The Superman Curse refers to a theory that is based on a series of misfortunes that have plagued creative people involved in adaptations of Superman in various media, particularly actors who have played the role of Superman on film and television.
The curse in a nutshell:
- If you play the strongest man on Earth, you will either die an untimely death or end up in the weakest position possible.
The curse is somewhat well-known in popular culture, though some would deny the curse, stating that several Superman-related actors, such as Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Bud Collyer, and even Brandon Routh, continued with successful careers after their association with the franchise. Another factor that attempts to better explain the curse is the "no cape or on-screen time" rule, meaning that actors of the Smallville TV series have not been cursed due to the Superman outfit not being worn, or that voice actors who have played Superman in radio or animated adaptations, namely Bud Collyer and Tim Daly, have escaped the curse.
Supposed victims of the curseEdit
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Siegel & ShusterEdit
Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster created Superman in the 1930s but their employer DC Comics held the copyright to the character. In 1946, the two sued DC, arguing that they were inadequately compensated for the character. The New York Supreme Court limited their settlement to $60,000 each, a small sum compared to the millions of dollars Superman comic books, films, television series, and merchandise grossed. In 1975, in response to a campaign launched by Siegel and Shuster and joined by many prominent comic book creators, DC agreed to pay the two lifetime pensions of $35,000 a year and give them credit in every adaptation of the character. While Siegel and Shuster were respected in comic book fandom for Superman, neither went on to work on any other high-profile comic books after Superman. Some people even speculate that the two have 'cursed' the character themselves out of spite.
The Fleischer BrothersEdit
Brothers Max and Dave Fleischer (two early pioneers of 20th century animation) founded Fleischer Studios, which produced the original Popeye, Betty Boop, and Superman cartoons. Shortly after bringing Superman into animation, the Fleischers began feuding with one another; their studio slumped financially until they were forced to sell to Paramount Pictures, which ousted the Fleischers and rearranged their company as Famous Studios. Although Dave Fleischer went on to a career as a special effects advisor at Universal Studios (which now owns many of Paramount's sound feature films released before 1950), Max died penniless at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.
Kirk Alyn played Superman in two low-budget 1940s serials but failed to find work afterwards, saying that casting directors thought he was too recognized as Superman. He eventually retired to Arizona. He made an uncredited cameo appearance in the 1978 film Superman: The Movie as the father of young Lois Lane, who witnesses young Clark Kent racing their train (his wife is portrayed by Noel Neill, also uncredited, who played Lois Lane in the Kirk Alyn Superman movies as well as on The Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958). Alyn developed Alzheimer's disease before passing away of related causes at the age of 89 in 1999.
George Reeves played Superman in the 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men and the ensuing television series Adventures of Superman. Like Alyn, he was recognized only for that role. On June 16, 1959, days before he was to be married, Reeves was found dead of a gunshot wound at his home with his Luger near him. The death was ruled a suicide but other theories persist.
John F. KennedyEdit
In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy's staff approved a Superman story in which the hero touts the president's physical fitness initiatives, scheduled to be published with an April 1964 cover date. On November 22, Kennedy was shot and killed but, at the request of successor Lyndon B. Johnson, DC published a reworked version of the story.
Danny Dark, best known for being the voice-over king of commercials, voiced the role of Superman/Clark Kent on the long-running Saturday morning cartoon series Super Friends from 1973 to 1985. He died on June 13, 2004 of a pulmonary hemorrhage at the age of 65. It has been argued that as a voice actor and not a live-action portrayal of Superman, Dark's death was natural, unlike the dubious death of George Reeves or terrible accident of Christopher Reeve.
Richard Donner was hired to direct Superman: The Movie and Superman II. With the completion of the first film and about 25% of the sequel left to finish, Donner was fired from the project; director Richard Lester was hired to finish and direct Superman II. Around 50% of Donner's film was scrapped and re-shot by Lester, delaying the theatrical release until 1980. In 2006, Donner released Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut on DVD with all of his footage restored and most of Lester's removed.
The notion that Donner was actually "cursed" by his association with Superman is a subject for debate. While his falling out with the Salkinds led to a re-working of Superman II, he has since directed all four Lethal Weapon films starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the big screen adaptation of Maverick starring Gibson in the role once made famous by James Garner, The Goonies, and Scrooged with Bill Murray. Donner also co-wrote issues of the Superman comic book, Action Comics with his former assistant Geoff Johns.
Christopher Reeve played Superman/Clark Kent in the Superman film series, Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). The actor was paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from his horse in a cross-country equestrian riding event on May 27, 1995. Reeve died on October 10, 2004 due to heart failure stemming from his medical condition.
Dana Reeve, the widow of Christopher Reeve and co-founder of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation with her late husband, publicly revealed that she was diagnosed with lung cancer on August 9, 2005. She died of cancer on March 6, 2006 at the age of 44.
Margot Kidder, who played Superman’s love interest Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve suffers from intense bipolar disorder. In April 1996, she went missing for several days and was found by police in a paranoid, delusional state. She also suffered severe neck injuries in a car accident.
- In May 1990, Brando's first son, Christian, shot and killed Dag Drollet, 26, the lover of Christian's half-sister Cheyenne Brando, at the family's home above Beverly Hills. Christian, 31, claimed the shooting was accidental. After a heavily publicized trial, Christian was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Christian died eighteen years later at the age of 49.
- The tragedy was compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, said to still be depressed over Drollet's death and over losing her child to Drollet's parents, committed suicide by hanging herself. She was 25 years old.
- Marlon Brando's notoriety, his family's troubled lives, his self-exile from Hollywood, and his obesity attracted considerable attention in his later career. On July 1, 2004, Brando died at the age of 80. The cause of his death was withheld, with his lawyer citing privacy concerns. It was later revealed that he died of respiratory failure brought on by pulmonary fibrosis. He had also been suffering from liver cancer, congestive heart failure, and diabetes, which was causing his eyesight to fail.
Comedian Richard Pryor, who had previously suffered from a drug addiction that led to a near fatal suicide attempt, starred as villain Gus Gorman in 1983’s Superman III, but later took Superman's side near the end of the movie and became a hero. Three years later, he announced that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He died of cardiac arrest on December 10, 2005.
On July 2, 1996, the 35th anniversary of their grandfather's suicide, Superman IV (1987) co-star Mariel Hemingway's older sister, model and actress Margaux was found dead at age 41. She had taken an overdose of sedatives. Though Margaux's death was ruled a suicide, Mariel disputed this finding.
Mark Pillow, who made his acting debut playing Nuclear Man in 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, never went on to star in another movie. In December 2008, Pillow was located and interviewed, and currently lives in Texas with his wife and two daughters working as a wine distributor.
Actors from SuperboyEdit
- Both John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher, who starred as the title character in the Superboy television series (1988–1992), fell into obscurity after their respective tenures as the character.
- The same case can be made for Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who played Superboy's college friend Andy McAllister.
- Professional wrestler Lex Luger had a guest role on the show as the "New Superboy". In 2007, he suffered a spinal stroke that initially paralyzed him in a quadriplegic state. He announced in April 2010 that he had finally recovered from his stroke and paralysis, but lost over 100 lbs and will probably not be able to wrestle again.
Lane Smith, who played Clark Kent and Lois Lane's boss Perry White on the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman television series, was diagnosed with the rare Lou Gehrig's Disease in April 2005 and died of the disease on June 13, 2005.
Superman video game curseEdit
One variation of the 'Superman Curse' is the Superman Video-Game Curse, which states that most, if not all, Superman-related games are one or more of the following:
- have poor graphics
- have a poor control system
- generally not entertaining
- contain multiple glitches
- are either considered far too easy or far too challenging
- get a poor reception from fans and the media
Those who have "escaped" the curseEdit
It can be noted that actors who played villains in the movies have not suffered from the curse. Some of the villain actors experienced just the opposite:
- Brandon Routh played Superman in the 2006 film Superman Returns. Although fans have feared that he would fall victim to the curse, he continues to enjoy a successful acting career and has not suffered any misfortunes or tragedies thus far. Though it must be noted that he has yet to star in any notable roles.
- Gene Hackman (who played Lex Luthor in Superman I, II, and IV) continues to enjoy a hugely successful acting career.
- Terence Stamp (who played General Zod in Superman: The Movie and Superman II, and also the voice of Jor-El in Smallville) has had a long and successful career.
- Kevin Spacey (who played Lex Luthor in Superman Returns) has been a popular and distinguished actor for many years.
- Ned Beatty (who played Otis in Superman I) has enjoyed a long acting career and is still active in the business.
- Jon Cryer (who played Lenny Luthor in Superman IV) currently stars in the successful sitcom Two and a Half Men (produced by Warner Bros., owners of DC Comics).
- Teri Hatcher (who played Lois Lane in Lois and Clark) went on to have a successful career in the popular comedy/drama series Desperate Housewives. She also appeared in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.
- Kate Bosworth (who played Lois Lane in Superman Returns) is a well known actress with a good career.She also has yet to star in any other notable roles.
The following actors can also be said to have avoided the "curse", although are best known for their portrayals as Superman and so it could be argued they have been type-cast:
- Tom Welling plays a young Clark Kent in the TV show Smallville. Although not widely known outside of Smallville, Welling is someone considered for the Superman role on the big screen when casting rumours surface, due to his time playing the role. However, as the Superman outfit has so far not been used in the series, it could be argued Welling falls into the "no cape or live action" clause.
- Dean Cain became a household name in the mid-1990s due to his portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He went on to have other varied roles, in shows such as Frasier and Law & Order, as well as making a cameo appearance in Smallville. Choosing to avoid the long filming commitment of another television series in order to be a with his family - his son in particular - the bulk of his recent work has been made-for-TV movies on channels like Sci-Fi, and feel-good family movies.
- Poltergeist curse
- There are also rumors of curses affecting people involved in The Exorcist films and the child actors of The Little Rascals series.
- ↑ Paranormal.about.com
- ↑ "Adventures of Superman" (1952) - Full cast and crew
- ↑ Captain Comics
- ↑ Bipolar.about.com
- ↑ Margot Kidder Biography
- ↑ http://www.supermansupersite.com/pillow.html
- ↑ "Superman: Shadow of Apokolips". IGN. September 26, 2002. http://au.ps2.ign.com/articles/372/372273p1.html. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- ↑ lsj.com
- ↑ Snopes - Our Gang
- March 17, 2003 CNN article on the “Superman curse”
- About.com article debunking the curse
- Most recent Superman actor Brandon Routh comments on the curse
- Is Ben Affleck, the actor who portrays George Reeves in Hollywoodland at risk?
- Kate Bosworth makes a statement
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