It must be nice to make money for doing nothing.
Just ask producer Jon Peters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the 1980s hotshot producer made over $80 million for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) and Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel (2013) despite the fact that he did not a day of actual work on either film. And the amount that he made was much higher than the $15 million or so that everyone supposed.
He says he took home $80 million to $85 million combined for [the two films] thanks to backend granted for his role in jump starting the franchise in the ’90s. Warners declined to comment. “I have 7.5 percent of the gross,” says Peters. “Together they did [more than] a billion.”
In short, even though he did no real work on the Superman films that actually reached the big screen, because he had a good deal with the studio for the failed attempt that he spearheaded, he still gets paid.
Peters came to the Superman franchise in the early 1990s when he bought the film rights to the iconic superhero character. He spent much of the decade trying to get the project off the ground in one form or another. Kevin Smith has been very vocal about his time as one of the first screenwriters attached to the film. And his stories are not flattering to Peters. For a while, Tim Burton was attached to direct with Nic Cage set to star, but as projected costs continued to mount, the studio got cold feet and pulled the plug.
Despite not doing much on either Superman Returns or Man Of Steel aside from cashing a check, Peters still boasted that Man Of Steel producer Christopher Nolan had him banned from the set. “My reputation scares these guys,” he stated.
The only thing that probably scared the filmmakers was Peters’ history of really terrible ideas when it comes to Superman. Anyone who has heard Smith talk about his time with Peters will remember the story of the producer wanting Superman to fight a giant spider in the film’s Third Act. But Smith also mentioned how Peters just didn’t get the character of Superman, talking about wanting to cast someone like Sean Penn in the role because he has the look of “a caged animal, a killer.”
For a great look at the entire story of the aborted Superman film and Peters’ part in its downfall, check out last year’s documentary The Death Of Superman Lives.
Most of the rest of the Hollywood Reporter interview is comprised of Peters mythologizing himself and his work. Peters is famous for having risen up through Hollywood from a hairdresser to producing such hits as Flashdance, The Witches of Eastwick and Batman before going on with partner Peter Guber to a spectacularly disastrous run as co-chairs of Columbia Pictures which left the studio over $3 billion in the red by the time they were done.