An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster

It's absolutely true! You can read all the previous drafts of Star Wars at this website.
Cool, thanks.

The cyborg thing is nothing new: after all, in the finished film Darth Vader is a cyborg.

Like a construction base. Remember the thing has only recently been built. Think Endor in Return of the Jedi -- except that Alderaan is a major Imperial system rather than a foresty backwater.
I meant more normal looking cyborgs like with one metal arm and a human body. Vader sort of doesn't count.

Hmm. It sounds like alternate Star Wars is costing quite a bit more money with some of these special effect shots.
 
Update #5 -- the making of The Star Wars.

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Although Apocalypse Now turned out to be less than half as successful as American Graffiti in terms of gross revenue, the film served an important purpose in George Lucas’s career: it showed that his surprise success with American Graffiti had not merely been a fluke. Taking into account the fact that the Vietnam War was still a controversial subject and not generally regarded as a subject for entertainment purposes, Lucas had delivered two films in a row which had each been admirable successes. George Lucas was now a filmmaking force to be reckoned with – something that would be reinforced the following year when, just like American Graffiti had been, Apocalypse Now was nominated for multiple Academy Award categories. (And just like American Graffiti, it lost every single one – while few people disputed the Best Director and Best Picture awards being won by Woody Allen for Annie Hall, Christopher Lee was regarded by many as having been robbed of the Best Supporting Actor award which ultimately went to Jason Robards for his role in Julia.)

So despite the incredibly stressful ordeal that directing Apocalypse Now had been, Lucas launched himself back into The Star Wars in high spirits. He had rising prestige, he at last had something close to a shooting script, he had a $12 million budget backing him up, and he was determined to see this thing through to the end. The film was to be made in England, with some location shooting in Tunisia for the desert planet Utapau (locations were also scouted in Tunisia for the desolate fourth moon of Yavin, but Lucas ultimately decided to create that environment in the studio and with matte paintings).

The process of casting the rest of the major roles began with open auditions to find actors to play the three main leads – Lucas had decided quite early on to cast unknown or little-known actors as the three central protagonists. But in one case, Lucas already had one particular actor in mind: as both he and Coppola would later recall, the inspiration had come to Lucas as they sat in the editing booth watching film footage of LeVar Burton as Mr Clean. Lucas had stood up and said quietly, “Francis? I think I’ve just found my Han Solo.”

Han Solo, the cynical secondary protagonist who acted as a counterpoint to the more faithful Luke Skywalker, had evolved primarily as a combination of two characters from the first draft script: Clieg Whitsun, and the original Han Solo (conceived as a green noseless alien who was an old friend of the elderly General Skywalker). Lucas had pictured the new Han Solo as being a young white man with a short goatee beard, but in observing Burton’s performance he saw how the young actor could potentially be great in the role (even though Han would ultimately be quite different from Mr Clean in personality – more witty, more sceptical and ultimately more heroic). While Lucas still held auditions for the part, Burton did indeed stand out as being the best choice.

The part of Princess Leia ultimately went to Carrie Fisher, a young actress who had previously auditioned for the title role in Carrie (directed by Lucas’s friend Brian de Palma) and had impressed the director, but had narrowly lost to Sissy Spacek – de Palma recommended to Lucas that she be invited back to audition for Leia, and she won the part.

Many young actors were seen in auditions for the part of central protagonist Luke Skywalker (renamed from “Luke Starkiller” on the suggestion of Francis Ford Coppola) – many of whom were very good, and most of whom did not match Lucas’s mental image of Luke as “a short, blond and chubby teenager”. But one audition in particular stood out: the actor was a 23-year-old man, slim and of average height, with a long dark red mane of hair and a full bushy beard. Skeptical but accommodating, Lucas had allowed him to read for the part – and the young man gave a reading that was absolutely perfect. Lucas had then looked down at the paperwork in front of him, looked back up at the young man, and said, “Wait a minute… Bill Mumy as in Billy Mumy?”

The auditionee was none other than the former child actor, whose extremely prolific career throughout the 1960s had culminated in the role of Will Robinson in Lost in Space – now working in relative obscurity as a musician and occasional actor, most recently seen as a cast member of the television show Sunshine two years before. Lucas cast Bill Mumy in the lead role on the condition that Mumy shave his beard, which Lucas thought was unsuitable for Luke. As it happened, the newly cleanshaven Mumy looked remarkably youthful and could pass for a teenager.

Although LeVar Burton had gladly signed on to play Han Solo (in only his second professional acting job in his entire life), Lucas was not so lucky with another cast member from Apocalypse Now: Christopher Lee’s experience with Lucas as a director had been less than pleasant, and he politely refused the role of Lord Darth Vader to instead join the cast of Steven Spielberg’s historical comedy epic 1941. The role of Vader ultimately went to Peter Lupus, best known for playing Willy Armitage on Mission: Impossible. After deciding that Lupus’s voice was too friendly-sounding, despite his intimidating stature and perfectly fine physical acting, Lucas revisited the idea of Vader wearing a mask (which had been discarded in rewrites): the uniform of the Knights of the Sith was hence designed to include an intimidating hard black mask over the lower half of the face, to make dubbing easier. The voice of Darth Vader was dubbed by English actor Valentine Dyall. The protocol droid C-3P0 was also dubbed in post-production, though this was intended from the start: played physically by a remarkably thin English man inside a metal-plated suit, C-3P0’s voice was dubbed by voice actor Rich Little.

Christopher Lee’s declining to participate was a disappointment, but there were two major casting coups that Lucas did make: acclaimed Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune in the role of Akira Dainoga, Luke’s Jedi mentor; and famous Hammer Horror alumnus Peter Cushing as the villainous Governor Montross Holdaack.

As he had in his previous films, George Lucas gave a minor part to his friend Harrison Ford (who had played Bob Falfa in American Graffiti and Colonel Milius in Apocalypse Now). This time, Lucas gave Ford the choice of two roles: Bail Antilles, the surly Rebel spy in the Cloud City on the Imperial planet of Alderaan; or the Pilot Leader (also identified with the name “Mace”) who leads the attack on the Death Star by Rebel one-man fighters at the film’s climax. Ford chose to play Antilles, and made a stand-out performance in the film which made his presence on screen appear much greater than its actual 14-minute duration. In retrospect, one can only imagine how things would have played out had Ford chosen to play the Pilot Leader instead…

The Star Wars had its share of trials during production, particularly in the location shooting; however, to his credit, Lucas weathered all the troubles very well. As he would later explain, after surviving Apocalypse Now Lucas felt that any issues with The Star Wars were minor by comparison – not only that, but The Star Wars was a project close to his heart and one that he was especially emotionally invested in. Lucas’s own enthusiasm also helped to motivate the cast and crew, with whom he had a much better professional relationship than those on Apocalypse Now.

Nevertheless, despite his outward enthusiasm Lucas was still feeling the strain of directing. It is very likely that this influenced his decision to scale back his own involvement in any possible sequels to writing only initial treatments and acting as executive producer. He decided that if successful The Star Wars could ultimately spawn a twelve-movie series, just as the serials of the 1940s had had twelve chapters – each would be written and directed by different people, with him acting only as the general overseer of the franchise. This was also a decision he also applied to another film idea he had been toying with since 1973, which was provisionally titled The Adventures of Indiana Jones.

Lucas would make another decision during pre-production that would have far-reaching consequences for the world of film: after discovering that Twentieth Century Fox had shut down its own special-effects department, Lucas founded his own special effects company which he named “Industrial Light and Magic”. Based in California, ILM would gradually expand to become a major producer of visual effects for Hollywood films.

The Star Wars was released in early May 1979. While it may appear odd in retrospect, the reception it received was generally positive but not effusive: common criticisms were that the story was needlessly derivative and somewhat juvenile. Coming after such massive hits as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Planet of the Titans: A Star Trek Motion Picture, The Star Wars was also rather unfairly dismissed by some critics as merely a case of Lucas jumping on the science-fiction bandwagon (a charge that would also be levelled at the series of TV movies written by Glen A Larson entitled The Ark of Adama, which would begin broadcast in September of that year.) Film critic Roger Ebert praised the film, however, calling it an excellent modern children’s film and a worthy successor to Close Encounters.

Viewers also greatly appreciated The Star Wars, which grossed over $160 million domestically and almost as much overseas – Lucas’s second official blockbuster and his highest-earning film. Hoping to replicate the success of the film or at least come close, Twentieth Century Fox approved of a sequel almost immediately after release: with a slightly expanded budget of $15 million, the sequel was fast-tracked for a release date of December 1980. Lucas, who had already written a treatment for a lower- or equal-budget sequel to The Star Wars during the post-production stage, enlisted Alan Dean Foster to write the screenplay and Irvin Kershner to direct. Even while The Star Wars was still playing in theatres across the globe, The Star Wars – Chapter II: Quest for the Kiber Crystal was entering production…

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Notes:

Yep, no Oscar for George. I've never seen Julia, but it sounds like shameless Oscar-bait.

The budget for the film gets expanded from $10 million to $12 million, rather than slashed to $8 million. The extra money goes primarily towards realising Alderaan and Cloud City on screen -- this was indeed cut from the film in OTL for being too expensive.

So now you know why LeVar Burton is important. Or, at least, you know part of the story. I find it kinda funny now that I hadn't even considered putting him in the TL when I was first planning it...

And I've got Bill Mumy, a.k.a. Billy Mumy, a.k.a. Will Robinson from Lost in Space, a.k.a. Lennier from Babylon 5 playing Luke Skywalker. Told you that you may be surprised. :D Bill Mumy was quite young-looking: can you believe he's actually a year older than Mira Furlan (who played Delenn on B5)?

And Peter Lupus is Vader, partly because Vader was intended to have his face fully visible and so to be played by an actual actor: the permanent-mask thing only came about in OTL due to Ralph McQuarrie's drawings (i.e. he drew a picture of Vader from his introductory scene in the second draft, where he wears a breathing mask out of necessity). ITTL he gets a different type of mask for different reasons.

C-3P0 was indeed intended to be dubbed by somebody else in OTL as well -- it was only during production that the filmmakers decided that Anthony Daniels's rather English-butlery voice actually suited the droid quite well. In TTL, C-3P0 has an American accent.

Toshiro Mifune was Lucas's first choice to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in OTL, but Mifune apparently refused. Here, he accepts, and plays Akira Dainoga instead of appearing in Steven Spielberg's 1941.

In OTL, Harrison Ford's small role in Apocalypse Now was called Colonel Lucas -- some say the name was meant as a slight against George. In TTL, the role is called Colonel Milius.

Lucas has gone through a trial-by-fire (or, rather, trial-by-jungle) and emerged a better director -- not to mention better equipped to handle work-related stress.

Here's something that may be interesting: it was in the very same conversation that Spielberg persuades Lucas to change Luke's name back to Skywalker that he also persuades Lucas to change the surname of the title character in Lucas's story The Adventures of Indiana Smith. In OTL, both changes happened in a different context. Cross-TL resonance!

ILM's founding has been delayed a couple of years. I can't think of a better alternate name for the company. ILM had a slow start in OTL too so the delay doesn't effect much.

The Ark of Adama is, of course, TTL's Battlestar Galactica. Glen A Larson apparently originally conceived the idea as a series of TV movies entitled Adam's Ark back in the late 1960s. Due to Close Encounters kicking off the sci-fi movie trend rather than Star Wars ITTL, its production has been delayed about a year.

The Star Wars in TTL is a blockbuster, but less of a success than Star Wars in OTL -- consequently, the sequel gets its budget merely increased 25% rather than quadrupled. And it gets no Oscar nominations either.
 
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Great update -- JTMSIUC, at the end of 1979 in TTL, Superman is the highest grossing film of all time?
Correct, sir. And Superman II has come close but not quite surpassed it. (I figure at least some people will have seen Superman in theatres and disliked it, and so not bothered with the sequel.)
 
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Christopher Lee was regarded by many as having been robbed of the Best Supporting Actor award which ultimately went to Jason Robards for his role in Julia.)

Yep, no Oscar for George. I've never seen Julia, but it sounds like shameless Oscar-bait.
Julia is total Oscar bait, you are certainly right on that front.

LeVar Burton as Mr Clean. Lucas had stood up and said quietly, “Francis? I think I’ve just found my Han Solo.” Lucas had pictured the new Han Solo as being a young white man with a short goatee beard, but in observing Burton’s performance he saw how the young actor could potentially be great in the role
I know you've been teasing it but LeVar Burton as Han Solo? I think I'm going to need… nope found pictures. Wow he has total baby face in 1979. I know he's a good actor but you're working against thirty years of mental images in pop culture. It is surprisingly hard to picture other people in the rolls.

The part of Princess Leia ultimately went to Carrie Fisher, a young actress who had previously auditioned for the title role in Carrie (directed by Lucas’s friend Brian de Palma) and had impressed the director, but had narrowly lost to Sissy Spacek – de Palma recommended to Lucas that she be invited back to audition for Leia, and she won the part.
She's the actor you don't change! Sigh. So I guess that means you don't think she gets another role (or quits Hollywood) before starting The Star Wars up. Taking a look at her IMDB implies she plugged away on TV movies, so I suppose that's reasonable.

the actor was a 23-year-old man, slim and of average height, with a long dark red mane of hair and a full bushy beard. Skeptical but accommodating, Lucas had allowed him to read for the part – and the young man gave a reading that was absolutely perfect for the part. Lucas had then looked down at the paperwork in front of him, looked back up at the young man, and said, “Wait a minute… Bill Mumy as in Billy Mumy?”
I found this photo of Mumy in 1975, I couldn't find one for 1979-ish, but I can certainly see him playing Luke.

The voice of Darth Vader was dubbed by English actor Valentine Dyall.
Ooh, good choice. I've heard a few episodes of Appointment With Fear.

This time, Lucas gave Ford the choice of two roles: Bail Antilles, the surly Rebel spy in the Cloud City on the Imperial planet of Alderaan; or the Pilot Leader (also identified with the name “Mace”) who leads the attack on the Death Star by Rebel one-man fighters at the film’s climax. Ford chose to play Antilles, and made a stand-out performance in the film which made his presence on screen appear much greater than its actual 14-minute duration. In retrospect, one can only imagine how things would have played out had Ford chosen to play the Pilot Leader instead…
Now I'm trying to come up with potential films for soon-to-be (I hope) breakout star Harrison Ford to be in the '80s. Hmm. Oh, is Blade Runner butterflied badly at this point? I love that movie. And Alien should be safe in 1979, but Aliens is an open question I imagine. Oh 1980s film, so much fun.

Lucas founded his own special effects company which he named “Industrial Light and Magic”. Based in California, ILM would gradually expand to become a major producer of visual effects for Hollywood films.

ILM's founding has been delayed a couple of years. I can't think of a better alternate name for the company. ILM had a slow start in OTL too so the delay doesn't effect much.
Well, obviously, it has to be Industrial Magic & Light (IML). Heh.

Viewers also greatly appreciated The Star Wars, which grossed over $160 million domestically and almost as much overseas – Lucas’s second official blockbuster and his highest-earning film. Hoping to replicate the success of the film or at least come close, Twentieth Century Fox approved of a sequel almost immediately after release: with a slightly expanded budget of $15 million, the sequel was fast-tracked for a release date of December 1980. Lucas, who had already written a treatment for a lower- or equal-budget sequel to The Star Wars during the post-production stage, enlisted Alan Dean Foster to write the screenplay and Irvin Kershner to direct. Even while The Star Wars was still playing in theatres across the globe, The Star Wars – Chapter II: Quest for the Kiber Crystal was entering production…
So The Star Wars gets to look much nicer, but what would have been the Empire Strikes Back gets hammered on the budget (32 million OTL to 15, ouch, although Empire originally was 18 million so I suppose Quest for the Kiber Crystal could get a little more money). I'm super curious as to how that effects things. Also I assume Lucas isn't able to finance Quest for the Kiber Crystal by himself, and so's he's still still stuck in the studio system?

Alan Dean Foster, huh. How'd that happen? (And man, you're torching things left and right. "I love you", "I know" is gone, Empire has radically changed, this is so much fun!)
 
Correct, sir. And Superman II has come close but not quite surpassed it. (I figure at least some people will have seen Superman in theatres and disliked it, and so not bothered with the sequel.)
Can you please tell me, is Superman II ITTL completed by Richard Donner? And is cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and production designer John Barry still alive?
 
(And just like American Graffiti, it lost every single one – while few people disputed the Best Director and Best Picture awards being won by Woody Allen for Annie Hall, Christopher Lee was regarded by many as having been robbed of the Best Supporting Actor award which ultimately went to Jason Robards for his role in Julia.
IOTL, Star Wars won a whopping six (!) Oscars that year, more than any other film; they were all in the creative and technical categories, but they included Original Score (the third for John Williams) and Film Editing (the only Oscar won by Lucas - Marcia Lucas, that is). Sound Designer Ben Burtt also won a special award.

ColeMercury said:
Lucas had pictured the new Han Solo as being a young white man with a short goatee beard, but in observing Burton’s performance he saw how the young actor could potentially be great in the role (even though Han would ultimately be quite different from Mr Clean in personality – more witty, more sceptical and ultimately more heroic).
Though this one was telegraphed, it's still going to be interesting to see the effects on Burton's later career. As others have said, he is a talented actor, but he's definitely seen as a squeaky-clean, strait-laced type IOTL. His youth, extreme likeability, and playful, roguish charm could give us a Will Smith almost two decades ahead of schedule.

ColeMercury said:
The part of Princess Leia ultimately went to Carrie Fisher
Maybe she really did sleep with him to get the part :p

ColeMercury said:
“Wait a minute… Bill Mumy as in Billy Mumy?”
An inspired choice; it helps that he, like Hamill, is a big nerd and would totally "get" the movie. An interesting bit of trivia: Mumy and Hamill are good friends in real life (as I'm sure you know), and have shared the screen on more than occasion. The example that jumps immediately to my mind is their joint appearance on "Space Cases", co-created by Mumy.

ColeMercury said:
So now you know why LeVar Burton is important. Or, at least, you know part of the story. I find it kinda funny now that I hadn't even considered putting him in the TL when I was first planning it...
Vultan is indeed the man :D

ColeMercury said:
Lucas has gone through a trial-by-fire (or, rather, trial-by-jungle) and emerged a better director -- not to mention better equipped to handle work-related stress.
One would hope - and it would seem so, given what I'm seeing so far - that he learned the crucial lesson: to seek out and willingly accept advice and criticism from others, rather than being forced to compromise with clenched teeth, as IOTL.

ColeMercury said:
ILM's founding has been delayed a couple of years. I can't think of a better alternate name for the company. ILM had a slow start in OTL too so the delay doesn't effect much.
If you want something unimaginative, how about Lucasfilm Effects? Or even more uncreative, Lucasfilm Post-Production!

ColeMercury said:
The Star Wars in TTL is a blockbuster, but less of a success than Star Wars in OTL -- consequently, the sequel gets its budget merely increased 25% rather than quadrupled. And it gets no Oscar nominations either.
It's going to be very strange, Star Wars being just one movie among many. From the hints you've dropped, it seems that Superman has taken its place ITTL - which should have very interesting effects on the sequels to that film (particularly Superman II).

Looking forward to more! This is a terrific time to be a moviegoer!
 
The Star Wars in TTL is a blockbuster, but less of a success than Star Wars in OTL -- consequently, the sequel gets its budget merely increased 25% rather than quadrupled. And it gets no Oscar nominations either.
Really? You'd think it'd get at least an honorable mention for special effects.
 
Julia is total Oscar bait, you are certainly right on that front.



I know you've been teasing it but LeVar Burton as Han Solo? I think I'm going to need… nope found pictures. Wow he has total baby face in 1979. I know he's a good actor but you're working against thirty years of mental images in pop culture. It is surprisingly hard to picture other people in the rolls.



She's the actor you don't change! Sigh. So I guess that means you don't think she gets another role (or quits Hollywood) before starting The Star Wars up. Taking a look at her IMDB implies she plugged away on TV movies, so I suppose that's reasonable.



I found this photo of Mumy in 1975, I couldn't find one for 1979-ish, but I can certainly see him playing Luke.



Ooh, good choice. I've heard a few episodes of Appointment With Fear.



Now I'm trying to come up with potential films for soon-to-be (I hope) breakout star Harrison Ford to be in the '80s. Hmm. Oh, is Blade Runner butterflied badly at this point? I love that movie. And Alien should be safe in 1979, but Aliens is an open question I imagine. Oh 1980s film, so much fun.



Well, obviously, it has to be Industrial Magic & Light (IML). Heh.



So The Star Wars gets to look much nicer, but what would have been the Empire Strikes Back gets hammered on the budget (32 million OTL to 15, ouch, although Empire originally was 18 million so I suppose Quest for the Kiber Crystal could get a little more money). I'm super curious as to how that effects things. Also I assume Lucas isn't able to finance Quest for the Kiber Crystal by himself, and so's he's still still stuck in the studio system?

Alan Dean Foster, huh. How'd that happen? (And man, you're torching things left and right. "I love you", "I know" is gone, Empire has radically changed, this is so much fun!)
Hey, things could change. It could be worse. We could have Leigh Brackett's weirder version of Empire made as a sequel, if she's still alive ITTL (IOTL, she died in 1978).
 
Let us pray really really hard that Indiana Jones comes out the same as IOTL! With Harrison Ford as Indy. Please make that happen. Please make it successful!
 
Can you please tell me, is Superman II ITTL completed by Richard Donner? And is cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and production designer John Barry still alive?
Patience, grasshopper.

Brainbin said:
An interesting bit of trivia: Mumy and Hamill are good friends in real life (as I'm sure you know), and have shared the screen on more than occasion.
No, I didn't know that. That's awesome.

vultan said:
Really? You'd think it'd get at least an honorable mention for special effects.
It's nothing particularly new or innovative in TTL. Planet of the Titans had already featured similarly spectacular vis-effects the previous year.
 
It's interesting that Valentine Dyall is the voice of Vader. I'm not that familiar with his work, but I do know his radio character was referred to as "The Man in Black", and he portrayed "the Black Guardian" in Doctor Who. (Speaking of which, does Declan Mulholland have any roles? If Jabba is an alien, he likely won't even get filmed...)
 
Could Han still hook up with Leia? The problem is that even today Hollywood has a phobia about black men and white women being together.

In this timeline, will Star Wars change racial relations?
 
Update #6 -- the making of Superman, Superman II and what happens after.

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Richard Donner had gone through much of 1978 feeling as if the Sword of Damocles was dangling over his head.

He was in charge of a monumental film project: directing two big-budget epic-scale films about America’s most beloved comic-book superhero, simultaneously. Superman, starring Christopher Reeve in the title role, was to be released in December of that year; its sequel, Superman II, would be released one year later. And although he felt that he was truly creating something special, he also knew that others didn’t share his view.

His working relationship with the films’ producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, had broken down almost completely. The films had gone over-budget and principal photography had run months too long, resulting in the first film missing its planned summer 1978 release date. In the end, Donner and the Salkinds simply weren’t talking to each other. Richard Lester (who had directed the Salkind-produced duology of The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers) was brought on set to act as an intermediary, but Donner had the distinct feeling that they were lining up his replacement. By the time of the first film’s release to theatres, 80% of the filming for the sequel had already been completed – but Donner couldn’t discount the possibility that the Salkinds would fire him regardless, even if the first film was a success.

Then a miracle happened. Superman was not merely a success: it was the most successful film of all time. Audiences had never seen anything quite like it, with its particular blend of idealism, realism, fantasy and hope. It appealed to children and to adults alike. It was clever, but not pretentious. It had comedic moments, but didn’t have the broad campy tone of 1960s Batman. As the tagline had said, “You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly” – and the audience did, to the tune of $350 million domestic box office gross and another $200 million worldwide.

Donner had been right: the Salkinds had fully intended to fire him as director of Superman II. Even if Superman had been a blockbuster success, he still would’ve been fired as more trouble than he was worth. But with Superman breaking all records, and earning them more money than they could’ve dreamed of… as much as they hated to admit it, they couldn’t afford to lose him. Donner was allowed to stay and finish what he started.

Once the promotion tour for Superman was over, Donner went back to work in completing Superman II. Gene Hackman returned for reshoots as the character Lex Luthor; production designer John Barry (who, incidentally, had turned down working with George Lucas on The Star Wars in order to work on Superman instead) also returned; film editor Stuart Baird, who had been nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the first film, returned to finish the job he had started on the sequel. Unfortunately, one key crew member who could not return was cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, who had died shortly after principal photography on the first film was concluded.

Richard Lester was also retained as an associate producer: despite Donner proving that his instincts in directing Superman were correct, the relationship between him and the Salkinds was still frosty. As it happened, it was Lester who suggested the new ending for Superman II: after the planned twist ending of Superman turning back time had been used for the first film instead of the second as originally planned, Donner had felt the need to come up with a new twist for the sequel to put everything back how it was before the three Kryptonian villains had arrived on Earth – Lester, however, recommended that Donner not include any such twist and instead have the straightforward ending of Superman returning the American flag to the White House. When Donner questioned Lester about the matter of Lois remembering Superman’s secret identity, Lester had shrugged and suggested Superman erase her memory with his superpowers; Donner instead decided to end the film with Lois still knowing that Superman was Clark Kent. While this was very controversial at the time, it ultimately resulted in the comic books finally having Superman reveal his true identity to Lois Lane the year after the film’s release.

Superman II, upon its release in December 1979, was a success on a scale not quite reaching that of its predecessor, but still outperforming Close Encounters from two years before. Further sequels were guaranteed, and the Salkinds decided to follow up with another two films to be shot back-to-back: a sequel Superman III (to be released summer 1982) and the spinoff film Supergirl (to be released summer 1983). By mutual agreement, Donner was not invited back to direct the new films: he departed the Superman franchise confident that his artistic vision had been completed with the existing duology – as did creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz, whose contribution to the films had been invaluable. Instead, Richard Lester (whose friendship with the Salkinds and with Donner remained strong) was hired as the director of both Superman III and Supergirl.

More than simply establishing a Superman film franchise, though, Superman II can also be credited for beginning the new surge of comic-book films in American cinema. Once it was clear that the success of Superman was not a fluke, DC Comics swiftly moved to compound their success and organised in conjunction with Warner Bros. for a new film version of Batman to be made. Tentative talks were also begun regarding eventual film adaptations of Wonder Woman and The Flash.

Meanwhile, similar moves were being made by Marvel Entertainment Group (the parent company of Marvel Comics) to capitalise on the new superhero craze. Plans for a big-budget Spider-Man film were put in motion in conjunction with Columbia Pictures, although initial moves with this were slow (perhaps due to it being regarded as too soon after the broadcasting of the subpar television series The Amazing Spider-Man, episodes of which had been released as feature films outside the US). While Spider-Man remained in temporary limbo, a different Marvel project was seized upon immediately by Paramount Pictures. Considering the project and central character to have the potential to rival Superman, Paramount began pre-production for a film adaptation of Captain America


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Notes: this is a relatively short update because a lot of it has already been referred to in previous updates. In fact, I was originally going to make Update #6 about something else but I realised some of this stuff needed further elaboration and I wanted to keep this TL as linear as possible.

As you may be able to tell, Superman basically takes the cultural place in TTL that Star Wars has in OTL. All the same ingredients that give Star Wars such a universal appeal are there -- it seems to me that the only thing that prevented Superman from getting such a reception was that it came nineteen months later. In TTL, no one film has yet gotten a reception quite like Star Wars got in OTL: Close Encounters has come close but it hasn't quite measured up.

In OTL, Richard Donner has jokingly said that if Superman had been less of a success the Salkinds probably would've kept him as director for Superman II, and it was only because it was a success that they could fire him. I disagree: if Superman had failed, they would still have fired him but would've done it with extreme prejudice. The only thing that saves Donner in TTL is that Superman is not only a success, but a phenomenal success.

The Observer finally gets his answer: Geoffrey Unsworth is still dead, but I've spared John Barry from contracting meningitis. And because it needed addressing, I also pointed out that due to the delay in The Star Wars being made, someone else was the production designer as Barry would be working on the (undoubtedly better-paying) Superman films.

Because they're not reshooting most of the film, Superman II is released as per the original schedule in December 1979. I don't quite know what the plot of Superman III will be, but Brainiac is the villain and it also provides some of the background for Supergirl's origin story.

Just a general schedule for more superhero films to come: Captain America will be out sometime in 1982, Batman will be released in 1983, and Spider-Man will have to wait until 1985. And, of course, other superhero films will also be released in the '80s and '90s, both from DC and Marvel...
 
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I wonder how well Superman III and Supergirl will do under Lester. If Supergirl manages a measure of success, I wonder if it will affect the comic books and maybe spare her from dying in the comics. Same with Flash who is still Barry Allen at this point. Heck, Crisis on Infinite Earths may be butterflied out of existence altogether.

And a Captain America film? It's probably more film-able than Iron Man or Thor at this point. What about the X-Men and Fantastic Four?
 
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Just a general schedule for more superhero films to come: Captain America will be out sometime in 1982, Batman will be released in 1983, and Spider-Man will have to wait until 1985. And, of course, other superhero films will also be released in the '80s and '90s, both from DC and Marvel...
Oh man, it would be so perfect if one of these films became the highest grossing film of the time -- and if it's Batman, it'd be beyond perfect...
 
Allright!! Still sad that Unsworth is dead. He was a very good cinematographer. If a replacement is needed, then might I recommend Vilmos Zsigmond, who I think can match Unsworth's style. Hope John Williams returns as well. As for a Star Wars production designer, would Ken Adam work? Got a feeling ITTL that they won't be filming Moonraker as the next James Bond film after The Spy Who Loved Me.
 
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