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Reinventing the steel

By MIKE COTTON  |  June 14, 2006

Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, and director Bryan Singer.
The first time Spacey worked with Singer — on 1995’s The Usual Suspects — Spacey walked away with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. And there’s a bit of the fallen capitalist in Superman Returns. Luthor isn’t quite the comic, cartoony version portrayed by Gene Hackman in the original films: the man tearing around the set in a golf cart is taking care of that. “There’s no doubt that Hackman was fabulous,” explains Spacey, “and I’d say that the main difference is that this is a much darker Lex. So although there’s still a lot of humor in it and it still has those expectations of high comedy, I think this is just a deeper and darker telling of this particular story that Bryan and the writers created.”

Spacey is dressed in a pure white cashmere coat and a perfectly-tailored suit for the role of the bald, billionaire criminal mastermind. “It’s a Lex out for revenge,” he continues. “His argument is, ‘Superman is God-like, so he saves people, but he doesn’t give people what they need to save themselves.’ And I think Lex has a slightly more capitalistic view, which is, ‘Give people what they want.’ And Lex wants his share of it.”

Lex isn’t the only one with his eye on the bottom line. Several of last summer’s high-profile, star-studded blockbusters didn’t translate into boffo box office — so along with Warner Bros’ nearly-$200-million budget and massive special effects investment comes no small amount of pressure to deliver. As always, it’s a high-stakes gamble.

But you’d never know if from the principals, who are — for the time being, here on the set, before the marketing blitz begins in earnest — esconced in their own world. Back on set, Singer is adjusting Routh’s Super-suit like a mother sending her only child off to school for the first time. “The movie has a lot of heart,” says Routh. “There’s action and excitement, but there’s a story here, a drama. The more that you care about the good guy and the people around him, the more tense the film is and the more anxious you get and all of those feelings and all the adrenaline you get when he’s threatened. I think people are going to like it. And I hope people like me in it.”
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