COULTER, ALLEN - HOLLYWOODLAND
WHO SHOT SUPERMAN?
The mysterious murder of a TV superhero in Hollywood has never been told Ė until
now, as Allen Coulter tells John Millar in London. (And he spends another 2
hours talking about it on the DVD.)
Q: Why has this riveting story never been filmed before?
A: Iím not sure because it is such a great subject. It is a human story of two
men who struggle with a similar dilemma...the feeling that their lives are not
valuable unless they can attain a certain degree of celebrity. One wants to be a
star, the other the best known detective in LA. The other thing is that an
unsolved Hollywood mystery is fascinating. Then there is the era in which the
end of the classic Hollywood system was coming about and there was the rise of
television. The chance to represent all this was not only challenging but
Q: Did making the film hit a raw nerve with any of the surviving people from
that period or those who may have known them?
A: We never heard from any of Eddie Mannixís people. We never came across anyone
who said thatís not how it was or thatís not what happened. We did come across a
number of people who did know Eddie Mannix. It was crucial to show the human
side of the people. People were fascinated by the story but we never caught any
flak for what we were doing. A reporter who had known the people in the film
said we had got George exactly right.
Q: Why did George Reeves have such an impact as Superman?
A: There are a bunch of reasons. Going back to the original show, this was the
first time when a super hero, in this case not just A super hero but THE super
hero, was coming into your home. That was unique in the early days of TV. As a
child you donít distinguish much between reality and what you see on TV and for
that half hour once a week something happened that had never happened in the
history of mankind....a human being came into your house and he is the most all
powerful being. And this man is kind and charming and does the ultimate father
thing that any child would hope for - he lets you in on the secret that only you
and he know. There was a wink that every child thought was just for them. Even
though Reeves was unhappy doing this part I think his ironic detachment was two
fold...he was laughing up his sleeve at the part, but what a child saw was him
saying he was not Clark Kent and only he and the child knew that. So that
natural ironic distance that Reeves had to the part had a very truthful effect
that came off the screen and into the living room.
Q: Where do you stand on the legend of the curse of Superman?
A: I am not a believer in curses. I donít buy into that stuff.
Q: Part of the power of Hollywoodland is that Reeves is a great tragic figure?
A: Itís true. He had bad luck and bad timing. This guy started off with Gone
With The Wind and he was in So Proudly We Hail when he is opposite Claudette
Colbert...now that is making it in Hollywoodland. If the war had not pulled him
away, might he have had a big career? I donít think he could have had the career
he thought he could...and that was one of the sad things. He felt he had so much
more than he was allowed to give but the reality is that he might have had the
career of Don Ameche. If he could have had that career he would have been
Q: There is great attention to detail in Hollywoodland Ö
A: We analysed this guy a lot. The car that Ben Affleck washes in the movie is
not the exact car but it is the model he drove. We were obsessive about the
detail. We have wonderful little subtle things in the film. Reeves always wore a
pinky ring and our prop man blew up a photo of it and had it remolded so that
Ben wears a ring that is an exact replica of the ring that Reeves wore. The
Clark Kent glasses were the same as in the TV show. I pored over endless
photographs from that era and looked at movies...right down to making sure that
the language was correct. But when you put the clothes from that era on people
their body language is immediately different. Ben also captured the atmosphere
of that time. When we see Reeves in his robe he is already better dressed than
most Americans. He has very erect posture. He even reads his newspaper in a more
dignified manner than I probably do anything all day. I was very conscious of
giving Adrien the opposite direction, so that he slumped on his couch like a
modern guy with his feet up. He wants to be a modern guy. Which explains his
wardrobe because if you wanted to be a modern man in that era, you dressed like
a teenager. He wants to be hip, unlike his cronies who wear suits. A critic said
that Adrien looked like Eddie Cochran (1938 Ė 1960, rockabilly muso) which is
good because that is what he strives to be. He is almost a terminal case of
arrested development. He is a teenager in his own mind. That is why he is having
an affair with a younger woman because it makes him feel young.
Q: The film is a lot about family Ö.
A: This is true. None of the characters - apart from Adrien - have children.
George Reeves had 38 million children but none of his own. The only father and
for whom there is hope is Adrienís character. At the end he makes a conscious
choice to rejoin the family. Whether or not he gets back with his wife at least
he has made the effort. One of the most poignant moments in his little home
movie is when his wife turns and kisses him. That was meant to show that they
used to have a vibrant sexual life. And the only time that their son smiles in
the movie is in the home movie...years earlier when life was good. When he
laughs and runs through the sheets on the washing line it is one of the most
joyous moments. And the joy in the scene when the boy is held in the air by his
father is because at that moment for the little boy his father IS Superman
because he can hold him in the air. The boy himself is also Superman because he
is flying. When Adrienís character watches all this in the home movie he
realises that he had in his grasp the very thing he wants...happiness.
Q: Ben Affleck is terrific as George Reeves but why had he been cast?
A: When we set about casting, many names came up. Prior to my involvement other
actors had been considered. But I had a blank slate. At that point Ben Affleckís
name was mentioned. We talked about him and thought it was interesting. My
reaction was that he had never done anything quite like this with this kind of
gravity. My concern was that it was very hard to find an English speaking actor
who projects the kind of manliness that we see in actors of that era of the 40s
and 50s. It seems to be something that has disappeared. The only actor who comes
to mind who does project that today is George Clooney. Many American actors have
a boyishness. The quality I wanted to capture was the firm belief that back then
people behaved differently. Perhaps as a result of the Depression and the war
there was a kind of manliness that you simply donít see - nor does any man
aspire to - any more. The idea is to be forever young.
Q: Diane Lane matches Ben Affleck with another great performance.
A: Someone told Diane that they loved her performance but did not like Toni and
she said that was the best review she had received.
Q: What about the DVD of Hollywoodland?
A: I did the DVD commentary and I donít shut up for two hours. I had so much to
say about the film.
Q: Are you a DVD fan?
A: This is a film that benefits from being on DVD because it benefits from
multiple viewings because you can see things you missed first time. I know many
people who have seen it several times. I collect DVDs. My favorites are all of
Hitchcock and Kubrickís films...and Fellini and Truffaut, the guys I grew up
with. I like to go back to old films like Chaplinís City Lights on DVD. I like
collecting because there is something about holding the DVD in your hand.
Published July 19, 2007
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Directed by Allen Coulter
In June 1959, George Reeves (Ben Affleck), best known to American TV audiences
as Superman, is found dead from a single gunshot to the head, in his Hollywood
Hills home. He leaves behind a fiancťe - aspiring starlet Leonore Lemmon (Robin
Tunney) - and fans who are shocked by his death. His grieving mother, Helen
Bessolo (Lois Smith), cannot believe George committed suicide. The Los Angeles
Police Department closes the case, but Helen hires private detective Louis Simo
(Adrien Brody) to dig deeper. Simo learns that the affair Reeves had with Toni
Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob
Hoskins), might hold the key to the truth. Might Ö maybe Ö and maybe there are
other answers, but can he find the right one?
Australian theatrical release: March 15, 2006
Australian DVD release: July 18, 2007