little more than 25 years ago that Superman IV: The Quest for Peace hit theaters, and we're flashing back to that film with vintage interviews of a very candid Reeve along with incredible on-set footage of him directing the action.
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"I had not been particularly thrilled with the way Superman III worked out," said Reeve in discussing why he donned the red cape for a fourth time after swearing he was done with the role for good. "And then gradually I thought, 'Well, a lot of people really would like to see a Superman movie, and instead of complaining about it, maybe I should do something about it,' and the best thing to do about it would be to come up with a story outline for a Superman that I'd like to see and that I'd like to be a part of so I could get that enthusiasm back, get the motivation back."
Plagued by budget cuts, an uneven tone and a questionable bad guy named Nuclear Man, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was arguably the worst of the four Superman movies starring the square-jawed actor, who also shared story credit. Released in theaters July 24, 1987, the film finds Superman once again facing off against Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) as the Son of Krypton works to rid the world's super powers of nuclear arms. But Luthor, along with his young nephew Lenny (played by a post-Pretty in Pink Jon Cryer), hatches a plot to destroy the Man of Steel using a strand of his own hair combined with the power of the sun to create a super villain.
Directed by Sidney J. Furie (The Entity, Iron Eagle), it's plainly evident in our ET set footage (in which Superman takes on Nuclear Man, played by Mark Pillow, in a battle on the moon's surface) that Reeve was in charge and had a singular vision about how the film should be shot. It's a bit surreal to see the heroic, late star not only in full Superman regalia, but calling the shots while wearing the character's signature blue tights.
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The film represented an effort by Reeve to guide the series back on a more serious course after the critical misfire of Superman III, which featured comic relief by Richard Pryor. As for what Reeve thought about tampering with the spirit of Superman, he declared, "In terms of the basic heart of the character and the way he is, I don't think you should mess with him. I think that it's a proven success, and what we have to really do is just make him a hero to believe in rather than a hero to make fun of."
In the days leading up to the release of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Reeve said he had loads of fun making the movie and was very optimistic about his pet project, telling ET, "I think if we get it right, this'll be the best of the Superman movies, and that's not just a pep talk. I think it really will be."