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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Regis Philbin; Interview With Director, Stars of 'Superman Returns'

Aired June 23, 2006 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight -- he's the new Superman. Brandon Routh suits up and soars in the most buzzed about movie of the summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Superman returns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What's it like to claim the cape that real-life hero Christopher Reeve once wore? But then, Regis Philbin. He's a TV Man of Steel himself. You love him from "Live with Regis & Kelly." and now he's working with Simon Cowell of "American Idol" to find the next superstar. We're going to cover it all with Regis Philbin and Superman next on LARRY KING LIVE.

He's one of TV's most popular and enduring personalities. He's an old friend. He's the Emmy-winning host of "Live with Regis & Kelly" and now hosts the new prime-time hit "America's Got Talent" produced by "American Idol's" Simon Cowell. He's Regis Philbin.

REGIS PHILBIN, TV HOST: Larry, good to see you.

KING: Nice to see you. Thanks -- what's with you and "American Idol" hooking up?

PHILBIN: Simon Cowell. Who's done better in this business than Simon Cowell in the last couple of years? And so but when I heard about this show, Larry, just as when I heard about the "Millionaire" show a few years ago, I just had a feeling it was going to be a hit. I wanted to be a part of it. In fact, I wanted to have my own variety show for a long, long time. But those days are gone. You know what I'm saying? Because so much television programming niching off.

KING: You aggressively pursued it?

PHILBIN: I pursued him. Yeah. Everybody thinks I was signed to ABC at nighttimes but I'm not. I've always been free and that's just a coincidence that I did ...

KING: What attracted you about a show in which people could be like that?

PHILBIN: Well, I didn't know exactly what it was going to be like. I just thought it was a variety show that would have some unique, maybe eccentric characters in it. And I thought would be a lot of fun, and I thought it would be very popular. And the first night, Wednesday night, blew them away, Larry. Blew them away.

KING: It's two-hour debut on Wednesday. Nielsen reports it was the ninth most watched program. "America's Got Talent" got a larger audience for its debut episode than "American Idol" got for its debut in June of 2002.

PHILBIN: You tell them, Larry.

KING: Aside from the host, if the host can remove himself for a minute, which in your case may be impossible, why is this show a hit?

PHILBIN: Oh, I think it's a hit because of the variety of talent, first of all, and because of those judges. They're the ones who interact the most with the talent. And that's what people talk about. Let's face it, Simon Cowell ...

KING: Genius.

PHILBIN: I think he put that show on the map. Absolutely. His rapport, or lack of it, with the talent was what everybody talked about the next day. And so -- and when I learned from Simon Cowell as the executive producer, I thought, well, it's going to be big.

KING: What is your role as you see it? What makes a good host?

PHILBIN: Well, listen, I'm there really as a conduit between the judges and the talent, bringing them out, getting them in front of the judges, letting them do their thing, and then maybe meeting with them after their session or talking to them before they go out there. It's just the host is interwoven throughout the show.

KING: Ryan Seacrest is so involved with "American Idol." he goes around the country to the auditions. What do you have to do?

PHILBIN: Well, I end up doing the same thing, only the difference is this year for this show the auditions are held here in Hollywood at Paramount Studios. And what they do is they go out and actually see the talent and then invite a number of them back to perform in front of the judges.

So last week we had the gang from Los Angeles and Southern California, the West Coast. Next Wednesday night will be New York. And the following Wednesday will be Chicago and the Midwest.

KING: Is there a winner by audience vote?

PHILBIN: Well, the audience has a lot to do with it. I was amazed. We have a British guy on our show, Piers Morgan (ph), a very famous fellow in the British Isles. He's editor of one of the tabloid papers there, "The Mirror." He's very smooth, he's very sharp. And just like Simon, he's very honest, brutally honest. So when he sees something he doesn't like, he hits that X right away. And so he's there.

KING: Does the audience vote?

PHILBIN: The audience doesn't vote, but they clap. You can tell when the audience is backing one of their own.

KING: What does the winner -- is there a winner ...

PHILBIN: The winner gets a million dollars, Larry. A million dollars. Big. I know. See, you're staggered. Larry King can't say a word!

KING: That's a lot of money.

PHILBIN: It is.

KING: How long does it take to get the million? How many weeks?

PHILBIN: Well, there are like three audition shows, and then those people who survive the audition show are invited back to participate on the next level, which are the semifinal shows. They compete against the other winners of the audition shows.

KING: The first show was two hours?

PHILBIN: The first show was two hours. They'll all be an hour. And as we get into the semifinals, it will be like on Wednesday night you will see all the contestants who have been invited back. Then you vote for them. Larry, are you listening?

KING: Yeah.

PHILBIN: You'll vote for them. And ...

KING: I looked down for a minute.

PHILBIN: And then on Thursday we have a winner from that. So that goes off in the next five Wednesdays and Thursdays.

KING: Aside from the silly time, and there is silly stuff and fun stuff.

PHILBIN: There is some good talent there.

KING: That's what I'm getting at. Will the winner eventually be an "American Idol" type?

PHILBIN: Well, you know, gosh. I mean, they have the "American Idol," and that covers all the singers in the world. What we're hoping and we have some excellent singers, one little kid there is a knockout so far, she's got to go into the semifinals, I know that. And maybe beyond. I don't know. But there's got to be some talent in there that doesn't sing but performs another kind of talent.

KING: Comic maybe?

PHILBIN: Maybe a comic. But you know, we've got all kinds of people. I've got a guy -- Larry, listen very closely. KING: I'm listening.

PHILBIN: The guy picks up a 300-pound stove, puts it on his nose, holds it up there, and cooks three eggs. Heh?

KING: You're putting me on, right?

PHILBIN: I'm not. I'm not. So we've got people like that who deserve maybe a million dollars.

KING: I'm voting for the guy with the stove.

PHILBIN: Absolutely. I love him.

KING: I'll give it to him right now. If the winner is the stove guy ...

PHILBIN: Yeah.

KING: By the way, the stove guy, how does he make money now?

PHILBIN: Well, we're not so sure about that. But once in a while I have seen him pick up a motorcycle. I have a Harley-Davidson. Right on his nose. Right there.

KING: All right. Now, how do you not break up?

PHILBIN: Well, it is kind of funny. But all I do is ...

KING: Kind of?

PHILBIN: Well, I introduce them, and then I amble backstage and they perform for the audience and for the judges.

KING: And the judges are like "American Idol"? They really go at it?

PHILBIN: They go at it, yeah. Piers Morgan, our British guy, Brandy, and David Hasselhoff.

KING: David Hasselhoff?

PHILBIN: Yeah. The big Hasselhoff. The world's tallest living white man.

KING: "Knight Rider" is on 700 stations ...

PHILBIN: It won't go away. And "Baywatch" will never leave us.

KING: And he's in the new Adam Sandler movie. Is he sort of a nice guy?

PHILBIN: He's a nice guy. He's very sensitive. If you saw the last "American Idol" show, the finals, they had a shot of David Hasselhoff crying. He's that sensitive. He can be moved. Now, I don't know if the guy with the stove is going to do it but maybe the three eggs will. You never know when David Hasselhoff is going to crack up and cry.

KING: Do you miss "Millionaire"?

PHILBIN: Well, I always thought "Millionaire" was a great show, Larry. I've told you that before.

KING: I did too.

PHILBIN: It was a great concept the British had.

KING: They overdid it.

PHILBIN: They overdid it. I was on Michael Eisner's show. He interviewed me, and I brought that up. But he said that's true, we may have overdone it, but we didn't do it out of greed. Everybody thinks we did it for greed. We didn't do it for greed. We thought that maybe the show could hold up for four or five nights a week in prime-time. Well, that's very difficult on a prime-time audience.

KING: You told me you knew it couldn't.

PHILBIN: I knew it couldn't. But nobody listens to me. Larry, you're the only one who listens to me.

KING: Talent never gets listened to.

PHILBIN: They know it all. Right.

KING: The suits.

PHILBIN: The suits, of course.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Regis Philbin. He's the host now of the new program that took off ...

PHILBIN: What's the name of that program, Larry? Larry? Larry's looking.

KING: You threw me so much I forgot the name of ...

PHILBIN: "America's Got Talent."

KING: "America's Got Talent."

PHILBIN: That's it, baby. We're rolling.

KING: I like everything but the title. I'm not sure it's a great title.

PHILBIN: Really? Let's get back and talk about that. We'll be right back in just a moment.

KING: OK. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can take it up to the next level and become M.C. Dave the warrant guy with my one and two turntables.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I see another fat black lady in a tiny dress, I think I'm going to die. I mean, you're not a size 2.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILBIN: Fantastic.

KING: Well, that could go to Ringling Brothers.

PHILBIN: Yeah, it could.

KING: All right. The program is "America's Got Talent." It's on NBC. And its host is Regis Philbin. And before we discuss the title of that show, we've got an e-mail question from our Web site. It's from Barb in Waukee, Iowa who says, "Hey, Reg."

PHILBIN: Hey, Reg!

KING: "When are you going to retire? And by the way, you look great."

PHILBIN: Thank you. When am I going to retire? Well, at least -- I don't know. Next three years sometime. What do you think? How about you?

KING: I don't know. I don't want to ...

PHILBIN: I don't want to think about it.

KING: What are they going to, do carry me out?

PHILBIN: Well, what do you want to do, Larry?

KING: As Milton Berle said, retire to what? Are you really staying three years?

PHILBIN: You sound like you're not.

KING: I'm not. But are you saying you will?

PHILBIN: Are you kidding? You're going to retire within three years?

KING: No, you said you're going to retire.

PHILBIN: Well, I think I've got three years left on this contract, and I don't know what I'm going to do after that. I may stay. I mean, if you want me to, Larry.

KING: How do you do it, by the way, "Live With" and hop back and forth to California? PHILBIN: That's getting to be a problem. Well, I fly into L.A. I have one day off a week. I am down to four days a week on the live show. So I leave and take my one day off and fly down to L.A. and then I get the show done and I fly back to New York and back on the air.

KING: Back to the title. "America's Got Talent."

PHILBIN: Yeah.

KING: I don't know why.

PHILBIN: It doesn't sound right to you? "America's Got Talent." America has talent? "America's Got Talent" is more definitive, don't you think? We've got it! That's your Larry. Larry keeps staring at me.

KING: That means no foreigner can be on the show?

PHILBIN: No. It just means America's got talent out there we haven't discovered yet.

KING: Was there a lot of discussion about the title?

PHILBIN: No. I think it -- you know, I see Simon Cowell's thing. "America's Idol." "America's Inventors." "America's Got Talent." I think America cottons more to a show that's got the name of the country in it.

KING: How do you explain -- I guess nobody knows television more than you and has been in it as long as you have. How do you explain "American Idol's" success?

PHILBIN: I thought it was a great concept. I think the judges make it what it is.

KING: But there was talent scouts years ago.

PHILBIN: Exactly. There were talent scout years ago. Nothing new. But you think of trying to do a variety show, and then you think of that concept, that format, that whole judging routine. That's the answer right there. You know? I think that's what made the show different than anybody else's show.

KING: What keeps you going in the morning?

PHILBIN: Kelly Ripa. Yeah. 9:00 in the morning I get Kelly Ripa to look at. And now I'm looking at you. You know what I mean.

KING: What revs you up in the morning? I've been on that show. I know what time you get up and you get there. You come running in sometimes.

PHILBIN: I don't know. It's just that -- I think I've trained my body and my mind to be up at that time. You wake up, you know that's ahead of you. It's the first thing you're doing that day. So you get there, you're full of energy. And you spend it all there.

KING: On this program the judges can stop the act or can't stop ...

PHILBIN: Anytime they want.

KING: Like "The Gong Show"?

PHILBIN: Well, maybe, yeah. "The Gong Show," yes. But they need all three judges to hit the X. And then their act is over. If they hear one X, keep going. Two Xs, keep it going. You might win them back. And as a matter of fact, that has happened. The other two judges may think, well, maybe we're too quick on turning this person off. So they say -- I've seen them relent and take them back.

KING: Do you get involved in talking with the judges?

PHILBIN: No, I don't.

KING: Don't?

PHILBIN: No, I'm just the host. I'm hardly seen.

KING: Really? You're not on camera a lot.

PHILBIN: Not as much as I thought I would be.

KING: But the checks don't bounce.

PHILBIN: That's right. It's a good show. I'm happy to be a part of it. It really is a good show, Larry.

KING: The most interesting thing about you, Regis, you've got it made, double made.

PHILBIN: In what way?

KING: You can't get more famous. You certainly could retire financially. Yet you pick up the phone and say I want to host this show.

PHILBIN: That's right.

KING: That says a lot.

PHILBIN: I picked it up and called Jeff Zucker and those guys over there at NBC ...

KING: That says a lot.

PHILBIN: I'd like to be considered for it. It's not my show. But I'd like to be up for it.

KING: Think it keeps you youthful?

PHILBIN: I think so. I think so. But I think the variety of it is what does it for me. And that's why, you know, I have this nightclub act that we go out on the road and do. It's a different audience, a different venue. It's fun.

KING: You even open for Rickles sometimes.

PHILBIN: Absolutely.

KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, more with Regis. May take a call or two. And then, Superman.

PHILBIN: Ooh.

KING: What a movie.

PHILBIN: Yeah. You hear it's great, huh? I can't wait to see it.

KING: I saw it this morning. Ooh. Superman follows the Reg.

PHILBIN: That's the way it should be.

KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILBIN: Can you do that, Larry?

KING: The man is hysterical. Calm down, Regis. By the way, you missed a great moment. Regis met Superman.

PHILBIN: Yes!

KING: And he'll be on your show soon.

PHILBIN: Well, in a couple of weeks. You know, whenever he has time.

KING: Maybe down the line. Before we take another e-mail, let's take a call. Arlington, Texas for the Reg. Hello. Hello? Here we go again.

PHILBIN: Arlington, go ahead!

KING: Are you there? Good-bye. Let's do the e-mail.

PHILBIN: It's safer, I think.

KING: Another e-mail question. This one you're going to love. It's from Tom in Atlanta. "How bad do you think Notre Dame's going to beat Georgia Tech?"

PHILBIN: Oh, that's our opening game. Well, I think Charlie Weiss, after that Ohio State, you know, fiasco ...

KING: Debacle. PHILBIN: Yeah. Is going to pour it on. Notre Dame doesn't pour it on anybody, but he will win decisively. I'd say by three touchdowns.

KING: I went with you.

PHILBIN: Yes.

KING: It was a thrilling thing to go with you to Notre Dame and see how crazed you are for that school. They all knew me. You got a ...

PHILBIN: Absolutely. And I brought a picture from New York. You and I walking down that path. And the crowd just fell in behind us. And that picture wound up on the front page of the "South Bend Tribune." "Larry King!" Small print, "and Regis" come to Notre Dame.

KING: Well, you're known there.

PHILBIN: I'm known there. But they never saw you before. And they loved it.

KING: I had a great time. Let's try this phone.

PHILBIN: Yes.

KING: I don't believe the name of the city. Locklawafla (ph), Florida.

PHILBIN: Sounds dangerous.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hello. You made it.

CALLER: I made it. I found the show a little mean-spirited. And especially when the English man beeped off the woman who was singing "God Bless America." I'm surprised that you didn't wake up this morning with the VFW on your porch.

PHILBIN: You know, that's a good point. That was a tough call. He wasn't going by what she was singing but I guess by how she sounded and he knew she probably wasn't going to go far. He is pretty quick about making up his mind. And so he just hit that old X, and you'll know that Brandy took a little while longer and so did Hasselhoff.

KING: Is he like Simon?

PHILBIN: Very much like Simon. I told you, he's brutally honest and quite frank. But that was a tough one because even Hasselhoff felt empathy for this woman.

KING: Because "The Mirror" is a pretty wild newspaper.

PHILBIN: Yes, it is. And he was in charge of that. So this guy, you know, that's the way he is. KING: This next call is from Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry and Regis. From British Columbia, Canada.

KING: How are you?

CALLER: Hey, very well, thanks, guys. Regis, I would like to ask you, this might be difficult, but who over the past years on your morning talk show would you say is the three most interesting people?

PHILBIN: The three most interesting people. Well, you know, I always say Barbara Walters is one of them. She's been everywhere. She's interviewed everybody. She remembers every word of her question and her answer. I mean, she's just fabulous. She's a fabulous guest. And she will reminisce like that and keep you entertained for hours.

KING: Good lady.

PHILBIN: And a terrific lady, too. So does this person have to be alive? Because so many have passed on, you know, since Regis has been around.

KING: All right. Let's say who may have passed on?

PHILBIN: Well, I love -- I would love to talk to Johnny again. You know? Wouldn't you?

KING: Whoa.

PHILBIN: Gosh. So all right. Barbara Walters, Johnny Carson. Come on, help me out.

KING: Was Carson the -- Rickles you like. Don Rickles.

PHILBIN: Oh, and Don Rickles. Oh, I love Don Rickles. I've loved Don Rickles all my life.

KING: What about Letterman? What's with you and Letterman? What's the real story? Come on.

PHILBIN: Give me a question.

KING: You make appearances, you do the top 10 list, you're invited you're not invited, he kids you, he didn't kid him ...

PHILBIN: When somebody in this business needs me, I'm there for them. When the man calls, please, Reg, I say you've got, it Dave.

KING: So Letterman is desperate for you?

PHILBIN: No, he isn't. I think he's great. But we have some kind of a rapport. I love to be on his show. If he does need me as a fill-in or to do the top 10, sure, I'm right up the street from him.

KING: Like Johnny peculiarly enough, neither one of you go to dinner, right?

PHILBIN: I went to dinner with Rickles -- with Rickles? With Letterman the last time I was on. Went to dinner with him.

KING: Where?

PHILBIN: We went to ...

KING: A public restaurant?

PHILBIN: A public restaurant. Yes. And I thought -- but he was very courteous, very civil, and very straight and very entertaining. Accommodating and all that. He was a perfect gentleman. Yeah, Joy and I went with Dave and his partner in that racing sport.

KING: Yeah, they're really into that.

PHILBIN: Yeah, they really are. So that was quite interesting to see, the business side of Dave.

KING: Anything you -- only got about a minute. Anything you haven't done you'd like to do after all these years?

PHILBIN: Well, I'm doing the variety show. I always wanted to do one of those. You know, I see myself down the line doing a show in a quiet studio in primetime, one guest at a time with a phone beeping here, an e-mail buzzing off, and -- and wearing suspenders. That's what I want to do!

KING: I knew it.

REGIS: Does that send chills down your spine?

KING: It does. I'll tell you.

PHILBIN: There's nobody better than you. You know that.

KING: If I walked out and you walked in, it would be congrats to you, man.

PHILBIN: No kidding? Is that how you see it? CNN, call me.

KING: Go get 'em, man.

PHILBIN: Hey. Larry, I love you. Thanks so much.

KING: Love you, baby. Regis Philbin, the host of "America's Got Talent." It debuted for two hours on Wednesday, goes back to its regular hour slot, and was the highest rated show on Wednesday night and had a larger audience than "American Idol" when it debuted back in June of 2002.

A remarkable motion picture will open Tuesday night. Brandon Routh is the new star. You're going to -- we've got him here now. We may never be able to get him again. He may not take our call after this one. He's the star of "Superman." and then joining him will be Kevin Spacey, who plays Lex Luthor. And Brian Singer, the director. Brandon Routh is next. Superman meets Regis. We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us tonight. Super hardly begins to describe the rave reviews for the new movie "Superman Returns," which opens next Wednesday. And let me tell you, folks, I saw it this morning and the critics are right. In a word, wow. With us here in Los Angeles, Brandon Routh, the star of the first Superman film since the tragic death of Chris Reeve, who for millions of people was Superman. How did you get the part?

BRANDON ROUTH, ACTOR: A lot of hanging in there. It was a long process for me, about seven months.

KING: You auditioned?

ROUTH: Auditioned, yes. I had a meeting with a director who was ...

KING: (INAUDIBLE)

ROUTH: Yes. But I had it with the previous director the first time. And I auditioned and screen tested. Then he left. Brian came on, thank god. And you know, saw some tape. And then we had coffee and I guess I impressed him.

KING: Did you realize, of course you realized, that you're stepping into a role that someone else put a stamp on.

ROUTH: Certainly. I did my best to think about what a great honor it was. Because it is. And Christopher Reeve was my superman. You know, I grew up with him, watching him and wanting to be him and flying around in my living room, in my yard. So I knew there was a lot of pressure and there was going to be, there were a lot of people who were, you know, expecting a lot of big things.

Anybody who's going to come after Christopher Reeve, who made such a mark on the role, it's a challenging thing. But really I did my best to know that that was there but also then to take strength from the character and to bring that to it because I had to be strong and confident in order to pull it off.

KING: You were on a soap, right?

ROUTH: Yes. One Life to Live.

KING: Had you been doing any films?

ROUTH: No, I hadn't.

KING: This was your first movie?

ROUTH: This was it. This was the big deal.

KING: Any theater?

ROUTH: I'd done some theater in high school back when I was a kid. I did a lot of music. My parents are both musicians. So I was involved with that, singing and dancing a little bit, and piano and played the trumpet through.

KING: You're from Iowa.

ROUTH: Yes. Norwalk, Iowa.

KING: The widow, Christopher Reeve's widow, Dana, and what she said about Brandon's casting as the new superman. I understand she sent you a note.

ROUTH: Yes. A very lovely note halfway through filming. She expressed...

KING: She was a great lady.

ROUTH: I believe that she was. She's did amazing things and I hear from everybody how great she was.

KING: What did she say?

ROUTH: She said that she was pleased the film was being made and she gave her blessing to me and to the film and remarked on my likeness to Chris, and I think she got a kick out of that. It was great for me to know that she was behind this film and that we weren't stepping on anybody's feet.

KING: OK, how do you fly?

ROUTH: It takes a lot of people. It's a very collaborative effort.

KING: Do you go up somewhere or is it all computer something?

ROUTH: No, no. It was at least four or five months of green screen work for me. A lot of times on a harness in wires. Sometimes I was on a box. The camera flying around me. Sometimes on a turntable. Sometimes just diving into mats. We did it a lot of different ways. So it's a combination of all that physical, actual footage and CDI work, that's just marvelous.

KING: What was it like when you saw it finished?

ROUTH: I was just so happy and so proud. Brian Singer, the director, is so passionate about this film from the very beginning, from our first meeting, that I knew I could trust him, that he wouldn't lead me astray. So you know, all the way through filming I was very confident and knew it was going to be great. But you know, it's awesome to know that it really is everything that I wanted it to be.

KING: It's a great film. It's a great story.

ROUTH: Yes.

KING: It's not just an action movie.

ROUTH: That's the heart of it. The heart comes in the heart and soul of the script and the relationships that are there. It's essential to any big movie, to have that core. If it's not there, then all the action, all the saving of everything doesn't matter if you don't care about the characters.

KING: We have an e-mail question from our website, from Susan in Elverta, California. Brandon, what do you think of the advocate, the gay magazine, making remarks about the movie superman in their magazine? The advocate, a monthly magazine that targets gay readers ran a cover story titled, how gay is superman. And the "L.A. Times" writes that internet bloggers have been as obsessed with superman's gay appeal as Britney Spears' parenting skills. How do you react to that?

ROUTH: Well, I think anybody that sees the movie and anybody that's worried about that for whatever reason, if you see the movie you can see that Superman is as he always is, always has been, in a lovely relationship, or trying to work on his relationship with Lois Lane.

KING: He's in love with her.

ROUTH: Yes. Well, it's about the only thing in life besides saving Earth.

KING: How do you react, though, to this?

ROUTH: You know, it's there. People have opinions. It sells newspapers. It sells, you know, it sells, and it's exciting to bring up controversy, which is the only thing that's, you know, unfortunate about this, is that it's controversy. And you know, people do that to sell things. From my point of view, everybody should love superman, whether he's an icon for all walks of life. He should be. It's the people that don't find superman as an icon or inspirational character that's frightening, frankly.

KING: Do you think, sadly, that it might translate, not sadly but translate to you, that people might assume that you are because ...

ROUTH: Even if they weren't, I'm sure they ...

KING: So what?

ROUTH: And so what? Exactly. I'm very confident in who I am and my relationship with my lovely girlfriend. You know, people are going to, they do that with everybody. Every star has that. And it's part of, seems to be, now it's part of celebrity.

KING: Brandon Routh is the guest. He stars in "Superman Returns." It opens Tuesday night. And when we come back, we'll be joined by Kevin Spacey, who plays Lex Luthor, one of my favorite people, Kevin Spacey. And Brian Singer, the director of "The Usual Suspects" and of course "X-Men" and "X-2." They'll both join Brandon right after these words. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know it all, everything. Olson, I want to see photos of him everywhere. No, I want the photos.

Where did he go? Was he on vacation? If so, where?

Gossip. Has he met somebody?

Fashion. Is that a new suit?

Health. Has he gained weight? What's he been eating?

Business. How is this going to affect the stock market? Long- term, short-term.

Politics. Does he still stand for truth, justice? All that stuff.

Lifestyle. Superman returns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Brandon Routh, the star of "Superman Returns," remains with us. Joining us is Kevin Spacey, one of my favorite people. He plays the evil Lex Luthor in "Superman Returns." The two-time Oscar winner for roles in "American Beauty" and "The Usual Suspects." That film was directed by Bryan Singer, the director of "Superman Returns," who's also directed "X-Men," "X-2" and "Usual Suspects."

Kevin, why'd you take this part?

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: The man one seat over from Brandon.

KING: Called you and said take it?

SPACEY: Look, we had such an extraordinary time 10 years ago when we made "Usual Suspects," and over the years we've sort of talked about trying to find something to do again together. And when he called and said, I'm going to take over this franchise and I'd like you to play Lex Luthor, it was such a simple and easy yes, because I trust him implicitly. Because the thing about Bryan is despite the fact that this is a big tentpole movie with big sets and lots of money, he's as interested today as he was 10 years ago in character and in how relationships develop.

KING: You did "Usual Suspects" 10 years ago?

BRYAN SINGER, DIRECTOR: Pretty much, yes. KING: How old were you, 12?

SINGER: I get that a lot. No, I was probably 27.

KING: How did you cast Brandon?

SINGER: I looked at a lot of tape. There were prior incarnations of the movie. Like a different -- they were going to make an origin movie they'd been developing at Warner Brothers for about nine years. So Brandon had come in previously, and I looked at -- I was going through mountains of old tape of actors who'd come in, and I just saw something in him. And then I met with him at a cafe up near Sunset and talked for about two hours, and somewhere in the middle of that conversation I started to see those Clarkisms and those Supermanisms.

KING: What did you see? Did you see Superman?

SINGER: I did. I mean, there's something, you know, Superman has to kind of look and sound as though he stepped out of your collective memory of who Superman is. And in Brandon, there's -- you know, well, you're in the room. But he has a calm kind of center that is very much Superman and also an awkward vulnerability, which is very much Clark.

KING: What was it like for you, one, to be directed by a guy who's set his mark in Hollywood, and, two, to work with a two-time Oscar winner and a genius of theater and film?

ROUTH: Well, yes. Two geniuses, you know, to be sure. Amazing. You know, for my first film not only do I get to play Superman, but I get to work with Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer. You know, just incredible.

You know, the fact that Kevin came on to this film obviously had something to do with his trust in Bryan and how incredible he is. But also it took great faith from both of them to say yes to me and to take a chance really on an unknown.

KING: Kevin, what did you think of Brandon? He's sitting here. You're not going to say...

SPACEY: I'll talk right in front of him. I always thought that it was the smartest idea to go with an unknown actor. I think there's a certain leap you have to make in this film, and I always thought if it was a famous actor playing Superman, it just -- it never seemed to me that that would work.

So when Bryan started talking about him, that he thought he'd found him, and then, you know, I did a little work and found out about where he came from, and we had a great time. You know, and the truth is we didn't have a lot to do in the film. Really, all I basically did was kick the crap out of him.

KING: What did that feel like? That was some scene. Who beats up Superman? SPACEY: Well, you'd been shooting about three or so months.

ROUTH: Yes.

SPACEY: So I felt like, you know, Brandon had really found his confidence. You know, he was feeling -- he was looking good in the suit. And I was just bringing him down to earth a little.

SINGER: You still have a scar.

ROUTH: I do, yes.

KING: Did he hurt you?

ROUTH: Oh, there was a scene where he's kicking me, and I wasn't -- I wasn't on camera. So I'd gotten up to go, you know, have some water or something. I came back down, and I wasn't quite in my spot. I wasn't on my mat in the right place. So Kevin did his kick, and immediately he realized that he wasn't kicking a sandbag anymore; he was kicking my side and he was immediately very apologetic. And I was fine. But you know, it was a nice kind of battle scar to take.

KING: What's that suit like to wear? Heavy?

ROUTH: It's not really that heavy. The cape is an added weight, certainly, but you get used to that.

It's incredible, to be able to wear this suit that has so much legacy, so much history in it.

KING: Do you feel stronger when you put it on?

ROUTH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Especially after I had worked out a lot more and put on 22 pounds of muscle and transformed physically. That strength, when you have something that tight, it just makes you feel even stronger about yourself.

KING: Harder to direct an epic?

SINGER: Yes. If I had not made the first two "X-Men" films, I don't think I would have been fully prepared to address the scope of this picture. It was a lot more complex and just larger in every single way. Even emotionally larger than...

KING: Really?

SINGER: Yes. Yes. I mean, for all the scope of it and the visual effects and things, as Brandon was saying earlier, if you don't care about the people all this stuff's happening to, then it's all just fireworks.

KING: Did you watch Gene Hackman play Lex Luthor?

SPACEY: Well, I'd seen it originally when it came out. I remember being one of the first in line when it was down at Westwood. I think the same theater we had a premiere in the other night. KING: And he was wild.

SPACEY: He was great. And you know, I was going as an acting student to see Brando as well. But I remember the film with great affection.

But since Bryan had talked to me from the initial stages of my doing the film about really wanting this Lex Luthor to be different from the Gene Hackman incarnation, except that he still wanted it to be funny. It still -- it had to have that kind of comic humor. But he wanted a much darker, much more bitter and out for revenge Lex Luthor in this one. So I avoided watching it.

KING: And a little understated.

SPACEY: Are you kidding? I think you can see...

KING: He wasn't over the top. Gene was over the...

SPACEY: Oh, I don't know. I thought you could see the mugging from a helicopter. But then, that's just my opinion.

KING: I thought you were brilliant.

SPACEY: Thank you.

KING: I got to like Lex Luthor. And of course, he'll be back because, as one of my kids pointed out, either Chance or Cannon, he's still alive and he's on an island.

ROUTH: Yes. You never count him out.

KING: He's coming back.

SPACEY: Well, he's always had more coconuts than (inaudible) I think.

SINGER: Take over the world with coconuts.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lex Luthor.

SPACEY: Imagine cities, entire continents, all grown. To think that one could create a new world with such a simple little widget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. That's really something, Lex.

SPACEY: Wait for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: "Superman Returns" opens Tuesday night, next Tuesday night. And our guests are Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, and the director, Bryan Singer. We have another viewer e-mail from our website. Brandon, another Brandon, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hey, Brandon, what's the best part about being superman? And did you look at previous superman movies to relate to the new one?

ROUTH: Well, Brandon, the best part about being superman is kind of right now, it's happening right now. People seeing the movie. Soon the public is going to be able to see the movie. And you know, to know that the spirit of superman is out and around and, you know, to make people happy. I mean, I think that's what this film is part of, to entertain as well, but to bring back the spirit of superman and kind of have that out in the world is a really exciting part of it for me.

And I definitely watched the first two films, "Superman the Movie" and the second film quite a lot. You know, Chris's spirit was with me. When I say he was my superman, I pictured him a lot when reading the script. So there are definitely qualities that are alike in the film, and sometimes, you know, completely different. So you know, you see what you see.

KING: You shot in Australia?

ROUTH: Yes. Sydney.

KING: You shaved your head every day?

SPACEY: Every day. Like a good boy.

KING: What was it like to be bald?

SPACEY: It's actually kind of cool.

KING: Yes?

SPACEY: Yes, because people keep rubbing your head. They just can't help themselves. No, it was fine, and I was just happy it grew back. But I have shaved my head once for "Seven" and it came back. So I was hopeful it would come back. I just want to say in relation to what Brandon just said, I saw the movie for the first time the other night at the premiere. I'd not seen it purposely as I just wanted to experience it, you know, all finished.

And the thing I think I'm so proud to be a part of this movie about is what Bryan has done is I think he's brought back that sense of wonder about what this kind of movie should be, how an audience should feel when they come out of it. And I just thought it was great that it has very clear affection for the Donner films.

KING: It opens Tuesday night right?

SPACEY: 10:00 p.m.

KING: 10:00 p.m., Tuesday night, wide. Bryan, how do you react to this talk about that superman is gay?

SINGER: He's not. He hasn't been gay for 70 years.

KING: How do you react to it though?

SINGER: Just like that. I mean, it's ...

KING: Amusing?

SINGER: Yes. It's kind of funny, I guess. I mean, because the relationship with Lois Lane is so integral to who superman is, to the drive of almost every incarnation of him, particularly this movie, that I say if you look back at all my films you'll probably see that I've probably never made a more heterosexual movie in my entire life. It's just the truth.

KING: I didn't see anything gay about it. It was a very heterosexual, whatever that means.

SINGER: I don't know.

KING: There are some who are also comparing, this may be a stretch, Superman to Jesus. Someone told me today. You know, you can see superman, he comes, he's not born of, you know, he's got, his father's the big man.

SPACEY: What that means is that God would be Marlon Brando.

KING: And he probably was.

SINGER: In the first movie he says, I send them you, my only son. I mean, these are, we grow up in a Judeo-Christian culture here in the United States and these concepts, I mean, even in the origin of superman it was always the family that send their, it was sort of the story of Moses. It was a family that send their child down the river to, or in this case from Krypton to Earth to fulfill a greater destiny. Here we deal a little more with saviors, redemption, resurrection. These themes are not remotely lost to me.

KING: And great music.

SINGER: Fantastic.

KING: The superman theme.

ROUTH: That and the rest of the music in the film as well.

SPACEY: John Oughton (ph), who also edits the film along with another editor.

SINGER: Along with Elliot Graham. John Oughton, since college, has been editing and scoring almost all my films and he works now with a second editor, Elliott Graham, and they become partners in the cutting room and crafting it. And we had access to the John Williams music to weave throughout the picture, which, if I didn't have access to that I probably wouldn't have made the film. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK, we've just got less than a minute to go. What's the expectation? What is Warner Brothers saying?

SINGER: I think they'll be happy. I mean, we're going to roll into the weekend mid-week. So hopefully we'll generate some word of mouth. But you know, we try not to put numerical expectations on these things. We just want it to play, want people to come see it. Want girls to go see it. I want girls.

KING: Why, girls wouldn't go see it?

SPACEY: I think every girl in the United States will go and see this movie.

KING: For the attraction of Lex Luthor.

SPACEY: Well, bald is in, you know. They find it very sexy.

KING: Bald is in. Are you ready for what's about to happen to you?

ROUTH: Yes. I am, I'm learning every day new things all the time, but I'm taking it on as best as I can.

KING: Because you know.

ROUTH: I know it's coming. I know in many different iterations, but I know what's out there. It's superman. It's one of the biggest things that can happen to somebody. And it's exciting for people. So I know that. And just doing my best to keep a smile on my face.

KING: Thank you all very much. Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer. Bryan's the director. Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey star in "Superman Returns," a gem of a movie.

Monday Night when we return live the program will deal with the controversy of the lacrosse team and Duke University. Thanks for joining us and good night.

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