Before Iron Man had Pepper, another big-screen comic book adaptation set the stage for bringing to life both costume heroes and the spunky ladies in their lives. And like the electric on-screen relationship between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, the romance at the heart of 1978's "Superman" thrived because of the innate chemistry between stars Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.
But would the love triangle (of sorts) between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman have worked so well with another lady in the role? Specifically, a "Pink Lady"?
Many actresses were considered for the role of Lois Lane. Anne Archer, who went on to be Oscar-nominated for playing Michael Douglas' wife in "Fatal Attraction," did a screen test opposite Christopher Reeve. Another candidate, Leslie Ann Warren, had previously played Lois in a musical version of "Superman." And Holly Palance, who had worked on Richard Donner's previous film, "The Omen" (she was the creepy nanny who hung herself), was also considered.
But according to the film's director, Richard Donner, the final two competitors for the part were Kidder and Stockard Channing. Both were brassy brunettes who had not yet broken through in major roles at the time. And both were older than their costar Reeve (Channing by 8 years, and Kidder by 4).
So why did the role ultimately go to Kidder? Each actress who tested with Reeve did two scenes with him: one where he was Superman and another where he was Clark Kent. And Kidder made the very clear distinction between how Lois acted with each persona.
In the documentary "Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman," Kidder explained that she wanted Lois' tough exterior to melt away in the presence of the man in the cape. Kidder said Lois was "cock-eyed, kind of phony-baloney because she couldn't pull her head together enough to think when she was around him." And then Lois would turn around and be utterly dismissive of Clark, which Kidder admitted she had a tendency to do with the men in her off-screen life.
But it did turn out all right for Channing. Instead of "Superman," she was cast in another one of the biggest hits of 1978, "Grease." Her age wasn't an issue there, either, even though at 34 she was the world's oldest high school student. And she continued to do acclaimed work in movies, TV and the stage, earning an Oscar nomination for "Six Degrees of Separation" and winning a Tony and an Emmy.
Next month brings a new Superman movie to the screen with "Man of Steel," and with it a new Lois Lane. But this one has lighter hair and four Oscar nominations under her belt. Amy Adams plays the intrepid reporter for the Daily Planet this time around, and like Channing she's also 8 years older than her leading man, Henry Cavill.
"Man of Steel" opens on June 14.