The Greatest 'Superman' Story Ever Told Is A Richard Donner Anecdote

You’ll believe a man can wear a fake mustache.
The Greatest 'Superman' Story Ever Told Is A Richard Donner Anecdote

Legendary director Richard Donner passed away yesterday at the age of 91. Amazingly the same guy who made the original 1978 Superman also directed The Omen and Scrooged and The Goonies -- not to mention the Lethal Weapon series, Maverick, and the impressively deranged ‘80s erotic shapeshifting fantasy drama Ladyhawke. And how about the fact that Donner cut his teeth in the world of classic television by directing several episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the one where William Shatner’s insane overacting is actually justified thanks to a monster on the wing of an airplane.

On social media, a lot of fans memorialized Donner by pointing to one of the great movie-making anecdotes of all time. While making Superman, Gene Hackman objected to the idea of shaving his mustache for the role of Lex Luthor, leading Donner to take a rather unorthodox approach. As recounted to Empire Magazine in 2006, Donner claimed that Hackman “almost killed” him for pulling this stunt.

“Is there a version of this rock for directors?” 

The stunt? Well, when they first met about the part, Hackman not only refused to wear a skull cap to play the famously bald Luthor, he insisted that his big ‘70s mustache stay too. At that early meeting, Donner too had a mustache -- but two months later, he shaved it off. When Hackman showed up to shoot the picture, while Donner had “figured out how to get around the skull cap,” Hackman still had his goddamn mustache.

Quickly, Donner instructed the film’s make-up artist to hook him up with a fake stash. When he saw Hackman, Donner said: “Okay, tell you what, you take yours off, I’ll take mine off,” insisting that Gene go first. So Gene Hackman shaved off his mustache. When he was done, he turned to Donner and said: “You’re next.” So Richard Donner carefully peeled off his phony facial hair. The veins in Hackman’s neck started throbbing. He looked like he might straight-up attack Donner -- but then he “burst out laughing,” and they had a great relationship after that. Impressively, this still ranks as the best story from a production that also featured an acting legend reading lines off of a literal baby diaper

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Top Image: Warner Bros.

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