“They are destroying the legend of Superman”: Not Zack Snyder, Man of Steel’s Worst Enemy Was One Producer Who Wanted Sylvester Stallone for the Role

Throughout Superman's production, tensions between Richard Donner and producers kept on escalating, who wanted Donner to cast Stallone.

"They are destroying the legend of Superman": Not Zack Snyder, Man of Steel's Worst Enemy Was One Producer Who Wanted Sylvester Stallone for the Role


  • The initial draft of Superman that Richard Donner received from Alexander Salkind, was disparaging to the comics he grew up reading.
  • Donner, a lifelong fan of Man of Steel, collaborated with writer Tom Mankiewicz for heavy rewrites, which initially clashed with Salkind.
  • Alexander and Ilya Salkind pressured Donner to meet Sylvester Stallone.
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What worked for Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy, didn’t do the trick for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, as reactions to Snyder’s bleak retelling of Superman’s origins were mixed. To this date, Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman remains the quintessential adaptation of the symbol of hope, and the upcoming rendition under James Gunn’s leadership will be more in line with Donner’s.


However, Donner’s expedition of respecting the source material was met with several challenges, especially from producer Alexander Salkind, which could’ve derailed the entire film.

Also read: “He did ask me to do it”: Original Superman Director Richard Donner Asked Mel Gibson to Take Over $952M Franchise

Richard Donner's Superman
Superman (1978)

Richard Donner and Alexander Salkind Kept on Butting Heads Throughout Superman’s Production

The initial draft of Superman that Richard Donner received from Alexander Salkind, was disparaging to the comics he grew up reading. And being a lifelong fan of the Man of Steel, the director agreed to take matters into his own hands and joined forces with writer Tom Mankiewicz for some heavy rewrites, which initially didn’t sit well with Salkind. Per THR, Donner recalled,

“I was brought up on Superman as a kid. There was a whole point in my life where I read Superman. So when I was finished with it, I was like, ‘Man, if they make this movie, they are destroying the legend of Superman.’ I wanted to do it just to defend him.”

Although the producer did come to an agreement, things kept on escalating between The Goonies filmmaker and The Three Musketeers producer throughout the production process.

Also read: For Kevin Feige, “The most perfect superhero movie” isn’t DCU or MCU: $300M Classic is Still Called the Godfather of the Genre

Richard Donner on the sets of Superman (1978)
Richard Donner on the sets of Superman

Pressure From The Salkinds Forced Richard Donner to Meet Sylvester Stallone

For the casting process, pressure from Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who wanted a name for the role, pushed Donner to meet Sylvester Stallone, who was animated to don the cape. On the contrary, Donner was less than thrilled to cast the Rocky Star in the role, even though he respected him. He explained,

“The Salkinds wanted a name. I met with Sylvester Stallone because of them. I tried to be nice and say, ‘This is wrong’. I liked Stallone; he turned out to be a nice guy. He wanted to do it. I remember meeting him in his manager’s office and I was as cordial as I could be. He was a big star and I’m some punk kid.”

Also read: “I’ve been left out everytime”: Sylvester Stallone Was Not Italian Enough to Even be an Extra in The Godfather

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in a still from the Rock film series
Rocky Star Sylvester Stallone

Eventually, the director landed his eyes on a young Christopher Reeve, and after witnessing his performance in an off-off-Broadway thing, in which he tackled two roles, Donner hired him on faith. And while Superman did go on to become a huge success, paving the way for the superhero industry, the rising tensions between the producer and Donner led him to part ways with the sequel.


Superman is available to stream on Max.



Written by Santanu Roy

Articles Published: 1449

Santanu Roy is a film enthusiast with a deep love for the medium of animation while also being obsessed with The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Platters. Having expertise in everything related to Batman, Santanu spends most of his time watching and learning films, with Martin Scorsese and Park Chan-wook being his personal favorites. Apart from pursuing a degree in animation, he also possesses a deep fondness for narrative-driven games and is currently a writer at Fandomwire with over 1000 articles.