Unless they’re a director taking on more responsibility or a superstar known for their specific project choices (see Kevin Feige with Marvel, Jerry Bruckheimer with explosive blockbusters or Harvey Weinstein with Oscar-baiting prestige pictures), producers are rarely the most well-known person on a film set. They’re the money men, the clear studio influence on the creative vision. This obscurity is definitely not true of Jon Peters though, who served as a producer on Batman and Superman films for over twenty years.
A former hairdresser, Peters made it big with Barbra Streisand’s A Star is Born, but is regarded best in fan circles for bringing back the Caped Crusader as the producer on both of Tim Burton’s Batman movies. After Warner Bros. opted to go in a different direction with that series, he switched his focus to Superman, and thus begins one of the craziest stories in superhero cinema; the Nicolas Cage-starring, Burton-directed (at one point Kevin Smith-written) Superman Lives was a tortured production, and much of the failure is down to Peters, who let his personal obsessions and greed get in the way of anything approaching a faithful adaptation. He was later involved in the many failed attempts at a Supes movie in the early naughties and wound up working on Superman Returns.
Due to the technicalities of his contract, he remained an executive producer on Man of Steel, but his legacy proved so potent that he was banned from the set by Christopher Nolan, the film’s producer. However, despite being totally shut out, Peters still profited handsomely from the film, probably more than anybody involved; his deal gave him 7.5% of box office takings, so he still managed to make an estimated $50 million off the film’s $668 million gross.
Speaking in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Peters confirmed that he made around $80 to $85 million combined from Superman Returns and Man of Steel, which would seem to rebuff claims from the studio he made only $10 to $15 million from the latter. Talking of why he was banned from the set, he offered up an interesting take:
“My reputation scares these guys.”
While it’s possible Peters intimidates Nolan, Snyder and co, it’s also not hard to see why, from a creative standpoint, they would want him as far away from the reboot as possible. The story of Superman Lives is a frankly ridiculous one that could have only happened in the 1990s, a time when blockbusters were growing in scale but superheroes were yet to become the cinema mainstay they are today. It was documented in The Death of Superman Lives, which interviews all key players. While the whole enterprise appears shaky, it’s Peters who clearly had the most negative influence.
As discussed in the THR interview, Peters near quarter-century relationship with Superman now appears to be over. His deal applied to any movie featuring Superman, so even though it was technically a crossover, also featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and host of Justice League cameos, Peters stood to make a killing with Batman v Superman. However, Warner Bros. used this opportunity to strike a deal with him – Peters accepted a pay cut and loss of credit in favor of the opportunity to work on several passion projects, including a remake of A Star is Born.