Friday, September 16, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Superman: The Movie”—Aaron Smolinski (Kal-El as a toddler)

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Superman: The Movie” (including list of interviewees).

[NOTE: Interview conducted 12/09. Special thanks to Jason Thomas for scanning and sending the images and to Aaron, of course, for providing them in the first place.]

How did you get cast in Superman: The Movie?

They had a big casting call and my aunt called my mom and told her about it. So down we went and waited in line. My brother was chosen first as the six-year-old (never made the cut) and I was the second choice for the part. On set, the first choice did not cooperate and I did, so they used me. They had to dye my hair because I was a blonde.

Was it the first movie you were in?

This was the first movie I was in.

What is your first memory of the whole experience?

I remember most of it, but I think my first memory is getting on the bus at the gas station to go to the location.

What else do you remember about filming your scenes?

I remember a lot. Richard Donner was great. He would wrap me in a blanket between takes, let me talk in his walkie-talkie, show me his trailer. I remember having lunch in the tent, hanging around in the “ship” as they were lighting. I remember my arms being soar from holding them up.

Where were your outdoor scenes shot?

They were filmed in Blackie, Alberta, Canada.

Do you know how many days your shoot was?

It was about eight or nine days.

Do you know what your parents thought about you having to stand under the truck? Were they worried?

I think they were. My mum more than my dad. I think afterwards they were like “what were we thinking letting him stand under a truck?”

Do you remember what the filmmakers and/or your parents explained to you before shooting? Did you understand the story you were a part of?

I don’t remember them really explaining it. I remember just doing what I was told. And was happy to do it.

Do you have any “regular” anecdotes you’ve told friends over the years about filming STM?

Well, [they had to bargain with me] to come out of the capsule. I was shy and didn’t really want to come out naked, so they had to bribe me. They first gave me a snow globe (which I still have). That didn’t work so they asked what I wanted. I said a six-pack of Coke, so out that came. Then I still wasn’t convinced so they asked again. “Juicy Fruit gum,” I said. They obliged and here I came in my full glory.

There is also a blooper where Ma Kent says “He doesn’t have any family” and then I say “Yes I do.” That is why she ended up saying not around here anyway, because she went with it. Every time she said I didn’t have any family, I kept saying [I did]; my mom and dad were there. She went with it but Mr. Ford wasn’t so amused.

Since you were a boy when you filmed STM, did you get any special treatment on set? Or after? Lots of Superman action figures from Warner Bros., or anything like that?

The only special treatment I received was from Richard Donner and the cast and crew. Warner Bros. screwed me and gave me nothing (including residuals). But I am not bitter. In all fairness, Warner Bros. wasn’t involved at that time (at least I don’t think they were).

Have you ever approached them to renegotiate?

No, but may try.

Do you still have any props or other memorabilia (call sheets, correspondence, your contract, etc.) from the shoot?

I still have my contract (or lack thereof), the snow globe, and I am sure my mom has other stuff.

Do you know if your parents were instantly okay with your onscreen nudity? Today, of course, a superhero movie (or most any mainstream movie) would probably not show a naked child. What do you think about the way our cultural sensibility has changed in that regard?

Back then there wasn’t as much cynicism as there is now. They were cautious, but not like people would be today. I mean, I was only three. I think our culture is overly sensitive, but you can never be too careful. Now when it airs on TV they don’t show that part, which I am not sure why I haven’t objected to it. You can go online and see those images or buy the movie, so…? I think if I was five or older, then I would agree, but I was basically a baby. To each his own. I do think that times are very different and we actually have to protect children now. They can’t protect themselves. Not sure if this answers your question. I may respond more to this.

What if any disapproval have you personally heard about the fact that STM showed a boy naked?

The only disapproval I hear now is that they don’t show it anymore. People, fans, say that was a big part of the scene and they think WB is being over protective.

Do you remember hearing what happened to the boy who played the baby in STM?

Lee Quigley, passed away. I never met him.

Do you remember if you liked Superman before you worked on the movie?

I don’t think I really knew much about him.

Did you like him after?

I liked him, but wasn’t obsessed.

Did you see the other movies?

I did see the other movies. They used the same scene for Superman II (which they didn’t pay me for), and then I was in Superman III (kid at the photo booth. The lady who played my mom was my mom). I have seen them all.

Did you read Superman comics?


Did you attend the STM premiere?


Lots of actors who’ve done superhero movies or shows go on to do voice-overs in superhero cartoons? Have you, or would you?

Haven’t but would love to.

Did you ever correspond with anyone else from the cast of STM at any point?

I did speak with Richard Donner when I moved to LA.

Did you ever meet Christopher Reeve?

I met him during the filming of Superman III. The first thing I remember is shaking his hand and mine disappearing. He had such big hands (at least to an 8-year-old). He would also sit with me and all the extras and crew during lunch, which the other cast members wouldn’t do. He was someone I looked up to. During my acting career, I was always loyal to my “fans” and never turned away from them. I am a firm believer that they are the reason actors can work and get paid for what they do. I think this came from my personality, but also from Christopher Reeve.

Were there ever any cast reunions?

I think so, but I was never invited. I think WB was trying to keep me on the low knowing that they kinda took advantage of me and my family. That’s a story on its own.

When/who else has interviewed you about STM? Were you ever interviewed on TV?

I think I did a radio interview during Superman III. I was never interviewed on TV.

Have any strangers ever recognized you as the young boy from STM?

No…not without knowing that was me.

You’re a father now. How old are your children? (Depending on that answer, have they seen you in STM? What do they think?)

My son is two and he has seen it. He is too young to really have an opinion, but thinks it is neat.

Most of the friends you’ve made in your life must have seen you in STM before you met them. Any funny stories about that?

They all make fun of the naked scene and say, “I hope things have changed…” To that I have a rebuttal…which I will keep to myself.

Did you see Superman Returns? Did you watch Smallville? If yes to either, what do you think?

Thought Superman Returns was better than I thought it would be. I didn’t really watch Smallville.

The producers of Smallville often cast actors associated with past Superman or superhero TV shows. Were you approached?

[Actually], I was up for a part in the pilot—a friend of Clark’s. Other than [that], I never auditioned [nor was I] approached. People told me all the time that I needed to get on it.

What do you do for a living now?

I am still plugging away, writing, acting, and hopefully producing a script I have. But the best job of all is being a husband and father.

Next: Jeff East (Clark Kent as a teenager).


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. Judging from the photos, there was a lot of deleted scenes of toddler Kal-El around the farm.

Town said...

It's heartening to read that Christopher Reeve was so nice.