BRYAN SINGER: HOW I MAKE FILMS

The first in a new series giving an insider’s look into how actors, directors, writers, producers and artists go about ‘making films’! 




Hi, I’m Bryan Singer. You know me from critical and commercial hits like The Usual SuspectsThe X- Men and Apt Pupil

Listen, you don’t make these big budget behemoths on your own , you need a strong crew; and you need The Studio. Compromise is part of the deal. However, sometimes compromise can go too far.  Take a little movie called Returns. The script was a sensitive exploration of the loneliness of a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality and the alienation caused by not fully allowing his true self to shine. 


The Studio insisted it needed a girl, the guy should be hung up on A GIRL!

After many sleepless nights, I figured out a way of honing the script so that the girl was a cipher for a life more ordinary, that he’d want this ‘girl’ not as a sexual conquest but as an example of what he could be if he fit in. The Studio liked it but then they dropped a bomb.

The main character would have to be an ALIEN!

At first I resisted and stormed out complaining that my artistic integrity would be shattered if I allowed such a bastardization of my vision. Then I slept on it and I thought, maybe, just maybe this COULD be the way to put my original story into a grander context and give it more appeal. I’d done mutants already. Why not? So I went for it.

After two weeks of filming, the Studio insisted the movie need a villain. And that the alien should have an illegitimate baby with the girl. Again, I resisted but I thought, I’m a team player, let’s give it a try. I turned up to the set one day and Kevin Spacy had shaved his head, and was rehearsing a scene from a set of ‘Studio notes’. The scene was about him breaking into an ice palace and hatching a plan to take over the world. I was too tired to argue and I thought, if anyone can pull this off, it’s Kevin.

Things got out of hand after that, the studio insisted on more action, the hero rescues people, he should be a snappy dresser. Maybe, even wear an alien costume. 

In the 3rd month of principle photography, the entire shoot had moved from an intimate studio set in Canada to a purpose built soundstage in Australia. I arrived to find the set of a destroyed city and my main character flying through the scene on wires, glowering at things as cars exploded. It transpired that the Studio instated that he shoot lasers from his eyes. Spacy was running around in a white overcoat laughing maniacally and insisting that I come see his yacht because it had a rocket launcher on it.

The initial cut of the movie was a confusing mess. The characters had no motivation, the alien was a confused loner with a Christ complex who wanted to save a world and a woman clearly disgusted by him. It made me feel sad. 

The Studio agreed and sent round some notes. It was one page with the revised title: ‘Superman Returns‘. 

Before I had even thought it through the crew were busy working on pre-vis for scenes of an abandoned Krypton to go in place of the original opening where the character goes for a walk past his old high school. The costume was changed to a Superman outfit bought from eBay that day.

In the end Superman Returns explored much of my original concept and the superficial details don’t irk me so much in retrospect. I am glad however I stood my ground in keeping the character emotionally distant and I steadfastly refused when the Studio insisted that he have a talking dog called ‘K-Doug‘ to be voiced by Martin Lawrence.

I maybe should have given them the scene with the polar bear bar fight though, but that asshole JJ Abrams has ruined polar bears for everyone.
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