The women of the film dish the dirt on the death of George Reeves
When you think of Superman, a few names pop into your mind - most recently, Brandon Routh, and of course, there was also Christopher Reeve.
But to another generation, George Reeves was Superman. In 1959, fans around the world were heartbroken when they found out he had died. The official police report sites 'suicide,' but multiple sources claim that's not the case. And they have been trying to find the truth for the past 45 years.
In the new film Hollywoodland, Ben Affleck portrays George Reeves. What people may not know is George had a relationship with Toni Mannix, played by Diane Lane in the film; she was the wife of the head of MGM, Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Many point to the Mannix's for having a part in George's death; Eddie, because he was upset with his wife having an affair, and Toni, because George was having another relationship with Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney).
So when Diane was preparing for the role in Hollywoodland, she had to take a step back; it meant a little more for her than other actresses. "I always had a thing for George. I grew up and he was the definition of Superman for me and I bought it hook, line and sinker in the sense of that's all he was. I never looked beyond the curtain or considered anything about actors versus the characters I knew them to be as a child. So there was no black cloud over him in terms of the lore that the generation before me knew about. It was still on morning television when I grew up. It's interesting because there are so many layers to the story of George and I was very happy to portray some version of love in his life, because I was a fan."
Diane also had to really find who the real Toni Mannix was; she really had to dig deep and discover what was going through Toni's mind back in the late 1950's. "I do feel a burden of responsibility to honor her as closely as I was told and could glean from things I'd read. I appreciated her vulnerability and how it came out all wrong and I just thought everybody in the movie was a truly interesting character in their own merit, so it's nice to be a thread in a very interesting tapestry."
In the case of Robin, she found relevance in the movie to what's going on today with the paparazzi. "I think that's why the film works now, because it's not just about an actor whose career wasn't enough; it's something I think we can all find in our own lives. It doesn't define who you are and I think that's what makes you happy as a person, that you go, 'Ok, this is what I do and it can't define who I am.' I mean, that's sort of [Louis] Simo's (Adrien Brody) fatal flaw is that he's obsessed with making something of himself and can't look at his wife and say, 'That's a beautiful woman,' and his son and his tiny house isn't enough. So I think it's the American dream; we've read a thousand novels about it and it's the story of the tragic American dream."
For the part of Toni Mannix, Diane had to do a bit of aging, something she actually looked forward to. "I think it was a wonderful exhale to just embrace the fact that the alternative to aging is much worse. And frankly, having had a mother and watching her gracefully have a currency of life, that was more meaningful than her youth - the vulnerability of a woman of years is a very interesting commodity to work with on film versus our almost callowness of youth that is assigned to men. But I think women possess it as well; it's just something that's easy to come by, hard to lose. And certainly Toni Mannix, that's a very important element of their relationship that she had with George, which was her vulnerability of being the older women. That whole element, which today you can be 18 months older and it means a great deal evidently. So I'm just saying, again it's about 1950's versus 2006; I think it meant even more then."
Transforming back into the 1950's for Hollywoodland also meant loosening up the rules when it came to the investigation, and what 'slipped out' to certain people. Robin touched on that point; "There's a scene in the movie where Adrien visits Carol Von Ronkel's husband and says to him you find out the truth about these people, about their lives and what's going on and he asks if it makes him feel better, and Adrien answers, 'Hardly ever.' What's interesting about it, knowing all this about our presidents and our celebrities, is it advantageous? Does it help us or does it distract us when we're watching them in a film or does it affect how a president does his job in what's going on in his personal life. We really shouldn't know about this, but for some reason, people just want to find out."
If you look back at the life of George Reeves, you'll see a man who had a passion for movies; he knew what path he wanted to take. Unfortunately, that path never opened; he was always pigeon-holed with the stigma of being Superman. Diane tried to sum up what the 'path' of Hollywood is all about. "I would say that the whole myth of the word 'plan' relies on that little man behind the curtain in Oz, because there is no plan unless you're somebody who I - people I can't name. If they knew what made hits they'd make more of them; that's my bumper sticker on the whole industry. So I don't think you can live for that and I think the more you get caught up in that, whether you're a film star from the '50s who regrets that he was ever on television, and the pop psychology of what it is to be a victim of the media. It is a case study of what makes people happy and the myth of happiness itself."
You can discover the truth for yourself when you check out Hollywoodland in theaters September 8th; it's rated R.