Hero Nation is the new hub for Deadline’s sci-fi, horror, fantasy, superhero, and animation coverage. And the article you’re reading now is the Hero Nation Index, a weekly roundup of news, rumors, tidbits, and happenings in Comic-Con culture, which is dominating Hollywood’s attention in unprecedented fashion.
DOES THIS MEAN SUMMER IS COMING? After stumbles, and slip-ups and a long Westeros winter of fan discontent, the sprawling saga of Game of Thrones is officially over – although all the pitched debate about the merits of the HBO show’s final season may rage on for weeks. What’s the legacy beyond that? To my mind, it’s a colossal legacy but, really, the show’s “death” on Sunday night will be just like Jon Snow’s evisceration in Season 5 – more like a temporary lull than a permanent exit, especially considering the ongoing publishing venture as well as the brand’s ramping spinoffs. Regardless, by any measure, the eight seasons of Game of Thrones represent a towering achievement in episodic television. The international success story of Game of Thrones is truly a unique one in contemporary entertainment, too. The audacity of the show’s scale and its maverick sensibilities are validation that (along with the achievements of The Sopranos and The Wire) shows HBO does deserve the network’s proud reputation as a vanguard force in this Golden Age of television drama. For more discussion of legacy, check out my spirited conversation with my Deadline colleague Dominic Patten and leave a comment with your take on the topic.
CRYER OUT LOUD: I’m a fan of Jon Cryer’s work on Supergirl as the brilliant, slippery, megalomaniacal and ruthless Lex Luthor, the iconic super-villian who next year marks his 80th anniversary in the pages of DC Comics. On Sunday night, in “Quest for Peace,” the Season 4 finale of Supergirl, Cryer’s mastermind is locked in a fight to the finish with Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) that ends badly for the evil genius (although there’s good reason to think he’ll be back in Season 5). The finale episode shares its title with the 1987 film Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which co-starred the then-21-year-old Cryer as the nephew of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). His first day on the set, Cryer was in an open-topped car being whisked into the sky by Superman (the late, great Christopher Reeve). Cryer could hardly believe his luck. “The same guy who at 14 years old absolutely believed a man could fly when I saw the [original 1978] movie? It was amazing.” Read the whole story here.
MAJOR “LEX” APPEAL: Hackman is the most famous Lex Luthor in screen history even though he was so unimpressed by the role that he refused to shave his head to play the part (he wore a noticeably fake skin-cap instead) much like Cesar Romero (who refused to shave his mustache for his Joker role on the 1966 Batman film and TV series). Hackman may be the most recognizable of the big-screen versions of Luthor but he wasn’t the first one. Can you name the live-action actor who introduced the Lex Luthor role on the silver screen? And the movie that featured that actor’s performance? Find the answer below.
TAKE ME TO THE PILOT: Director David Nutter didn’t direct Sunday night’s Season 8 finale of Game of Thrones (the show’s co-creator, David Benioff, handled those duties), but Nutter helmed some of the show’s finest episodes, among them “The Rains of Castamere” (aka the Red Wedding episode) in Season 3; “The Last of the Starks” this season; and “Mother’s Mercy,” the Season 5 finale that earned him the first Emmy of his career. “The best year of my life,” is how Nutter described the final season on Thrones and directing three of the final six shows. Nutter’s larger claim to fame in the industry, however is his specialty as a director of television pilots, especially in the sci-fi, superhero or action genres. Consider this partial list of Nutter-directed pilots to date: Space: Above and Beyond (1995), Millennium (1996), Sleepwalkers (1997), Roswell (1999), Dark Angel (2000), Smallville (2001), Without a Trace (2002), Tarzan (2003) Supernatural (2005), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2007), The Mentalist (2008), Arrow (2012), and The Flash (2014). Also impressive: The first 16 pilots directed by Nutter went to series, a streak that ended when CBS didn’t give The Doctor (2011) a primetime practice of its own.
THE MISSING PIECE?: Hey horror fans, do you still want to play a game? That’s the question on the mind of the leadership at Lionsgate when they contemplate the future of the Saw franchise that has been so integral to the company’s success and persona (especially as a symbol of its marketing savvy). The answer to that question will arrive the week before Halloween 2020. That’s the release date for the next Saw installment (the ninth since 2004), which will be built around a new concept imported by the franchise’s surprising new executive producer: Chris Rock. “When Chris Rock came to us and described in chilling detail his fantastic vision that reimagines and spins off the world of the notorious Jigsaw Killer, we were all in,” said Joe Drake, chairman of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group, who also cited the value of Rock’s “wit and creative vision.” Horror fans were groaning about the choice on social media but it’s way too early to laugh off Rock’s upside potential, especially if you consider the killer success of Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out) and Danny McBride (Halloween) in the fake-blood business.
MAJOR “LEX” APPEAL: What live-action actor was the very first to portray the role of Lex Luthor on the big screen? The brilliant, bad (and usually bald) archenemy of Superman debuted in the comics in 1940 and then made his first big-screen appearance in 1950 when Kirk Alyn was still the Man of Steel. Lyle Talbot (later in Ed Wood’s infamously bad Plan 9 From Outer Space) played the title villain in Atom Man vs. Superman — but in the final episode of the 15-part serial from Columbia Pictures, the mysterious Atom Man is revealed to be none other than Luthor in disguise. Just a year earlier, Talbot had played Commissioner Gordon in Columbia’s Batman & Robin serial, too, making him the first Hollywood actor to portray two DC Comics characters on screen.