Friday, August 5, 2022

"I Don't Think Sequels Are Really Worth That Much"

A typewritten note with letterhead identifying the writer as Mario Puzo.
Superhero films and television shows have been around a long time - almost as long as the comic book characters inspiring them. That said, the current standard of balancing multiple blockbusters that take place in the same universe is a more recent one. The success of 20th Century Fox's X-Men movies and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy in the early 2000s helped the process along, but the current behemoth known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn't launch until 2008 with Iron Man.   

Why are we talking about this? Well, it's because of a little note we have in the papers of Mario Puzo. Puzo is best known for writing the novel The Godfather and co-writing the film trilogy that it kicked off. He also co-wrote the screenplay for DC's first major film, Superman (1978). We've touched on the writing process for the Superman screenplay before, but today let's hear what Puzo has to say on the subject of sequels and splitting up your moneymaker:

1. I still think it a better idea to make one big block busting picture rather than split the script and shot film into two separate movies. REASONS: No major star will want to take the risk of committing to what may be two films. What if the first film is bad? Then he has to sweat out the second film being bad. (We know it will be good, of course, but he can't be sure). Under the two film concept I am fairly certain you will not get one of the super stars. Make it one big film and you get the major star.

REASON # 2: At the risk of being immodest, I think the script as written can be a really blockbuster of a movies [sic] with grosses comparable to THE GODFATHER, THE STING, JAWS, THE EXORCIST. Not only because of the script but because of the built in audience which the comic book SUPERMAN has given the project. However I think being split up two movies will weaken everything, all elements of the project. You will have a lesser star, the script, any script, becomes less effective in such a situation, the shooting of the picture to be made into two becomes more complex, I would think. You save money, sure, but everything becomes more risky. Why not have an almost sure shot big hit ONE Movie rather than two risky movies?

... I think audiences are waiting for the one great big blockbuster movie. I don't think sequels are really worth that much. The sequel to the GODFATHER II is not yet out of the red. French Connection II is not really a success. And both had big big successes preceding them. If the first big Superman picture is only a mediocre success the sequel won't be worth much... Enough advice, Hope you like the script.

Superman was ultimately split into two films and cast a relative unknown, Christopher Reeve, as its star. Both Superman and Superman II were critical and commercial successes, despite Puzo's protestations. Then again, so were the Godfather movies.

To read this note and other production materials from Superman, check out MS-1371.