Terence Stamp Thought Superman 2 Was 'Beneath' Director Richard Lester

"Kneel before Zod!" With these memorable words, Terrence Stamp established his "Superman II" character, the imperious General Zod, as one of the great comic book movie villains of all time. Zod made his first appearance in "Superman: The Movie" as one of three criminals on the planet Krypton who are banished to the Phantom Zone. The film was shot at the same time as "Superman II," and it was meant to set up the sequel and lead directly into it with the same director, Richard Donner, at the helm. Yet "Superman II" had a notoriously troubled production, and to hear Stamp tell it, his heart wasn't in it after Donner was unceremoniously fired and director Richard Lester was brought in to reshoot scenes and finish the film.

In 2013, Stamp spoke with Entertainment Weekly's radio channel ahead of the release of "Man of Steel," the first film in the new DC Universe, where Michael Shannon took over as Zod and Henry Cavill stepped in for the late Christopher Reeve as Superman. In the interview, he seemed to view the completion of "Superman II" for producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind as something that was "really beneath" Lester's directorial talents. As he put it:

"They brought in this director, who was a very, very good director. But I was astonished that he'd step into another director's shoes. I thought, that's really beneath Richard Lester. He's bigger than that. And none of us wanted to go back. And we didn't go back, actually. It was only when Chris Reeve went back that we thought, well, who am I? I've been out of work for eight years. I can't annoy the business, you know?"

A tale of two Richards

Stamp's comments about Lester and "Superman II" somewhat echo Quentin Tarantino's recent comments to The Los Angeles Times, likening the job of a Marvel movie director to that of "a hired hand." Donner had brought a mythic vision to "Superman: The Movie" that helped make it a $300 million global success, setting the template for the modern superhero blockbuster. When Lester boarded the project, it wasn't the same, as he blended in a different comedic sensibility, which would come to the fore even more when he directed "Superman III," co-starring Richard Pryor.

Add to this the fact that Lester was there at the behest of the Salkinds, and it's easy to see why Stamp wasn't the only cast member less than thrilled with the project changing hands. Marlon Brando's completed scenes as Superman's father, Jor-El, were even removed from the film due to a financial dispute with the producers. Stamp continued to EW:

"So we all went back, but it was flat. Because it was without Richard Donner. And, incredibly, they replaced all of Brando's stuff because he was trying to get a percentage that they had promised him. And to weaken his case, they replaced Marlon with this English actress [Susannah York], Superman's mom. It didn't seem possible. So it was very unhappy. Fortunately, we didn't have to do much. We had to do the last sort of eighth of the movie, frankly."

Though the production of "Superman II" was fraught with difficulties, the movie was already set up for success in a lot of ways, with an action-packed plot pitting Superman against Zod and the other Phantom Zone criminals. Lester may have been a hired gun, but he hit his target as well as any director could be expected to under the circumstances.