Marlon Brando Made $3.5 Million More Than Christopher Reeve for Just 20 Minutes On-Screen in ‘Superman’

The key to making a great superhero movie is nailing the casting. Just look at Richard Donner’s Superman. From Christopher Reeve as Superman to Gene Hackman as the evil Lex Luthor, every piece of casting is note-perfect. The great Marlon Brando appears in the film as Superman’s father, Jor-El. Despite not appearing in the film very long, Brando parlayed the role into a very big paycheck. Here’s the story of how that came to happen, and which one of his costars didn’t love working with him. 

Marlon Brando had a larger than life reputation in Hollywood

RELATED: ‘Seinfeld’: Why Jerry Seinfeld Loved Superman So Much

Casting Brando as Jor-El, Superman’s father, was a great decision by the creative team behind the film. It was a role that required little screen time but carried a lot of weight.

While Superman never truly meets his father as he’s much too young to remember the fleeting moments before he’s sent off Krypton in a ship, his biological father has a lot of influence in his later life. The producers needed a character who exuded leadership and dignity. 

Brando was the right person for the job. After a much-heralded earlier career as an actor, he was beginning to move into the “elder statesman” category of Hollywood actors.

Earlier in the decade, he’d portrayed Vito Corleone, the patriarch of the Corleone crime family, in The Godfather. This role would be another opportunity to play a father who greatly impacts the direction of his son’s life.

Whereas Vito was unable to stop Michael from going down the same path as him, Jor-El helped push Superman to be the great hero he was destined to become. Brando had the credentials and the successful career to play the character. By the end of his life, the legendary actor had amassed a net worth of $30 million.

Brando’s role in the film was important and significant. That said, he was not in the film very long. According to IMDb, Jor-El is only in the movie for less than ten minutes. 

Marlon Brando got paid a boatload for not a lot of screen time in ‘Superman’

Portrait of American actor Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando | Archive Photos/Getty Images

While Brando’s screen time may have been small, his payday was not. Based on his name recognition and acting ability, Brando demanded a hefty salary for his efforts appearing in the film.

According to Yahoo, he received $3.7 million for his efforts. That was only his base salary, however. Brando also negotiated to receive a percentage of the movie’s profits. 

Superman was a huge hit at the box office, ushering in a new era of superhero filmmaking. Because of this, Brando received around $19 million for his efforts. 

Christopher Reeve was not happy with Marlon Brando’s performance in ‘Superman’

Brando had his fair share of admirers throughout his illustrious career. One person you cannot count among those admirers is his Superman costar, Christopher Reeve. According to the Hollywood Reporter, David Letterman asked Reeve point blank if he enjoyed working with Reeve, and Reeve was blunt in his response. 

“Not really. No. I had a wonderful time, but the man didn’t care. He just took the $2 million [salary] and ran…..

I just think it would be sad to be 53, or whatever he is, and not give a damn, that’s all.” 

Reeve added that Brando could have been a leader on set, but that he didn’t fill that role. Reeve had an issue with what he perceived as Brando’s lack of caring because he deeply cared about the role and felt Brando was “phoning it in.” 

Brando may have made Reeve angry, but two facts remain true: his performance as Superman’s father was iconic, and he made a lot of money from his performance in the film.