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Monday, August 29, 2005


TORONTO -- Margot Kidder and Erica Durance share a character, and now they've shared a stage.

Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the four Christopher Reeve Superman films, and Durance, who plays Lois in The WB's Smallville, were the subject of a panel at the Canadian National Comic Book Expo on Sunday.

Below is the first part of a two-part, edited transcription of the question-and-answer session:

Question: Have either of you met Noel Neill? Has her portrayal of Lois Lane influenced you?

Durance: I did meet her briefly at a convention and it was wonderful. She was such a sassy woman. She's a tiny little thing. A lot of people were wanting pictures, and she was so great, but she had such great boundaries: "OK, I'm done."

For me, being one who has watched the ladies before me, they definitely influence it, and you hope you do justice to the stuff that they've done before.

Kidder: I've met her and she's wonderful, totally wonderful. And then when I found out she's going to be 85 this year, I was stunned. She has so much energy, puts us to change.

I think there was a huge social change between her Lois and certainly my Lois, which was post 60s. What I tried to do was make my Lois act like a liberated woman, if you will, around Clark. Then when she was around Superman, she kind of feel apart and turned into a semi-retard and went all goo-goo, as younger woman sometimes tend to fall in love, and I certainly did at that phase of my life.

I just think that Erica's work is absolutely fabulous and psychologically more nuanced than what we were doing.

Durance: I think, too, that's true. As society changes, they have different things that women are allowed to do and allowed to have kinds of experiences and things like that. Now, it's more toward where I can even kick somebody or punch somebody or something that, where it wasn't necessarily as accepted.

As society goes along, you have to amalgamate and chance, yeah, but stay true to the base line of what the character is. And I agree with Margot, there is a time when a woman likes to put up that front and say they're independent, but secretly there's always somebody who makes them go, "Gluh, gluh," and they can't talk.

Kidder: It's hormones.

Question: With the remake of Superman, did you try for any of the roles? And if not, what else do you have going?

Durance: Basically, the idea with the feature film -- and, again I'm not privvy to all the upper echelon and the decisions they make -- I think they wanted to try to keep the projects separate, so they could keep them both going, which is actually very smart financially. They've got two different things going.

So I don't think they ever really considered anyone from Smallville. They wanted to keep a whole new cast.

Right now, I'm focusing on doing the best that I can. Getting a part where you play something like this is a huge thing, and, again, following women who have done it before and I was very nervous about it. So I still really am focusing on that and getting my feet wet. If something happens later on, that's fine, but we're shooting right now and that's what I'm focused on.

Question: Can you tell us about the upcoming season of Smallville?

Kidder: Don't say anything that will get you fired. (laughs)

Durance: Basically, they've graduated from last year. I know that the different characters are experiencing a lot of those things you do experience when you get out of high school, relationships and different things like that.

Again, I'm not privvy to all the things that happen. Usually, I get a script a couple of days before it starts and then you just memorize and hope that you can hit your mark and say your lines properly.

But I think there are some exciting things in the future. And I do think they want to have them grow up a little bit and have some more exciting things happen.

Question: I have a (relative) who loves Superman 2. And I just wanted her to know that I let you know.

Kidder: Well, thank you very much. There's another Superman 2 that no one's seen.

We were a year over schedule, actually, on the first two movies. We shot them as two movies, but in one shoot. Dick Donner was just the most extraordianary director and didn't feel the need to be glib and snide and let the world feel he didn't take it very seriously. In fact, what he did, was take it very seriously.

And then what happened was the first one came out, we shot most of the second one and the first one was a huge hit. And the producers -- Truth, Justice and the American way being what it is -- were totally crooks. They fired him because they didn't want to pay him all the money they owed him.

So they were going to shoot the last two scenes with me and Chris (Reeve), put it together and say it was directed by Richard Lester, who they owed 3 million bucks to from another movie, and they said they would pay him as he finished up this one. Then the Directors Guild said that you can't do that, half of the movie has to be really directed by the person who gets the credit. So they hastily rewrote a lot, and then Chris and I had to refilm these newly written scenes. So there is somewhere, in a vault, a wonderful Dick Donner Superman 2 scenes with Christopher and I, and I'd love you to write Warner Bros. and ask where it is.

It really, really was fabulous. And he was such a great director. So there's another one out there, but nobody seems to know where.

Question: Aside from their obvious apperance, what was it about the late Christopher Reeve and Tom Welling that makes them such a great Superman from Lois' perspective?

Durance: I think there is something about the way the characters are written. But both of them, physically, they have the classic American dream, the great structured face, very clean. And that kind of goes into the psyche of being a good person, for some reason. People think if they have a perfect face and really bright blue eyes, their bent is to be the good person and do the good things and be heroic.

And of course there's size, obviously. Both of them are big guys and that helps as well with it. (To Kidder) Does that work?

Kidder: I wish this new movie well because I'm dying to see it. But I don't know how anyone could look as much like Superman as Chris Reeve did. On that level alone, I think you're right.

I mean, he looked good even with a spitcurl in the middle of his forehead. That's not normally a good look for a guy. He also looked wholesome and good. And he had, in real life, a kind of boy-scout straight streak, except for about three or four months there I can't talk about.

He really went from Superman to Clark. I am one of those women who thought Clark was kind of cooler and sexier than Superman. Because he was more real and bumbly and human. And Christopher really made the swtich between the two with great acting skill and acting chops.

I think the kid who is cast as Superman right now has huge boots to fill. And boy do I wish him well and I hope he does a great job. But Christopher was amazing. He was Superman in those movies.

Question: When Christopher was cast, he was only 165-170 pounds?

Kidder: He was the skinniest dork I ever laid eyes on. (laughs) When I did my screen test, I walked onto the set and couldn't believe they cast this guy as Superman. I didn't know much about Superman, but I did know he was supposed to have some muscles.

Then they tried all of these paddings on Chris, including ... Well, there was a discussion with these really sleazy producers. (In French accent) "Either he has a big one, or he has nothing." So poor Chris had to come out in these different size codpieces.

I just went, "Chris, tell them to go to Hell." It was his first movie and he was doing what they said for a while -- and then I got at him.

But he went to the gym. And he worked and worked and worked, and he got that body before we started shooting, because the padding just looked stupid. He was a very hard-working guy with anything he tackled, he went for it. And by the time we got halfway through, he went from this skinny dork to this kind of big hunk.

Suddenly, these women were all over him. He kind of thought, "Well, this is good. Good stuff." And women would be falling in droves. He made quite a transformation.

Question: What was it like to work with Chris, Tom and Michael (Rosenbaum) on Smallville?

Durance: I never worked with Chris before. But I worked, obviously, with Tom and Michael. The first I met with Tom he came in early to start the season to read scenes with me and the producer. Right then and there I thought we've got somebody who is not buying into the fame surrounding him. He wants people to feel comfortable and he's like a Southern gentlemen, which is something I think his character brings to that Clark Kent thing. Very down to earth, very fun, very nice person.

And I think he does a very good job. It's hard, because you get used to who they are as a person when you talk to them, then you go on set and see the transformation and that kind of blank stare that he has, like the bumbling thing you said that Chris did. You know, the adjustment between the two.

Michael has the reputation that precedes him.

Kidder: Is that the guy that plays Lex Luthor?

Durance: Yeah.

Kidder: He's so good.

Durance: He's fantastic. He's a very good actor and he's fun to with. And he's just crazy. Part of the way he gets his energy is by jumping around the set and making jokes. He's a big ball of energy. And that helps keep you relaxed. Both are great.

Question: Have you seen the new Superman costume?

Kidder: I've seen pictures. That ass is awfully tight. (laughs)

Question: Have you ever seen Tom in tights?

Durance: No, no tights.

Kidder: Why don't we see him in tights?

Durance: Once he puts on the costume, then it's not the story about his past anymore. He's now Superman, which might be a problem for Brandon Routh because now there will be two of them.

Question: You seem to bring a lot of depth to your character in Smallville. How much is script or do you get to have some input?

Durance: Basically, when you're working on episodics, you don't have a lot of leeway as far as dialogue and that stor of thing. What is written before you, you have to make work, and that's in respect to the writers. Thank goodness I have writers and conceptualists that you give an idea of being able to do fun things, and get in fights with people and have interesting dialogue and things like that. As an actor, you bring what you can to that moment, try to flush it out and make it interesting. It's one of those things in acting, you should your take and hope it works out well. I just try to be as open as I can and honest as I can.

Question: You never watch yourself?

Durance: I don't watch. That's the part that's not very much like Lois.

Question: How much practical joking has there been on your sets?

Kidder: Dick Donner is a notorious practical joker. Notorious. I was actually going through a divorce when we were shooting Superman 1, and anytime I got a little self-pitying or mopey, he would make some really ghastly divorce joke.

There was quite a bit of it. And Christopher was very earnest when we were making the first one. There's a great English expression, "Take the piss out of," and Donner would do that. But you would also laugh when you were the butt of his jokes.

Durance: A lot of our jokes and those kinds of things just came from mistakes, saying the wrong lines and all those kinds of things. They were really good with me because I was so intense, especially in the first year because I was so nervous about it, that they really didn't try to pull too many pranks on me because I was so stressed out as it was. But they did try to do stuff like make funny faces at you when they're behind the camera reading their lines to you.

Michael is the one who likes to pull pranks and do jokes to person, and come out with weird costumes on and things like that. You just got to go with it and have fun.

Question: I've actually been on that boardwalk on Niagara Falls, and I've always been impressed with that scene in the movie. How much of that was you, how much was a stunt lady and how much was special effects?

Kidder: Well, quite a bit was actually me because it was before the days where they got really, really nervous with insurance companies and not letting actors do stuff. Some of it was shot in England, where it was a James Bond thing. It was a big tank and they could throw a stunt person in and it would look like the Niagara River.

Some of the stuff wide out was a stunt lady, but what they would do with me was they would put a big harness under my costume and they would have 10 stunt men standing out of camera view, holding on to each other, who apparently were going to catch me if I were swept down the river. And I think of it now and I go, "Whoa!"

And there was a big cable that went from my costume onto the beach. And I was being filled with bravado about it until I stepped into the river. And it's so powerful that you're feet are just gone. It was quite scary. It's the only stunt that I've been part of that's scared me. It was that one. It terrified me. And it was wet and cold.


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