The Canadian stage and screen actress Margot Kidder famous for her role as Lois Lane in the Superman movies from 1978-1987 opposite Christopher Reeve and a fascinating woman that has lived an eventful life.
I got the chance to interview her in between her meeting fans at this year’s Film and Comic Con Glasgow here’s our conversation..
Was acting a career path that you wanted to go down?
I saw my first movie at eight in a church basement because I lived in little tiny mining camps in Canada I was from a family of (a lot of) kids. The film starred Glynis Johns where she and her husband dies and then all of the children get parcelled out to different family members by the eldest child. At the end of the film he’s wandering at Christmas from house to house looking in at his brothers & sisters I just sobbed and I wept all the way home. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do I don’t know how they are linked but they did. (Laughs)
I now know how unusual it is and how lucky I was to have known really early on what I wanted to do.
My granddaughter is going to Harvard in the fall and doesn’t know one week if she wants to be a marine biologist or be in international law she doesn’t really know I think that’s really tough on kids.
What was the experience of going through the casting process of Superman The Movie like?
I really wanted the part. It was frightening as all auditions are. I had my first audition then I flew from Montana, where I lived, to London to do a screen test. I went “I gotta get this movie because your marriage is really bad but you don’t have the strength to get out. But if you get a big movie you can get out” so there was that motivation.
So then I went to the producers and started telling everyone in the room what needed to come across in the scene. I had to communicate that I am really in love with Superman no matter what.
When I first met Christopher Reeve before filming he was the skinniest dorkiest guy you could imagine. his pant legs six inches above his ankles. I mean I thought this is Superman? So all I kept going was “look like you love him” and it worked I got the part. It was a shame that the one scene that was only in the screen test couldn’t have been in the movie was the gun scene and I find out he’s Superman.
Did you have any fun experiences on the Superman sequels as it’s known that these were films that had producer interferences?
Well I did, I don’t like not enjoying things. Obviously the whole trauma of Richard Donner (director) not coming back was sort of hard. But making a movie is a long process and a lot of things make it fun or make it unendurable. You can see however when you watch it, the scenes Richard Donner shot, my face was so much more relaxed the others you see the steam coming out of my ears.
Are there any projects that you appeared in that people should go back and watch?
A movie called Heartaches with Annie Potts (Ghostbusters) I made in Canada.
You’ve worked in movies,television and theatre which of them are you most confident doing?
I like all of them for different reasons I feel most confident in movies because you have time to correct things you’ve made mistakes in and stage I had to get over years of really bad stage fright to enjoy it as I do now.
You appeared in two movies with the much missed Richard Pryor what was he like to have as a co star?
He was my lover first and he was one of the best actors I ever worked with because he was so in the moment if you flicked your eyes to the side he was right with you. I remember saying on the movie we did called Some Kind of Hero; “Man you can really act” and he went “Yeah I really know my craft”. But nobody would let him do it they all wanted him just to turn up and he funny which broke his heart because he really loved acting and was as good as it gets.
His whole brand of humour was based based on being truthful which all good acting is about so he just took that into acting and really did what you are suppose to do. He and Christopher Reeve didn’t like each other at all on Superman III and I don’t think Chris expected a serious actor out of him. I was his girlfriend on & off, he got married a couple of times in the middle, he did have a habit of doing that so did I. I saw how tough that was on him and how much it hurt not to have people take you seriously enough as a actor.
He had eight wives that he had to support. I sent him a telegram “who do you think you are Henry the VIII?” and the wife never forgave me for that one.
What was it like to work for Cannon Films on Superman IV?
Personally I thought Menahem Golan was so outrageous that I kinda adored him; in the way you adore your worst behaved uncle who gets drunk every Christmas. He was such an outrageous larger than life character, only Menahem could think of renting a navy boat from the Israeli government shooting it up full of holes and returning it. They said what have you done it was the gulf war, that’s a ballsy kind of guy in a really perverted way I thought he was funny.
You starred in three horror films that were recently remade. What are your memories of making Black Christmas, Sisters and The Amityville Horror?
They were very different; Black Christmas was a low budget film with a delightful director Bob Clark and we were all kids without much money and it was a much looser, goofier set it was all like we were away from home so it was like a sorority club in that respect and we all had fun like young kids do.
Then Sisters was terrific because Brian De Palma was my boyfriend at the time, So you could say I slept with the director to get the part (laughs). Jennifer Salt (co star) was my roommate and she had gone to college with Brian so he came down one Christmas morning handing each other a script and said “Here’s your Christmas presents”. So we went off Ed Pressman produced it he got the money from his mother who owned Pressman toy company and so went off blind and made this movie. That was fun to make again very loosely goosey, none of us made money except now I own part of it and I can’t get a hold of Ed Pressman to give it to me.
But Amityville was a bigger budget, the director was Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) he & I kinda knew it was funny, not true and nonsensical. But Rod Steiger and James Brolin took it very seriously. No joking around with those two. So the director and I joked alot, they didn’t because it was a big studio production the studio was overlooking everything and had opinions about how it should be. I did it for money frankly, my agent and I had a policy; one for the heart and one for money. I would have done Superman for heart if it had turned out that way. But not The Amityville Horror that was one I whored myself out for.
Did you ever see those remakes?
No I have very specific taste in movies and I’m terribly boring I don’t venture out of it.
What kind of movies do you enjoy?
I like grown up films actually given that I’m 67 years old I think I’ve earned that right and there aren’t a lot of them. I live in small town in Montana of 6-7,000 people, we have one theatre it’s now divided into two screens and from April to October it’s either huge Blockbusters or it’s a cartoon.
By the end of the summer I’m literally writing letters to the editor can we not get some intelligent adult movies. I hate this CGI stuff. I saw Jason Bourne and I went wait a minute what’s this 1mm of a cut from one after another. I got the feeling that they didn’t storyboard it they just shot so much stuff and then worked it out in the editing room with the shortest cuts humanly possible. There was no emotional weight, character or plot it was all about getting you amped up why was it such a hit?
You are a long time Democratic supporter and activist are you hopeful for the future?
I’m not a Democratic supporter. The Democratic Party is as corrupt or more than the Republican Party. But I’m a long time progressive, I’m genuinely a pacifist, have been forever and genuinely for Europe a very moderate socialist and have been forever. The Democratic party just happened to be for a great deal of my adult life the most left wing party so I campaigned for a lot of people who were Democrats.
The American system at the moment is so corrupted that the right keep moving further right so the Democratic Party is really a right wing party the Republican Party is just crazy and totally insane.
The Scottish people scored big with Americans when Trump came to Scotland you all had the best swear words of anybody in the world. We all got these mini movies from one Scot to the next calling him a “Fuck Muppet” there was a slew of them you where the stars of the universe that week.
I watched on YouTube an episode of The Dick Cavett Show from the 1970s with you, singer Janis Joplin and Sunset Boulevard actress Gloria Swanson what was it like to be on a show with those iconic ladies?
I remember walking past Gloria’s dressing room before we did the show and she was having someone pull her face back with these clamps and then clamp a wig in on top I was a 19 year old hippy chick from Vancouver.
I then go out one of my idols Janis Joplin was doing something sexually with Dick Cavett, so I knew that and I sat out there while she sang. I was overwhelmed being on the same show as her. She finished, out came Gloria Swanson, Dick Cavett promptly said “ What have you been doing lately?” Gloria said “I’ve been doing portraits lately I’d love to do your head” Janis Joplin went in a gruff voice “I bet you would baby”. The microphone swung away from Janis and she gave a monologue of filth but Gloria didn’t pick up on it I had my jaw hanging over. After the show Janis, her band and I hung out that’s when I did my first cocaine, then tequila, the whole thing was a wild night.
Janis Joplin was the sweetest lost child on the planet and obviously wanted to be my friend. But I was star struck it never occurred to me that somebody like her wanted to be my friend, so I blew it and she died two months later. I’ll never forget that day and night.