Why Richard Donner Didn’t Edit Superman II’s ‘Richard Donner Cut’ Himself

“Superman II” might just be the best Superman movie ever made, but that didn’t stop fans from clamoring for Richard Donner’s original cut. Michael Thau had worked as Donner’s assistant before becoming an editor and director, and in a 2006 IGN interview, Donner explained how Thau told him there had been “so many requests to Warner Bros.” for his original cut of “Superman II” that the studio had signed off on the project. Donner gave the “good little editor” his blessing to oversee recutting the footage, and work on “The Richard Donner Cut” began.

The process kicked off when six tons of film were shipped from London, where they’d been stored in the Technicolor vaults, to California where Thau was set to work on the recut. In a making-of featurette, Donner explained how Thau came to oversee the project:

“One day Michael Thau called me and said, ‘Listen, there really is a internet movement afoot that they want to see your cut.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t know where to start,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’d love to do it.’ I said, ‘Hey, of all the people you’re the right guy, go do it.'”

Once the newly-unearthed footage had gone through an extensive cataloging process, Thau started cutting scenes together, working from roughly 70% of what Donner had shot for “Superman II” before Richard Lester took over — the rest of this original footage had been lost in the decades since. During that process of editing, Donner, who’d never actually seen “Superman” in full before it premiered and had pretty much remained removed from the saga after he was replaced, preferred to maintain his distance somewhat.

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