Pierre Spengler produced the first three Superman movies.

From DVDverdict.com: "From the comics, both four-color and the daily strips, to radio and of course film and television, Superman has been with us in some form or another for what seems like forever. So it was in the second half of the '70s when the producing team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind, along with Pierre Spengler, decided it was time for a new Superman to fly into the public view. They wanted to make this version of Superman a big-budget movie with an epic feel. The main problem was Hollywood only saw Superman in terms of the "Batman" television show of the late '60s. So in order to secure financing, the Salkinds had to line up someone who would give the project instant credibility. That someone turned out to be writer Mario Puzo. The author of "The Godfather" and other works turned in an outline that was more than enough to lure in Warner Brothers who owned the Superman property through their company DC Comics. Once Puzo was onboard, Oscar winners Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were added to the mix and the project started to generate some real buzz."

Dismayed when Richard Donner was replaced in "Superman II" by director Richard Lester, actress Margot Kidder branded the producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler "scummy," "devious" and "untrustworthy." (People 5/1/96)

From the Independent, 10-05-1994: THE WIDOW and children of Roy Kinnear, the actor who died filming a stunt in Spain, were awarded pounds 650,000 damages and their legal costs in the High Court yesterday.

The settlement came on the second day of the case against the producer Pierre Spengler and the director Richard Lester, of the Falconfilms production company. They denied exposing the 54-year- old actor to unnecessary risk during the making of TheReturn of the Musketeers in 1988.

Mr Justice Hidden heard that Mr Kinnear, playing the servant Planchet, was thrown from his horse after Mr Lester's order to 'thunder' at speed across the Alcantara bridge near Toledo. A stunt co-ordinator and fellow actors Oliver Reed and Michael York regarded the scene as hazardous, but Mr Kinnear, a 'nervous, incompetent' horseman, was not offered a stunt double. The 16-stone actor suffered severe pelvic injuries followed by massive internal bleeding. He died in hospital 24 hours later.

But the defendants claimed that the immediate cause of death was medical negligence by the Madrid hospital where he was treated, and that it should pay at least part of the damages. These third party proceedings involving the Hospital RuberInternacional and an orthopaedic surgeon, Juan Ayala Andrades, were adjourned until tomorrow.

Carmel Kinnear gave evidence about her husband's death. 'That night is indelibly printed on my mind for ever,' she said. Outside the court, she said: 'I feel justice has been done. Somebody can't just die and we all forget about it. Nothing will ever make up for the last six years of hell or the rest of our lives without him.'

Other deaths on set include Brandon Lee, son of the martial arts expert Bruce Lee, who was killed by a bullet while filming The Crow last year. The largest number of deaths occurred in 1931, during the shooting of The Viking, in which 27 people died when the Viking ship blew up off Newfoundland.

I interviewed Pierre Spengler at the home of American Tony Unger on September 9, 2002.

Pierre: "I was born in Paris and grew up there. I had a Russian family. We spoke Russian at home. My parents left Russia in 1920. My mother was eight years old. My father was accidentally born in France while his parents were traveling Europe. When the revolution came, they didn't go back."

Luke: "Where were you during WWII?"

Pierre: "I wasn't born."

Luke: "Your family?"

Pierre: "They stayed in France."

Luke: "What did your father do for a living?"

Pierre: "For a living is a difficult question. He (Alexander Spengler) was writing symphonies and books. None of the books were published but his music got played."

Luke: "Were movies a childhood dream?"

Pierre: "Yes. I wanted to be a film director. I had great admiration for Orson Welles. I met with Alexander Salkind and his family when I was 11. There was a play written by Dwight Bertha. It was set in Paris. My stepfather worked in it as an actor. There was a role for a young boy that he offered to me. I went and rehearsed for two weeks. It was 1958. Then the director came. He said, 'This little boy doesn't look Mexican at all.' So I got kicked out of the play.

"In the meantime I met Alexander's son Ilya Salkind. He was always coming up with interesting stories. We remained friends.

"I had another attempt at being an actor when I was 16. It also didn't work out. I didn't want to study any more. I wanted to work. I asked Alexander to get me a job. He asked if I wanted to make tea and answer the phones, I had a job. It's 1965. I'm 17 years old. I did my military service from 1966-67.

"I showed up in Spain and worked as an assistant director on The Hot Line [1968] starring Charles Boyer and Robert Taylor. I met Tony Unger on the set [he was overseeing production for the Mid Atlantic film company]. He was preparing The Mad Woman of Chaillot. I eventually worked on it as an assistant director. I'd spent time working for Alexander Salkind and then go off and work on other films.

"Alex was more of a financier and his father Michael was more of an artistic producer.

"My first effort with Ilya Salkind was Kill [1972] starring James Mason and Jean Seberg and directed by Romain Gary. The film turned out terrible. I then worked with Richard Burton on Bluebeard and then The Three Musketeers [1973]. Ilya and I started developing the Superman idea in 1974 and we started shooting in 1977.

"The idea to do a Superman movie came from Ilya. Alexander checked the markets and got a good reaction. I thought it would be very expensive and I was proven right. We bought the rights from D.C. Comics, then NPP (National Periodical Publication).

"We hired Mario Puzo to write the first draft of the screenplay. Even though people knew what Superman was, they didn't see how it could be a film. We needed to give credibility to the project. We needed names that were recognizable and intrigue the distributors. We then engaged James Bond director Guy Hamilton to direct Superman. Again, people said, 'Ah! James Bond, Superman.' The final coup was signing Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando. People saw that it was a real movie."

Luke: "How did you come to sign Margot Kidder?"

Pierre: "We tested many girls and she turned out to be the best."

Luke: "Did you see then that she was mentally troubled?"

Pierre: "Not really. You'd say, 'She's crazy.' But there was no sign of a clinical problem.

"It was a difficult shoot. We ran behind schedule. We had a delivery date. We had to finish with the actors by certain dates. So we started adding more film units. We ended up having eleven units. We had a second unit, a mobile unit, a flying unit, a bluescreen unit, a second unit in Canada, a unit in Mexico."

Luke: "What was your role with the production?"

Pierre: "I was more focused on the budget, scheduling, and business affairs. Ilya Salkind had more focus on the creative and promotional side.

"The first two Supermans grossed well at the box office. The third one not so well, particularly overseas. People weren't ready for Richard Pryor as Superman. We had a franchise going and we probably should've stuck with it but Ilya and I wanted to move on to other projects. I've been on my own since 1986.

"Menahem Globus and the Canon Group made Superman 4. It bombed. Alexander Salkind made a deal with Warner Brothers to do Superman 5."

Luke: "How do you mind your career being primarily seen in the light of your Superman movies?"

Pierre: "I'm not sure it is still but there's nothing not to be proud of. The Musketeers were films people remember as well as Emir Kusturica's Underground [1995].

"It was a coincidence. I was eating with the boss of CB2000. It was founded by Francis Brig who owned the biggest building company in the world. When it came time to retire, he decided to create a film company. The focus was to encourage to big directors like Bernardo Bertolucci and David Lynch to make big films. I was having a meeting with the guy who runs the company. They had Underground in preparation. I was pitching my projects. He was not clicking with them. He asked me to come on board Underground."

Luke: "What was it like working with Emir Kusturica?"

Pierre: "It was comparable to being on a rollercoaster. From an organizational point of view, it was a challenge. From a creative point of view, there was tremendous satisfaction. When you watched the daily rushes, you saw that it was all worth it.

"I'm not embarrassed by any of my films. Some have disappointed at the box office. Santa Clause [1985] disappointed. It was number one in England. Here it was a disappointment. It came out at Thanksgiving and had a four week release. The day after Christmas, people didn't want the film."

Luke: "Which project most broke your heart?"

Pierre: "The Return of the Musketeers [1989]. Fifteen years later, I took the same team as The Three Musketeers [1973] and did an adaptation of the Alexander Dumas novel. All the musketeers are semi-retired and then brought together for one more adventure. The film turned out well. We miraculously got everybody together. But in the middle of the shooting, there was an accident. One of the actors, Roy Kinnear [beloved British comedy actor], fell from his horse [dislocating his pelvis]. The hospital in Madrid didn't react properly and the poor man died after 24 hours. That's the most painful memory. We finished the movie but the heart wasn't there any more."

Luke: "Did you or your production staff do anything wrong?"

Pierre: "I don't think so. That morning, the assistant director felt that we needed the scene. I saw Roy an hour after his fall. He still had the spirit to make a joke. He told me that the horse was galloping and when he turned the corner, he decided to get off. There was tape of the action. You can see he tried to get off. He was a very heavy man. The wound was a dislocated pelvis, which is painful but certainly not a fatal wound. But the traumatic shock and pain had an affect on his blood pressure. The hospital didn't monitor. The blood pressure went down and down until it went to the point of no return."

Luke: "What are your thoughts on French vs American cinema?"

Pierre: "It's a difficult debate. It's no question that American cinema is the most popular. I think the debate is between American and indigenous cinema. Twenty years ago, we had a thriving European film industry. That's diminished. France holds up better than the others."

Spengler's made American-style films, all independently financed but designed for studio distribution.

Pierre's family lives in Paris. His young wife, 32 years old, is finishing her degree in genetics. The major source of Spengler's financing comes from Holland. He plans to move to Los Angeles in 2003.

Pierre: "I don't know if it is the world economy, but being an independent is a much more difficult exercise today. The European television networks have enough product and have become picky. The local distributors, which used to rely on television to mitigate their investments, no longer rely on it, and therefore don't buy. If you take Germany, France, Italy and Spain as not being a sure market... It used to be. England has always been a difficult territory because it has a limited number of theaters. Japan is not a good market. United States is tough. What's left?"

Luke: "Do you ever get starstruck?"

Pierre: "Inevitably, with some stars, you do. Marlon Brando impressed me. I recently made Snapshots (formerly The Hermit of Amsterdam) with Burt Reynolds and Julie Christie. There's inevitably some admiration."

From a description on imdb.com of Snapshots: "Larry Goldberg is the owner of a second-hand bookstore in Amsterdam. He came to The Netherlands 30 years ago. He's a middle aged hermit who likes to talk and has an answer to everything. He is intelligent and has a sense of humour. One day, a girl walks into his store, who looks like Larry's lost love from Morocco. The girl makes Larry rethink his life. In the surroundings of the bookstore, a lot of criminal, but also funny activities take place. Besides Amsterdam, the movie also travels to Morocco, to see Larry and his love 30 years before, and to the United States, where Aïsha's family lives."

Luke: "Was that movie based on your life?"

Pierre: "No, no. It's an original screenplay written by the director Rudolf van den Berg. The first inspiration for the hermit character came from a character in a book by Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude [1998]. The extraordinary thing is that that character that Paul Auster describes is my father. I was almost in production on the film before I knew that. Paul Auster knew my father well. I put a dedication on the film to my father, who died in 1996. My mother passed away in 1975.

"I have two children from my first marriage. My daughter Oona is 19. She's an aspiring actress studying in Paris. My son is 17. He's studying biology and wants to pursue a career with animals."

Pierre speaks seven languages - Russian, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Bosnian.

Luke: "How did you learn Bosnian?"

Pierre: "From working on the film Underground. I vowed that I would be able to understand the film without looking at the subtitles. Our editor didn't speak a word of Bosnian. I met my wife on the shoot. She was a translator on the film. She was smart. We kept her in the production office and eventually she became my personal assistant. We shot Underground in Prague, Czech Republic, and Belgrade, Serbia."