Despite Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’s failure, there was a hope that Christopher Reeve would return for Superman V. Here’s why it didn’t happen.
Superman V never happened, and there are ample reasons why Christopher Reeve never performed as the Man of Steel again after the failure of 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Christopher Reeve played Superman for a decade, starting with Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie and continuing on with Richard Lester’s Superman II and Superman III. For a generation of fans, Reeve’s earnest Superman is the definitive version and he remains the standard by which all other actors who have played the Man of Steel are judged.
The first two Superman movies, which were produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, were global blockbusters. Donner’s original film innovated the special effects technology that made audiences believe Superman could really fly, and the first two films are wildlyimaginative and heartfelt adventures that pioneered the modern superhero movie. Unfortunately, Superman III, which co-starred the comedian Richard Pryor, was a disappointment; it was made with a slashed budget, grossed less than its predecessors, and the third film received mixed reviews from critics and audiences, despite novel ideas like an evil Superman fighting his good side, Clark Kent. After Superman III and the subsequent failure of the Supergirl spinoff in 1984 (which Reeve refused to appear in), the Salkinds decided the Superman movies had run their course and they sold the rights to Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of Cannon Films.
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However, the Cannon Films-produced Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a disaster. Cannon had numerous films under production and attempted to make Superman IV for even less money than Superman III, shortchanging everything from the sets to the obviously sub-par visual effects. Despite a socially-relevant story partly conceived by Reeve where Superman tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and the return of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Superman IV was an embarrassment to everyone involved and grossed a paltry $36-million worldwide. With Superman IV crashing and burning, there was virtually no chance Reeve would agree to return for Superman V.
Despite their failure, Cannon Films did intend to make Superman V at one point and earmarked Reeve to return as the Man of Steel. Cannon’s plan was to take an even cheaper route and cobble together 45 minutes of unused footage from Superman IV as the basis for a fifth movie. However, nothing came of it, and Cannon, which was in the red after numerous cinematic failures, folded in the early 1990s. The movie rights to Superman reverted back to the Salkinds, but they created a Superboy TV series instead of a movie.
Still, in 1991, screenwriter Cary Bates pitched an idea for Superman V to Alexander and Ilya Salkind, which would star Christopher Reeve once more. Bates’ plan was to ignore Superman III and IV (something Bryan Singer also chose to do when he directed Superman Returns in 2006) and pit the Man of Steel against Brainiac in the Bottled City of Kandor. But at this point in the early ’90s, the Salkinds were producing Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, which ran massively overbudget and ultimately lost the father-son producing team $40-million. The Salkinds quit the movie business afterward and the Superman movie rights reverted to Warner Bros. After Superman IV failed in 1987, it would take 19 years for the Man of Steel to return to the big screen in Superman Returns,despite an infamous attempt by Warners to make Superman Lives starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Tim Burton.
In 1995, Christopher Reeve suffered a tragic accident when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition. The accident left Reeve a quadriplegic, although he heroically persevered. Following his rehabilitation, Reeve became a champion for stem cell research, spinal cord research, and people with disabilities, establishing the Christopher Reeve Foundation (which is now the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation). Reeve also returned to acting and he even appeared in season 2 of Smallville, where he passed the torch to the small screen’s newest Man of Steel, Tom Welling. Christopher Reeve died on October 10, 2004, but the final years of his life proved the real-life man was more heroic than appearing in Superman V would ever allow him to be.
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John has been writing about what he likes – movies, TV, comics, etc. – for over a decade. He’s worked in movies and rubbed shoulders with big names but somehow forgot to ask for money a lot of the time – hence, he is happy to be with Screen Rant. John can be found @BackoftheHead, counts a Black Canary and an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. among his friends, believes (correctly) that Superman is stronger than the Hulk, and he is a friend to all talking gorillas.