Was Supergirl Originally Going to Be Superman’s Love Interest in Superman III?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Supergirl was originally going to be Superman’s love interest in Superman III.

As we have seen a number of times over the years, the original pitches for movies sometimes don’t end up matching the finished film. The Ghostbusters didn’t end up traveling through time and space, Marty McFly didn’t travel back to the future in a refrigerator and Elsa didn’t end up as the main villain of Disney’s Frozen. Those changes, though, pale in comparison to Ilya Salkind’s original plans for Superman III, where he was going to introduce Supergirl to the Superman movie mythos…as Superman’s love interest!

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Read on to learn more about this odd idea!

In November 1980, right before Superman II had its first showings in December 1980 (ahead of opening worldwide in 1981), the co-producer of the early Superman films, Ilya Salkind (who produced the films with his father, Alexander) wrote a treatment for a third Superman film (he amended the outline in March 1981). The treatment included the introduction of Lana Lang, who ended up being a major part of the final product for Superman III. Every other major new character, though, did not make it into the final film, although some of the themes introduced in the original treatment made their way into the finished movie. The film’s original bad guy was Brainiac (with Mr. Mxyzptlk also involved) but the major thrust of the film was the introduction of Supergirl into the Superman film universe. She would land on a world controlled by Brainiac and he would raise her and eventually fall in love with her. She rejects him and escapes him and ultimately ends up on Earth.

Here’s the really odd part, though. She eventually becomes a superhero on Earth, using her superpowers for good. Superman becomes curious about whether she’s really a good guy or not, so he goes undercover as a bad guy to see what she will do. She proves herself a hero to him and then, as Salkind writes:

The look between the two will tell the audience that they have magically fallen in love. There is then conversation trying to find out if they are related. They are not. Then there is an idyllic sequence of Superman and Supergirl climbing up to 7th heaven. We shall have to find some beautiful place either on Earth or elsewhere (i.e. the Milky Way).

Brainiac tracks her down to Earth, where he discovers that not only is she in love with Superman, but that Superman is in love with her. So Brainiac then uses his mental abilities to mess with Superman’s personality. This is the major aspect of the outline that DID make its way into the final Superman III product, as that movie involved Superman turning evil. Here, too, Superman goes through a variety of personality shifts, including turning evil. The people of Metropolis turn on the seemingly evil Superman and they beg Supergirl to help them out and take out Superman.

Brainiac, meanwhile, offers her a deal – he’ll stop messing with Superman if she agrees to marry him.

In the end, the good guys win and Superman and Supergirl are happy together (the people of Metropolis find out that Superman wasn’t really evil and that it was all Brainiac’s doing). Salkind’s final note in the outline is, “The next big question is…does Superman marry Supegirl in Superman III or Superman IV?”

I somehow think that audiences would have reacted oddly to this (sort of like how audiences couldn’t accept Ducky ending up with Andie in “Pretty in Pink”), but maybe I am offbase and people would have enjoyed the Superman/Supergirl pairing.

In any event, clearly at some point the Salkinds realized that it might make more sense to wait and possibly give Supergirl her own film, which they did with 1984’s Supergirl. So she left the film. I don’t know why they dropped the other elements. Most likely budgetary issues, but I don’t know for sure. Clearly, they also felt that adding Richard Pryor to the film to make it more of a comedy would result in good box office numbers.

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Anyhow, the legend is….

STATUS: True

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