Jeffrey Taylor is a staff writer/moderator at The Superman Homepage, co-host of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast, available at the Superman Homepage, iTunes and The Superman Podcast Network.You can find his new Man of Steel Countdown column here at Movies.com every other Tuesday.
Last week was all about Superman’s fathers, Jor-El and Jonathan “Pa” Kent who will be played by Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner respectively in the upcoming film. This week is all about Superman’s two mothers, Lara and Martha “Ma” Kent. Martha will be played by Diane Lane and the rumors on the internet are that Julia Ormond may be playing Lara. Plus another star has been cast for the film, but no one know what role he’ll play yet.
In early Superman comics and stories, Jor-El (Jor-L at the time) was building a spaceship so that he, his wife and baby son could all escape Krypton before it exploded, but he had only completed a smaller prototype by the time the planet became unstable and its end was imminent. So it was Lara (Lora at the time) who suggested they save Kal-El since only he was small enough to fit.
In Superman: The Movie in 1978, Lara was played by Susannah York, who gave some depth to the character. She was a loving mother who feared what world her son would grow up in. She returned for Superman II in 1980 because Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El, had footage that had already been filmed, but they replaced his scenes with Susannah York as Lara in order to save a lot of money. Sadly, she passed away in January, 2011.
The "Smallville" TV show dealt with her character slowly over the series. She was talked about from time to time in its third season, then was briefly brought back to life and shown in flashbacks in season seven. She was played by Helen Slater, who was also Supergirl in the 1984 film of the same name. In the series, Clark came to fear his father’s intentions when he was sent to Earth, but learned that there was so much more to the Kryptonian race when he remembered Lara.
Julia Ormond has been rumored for a role in The Man of Steel and it seems most likely that she will play Lara. Ormond has an extensive resume and might be best known for Legends of the Fall and for playing the title character in the Harrison Ford remake of Sabrina.
Originally named “Mary” in Superman #1 from 1939, then briefly “Sarah,” Superman’s adopted mother died before her husband and it was on his deathbed that he told young Clark to become Superman. But Martha’s character eventually evolved and became far more inclusive in Clark’s life.
Most of Superman’s origin stories kept Martha alive long after her husband’s death. In the comic book pages of Superboy, she and Jonathan ran a shop in Smallville and Clark helped out. Superboy often made mistakes or had to ask his parents for advice, and Martha usually had equally good advice for Clark as Jonathan did. Despite her being a woman in the 1950s and '60s, she played an important role in Superboy’s upbringing in the era of “Father Knows Best.”
My favorite Martha Kent is Annette O’Toole in the Smallville TV series, although K Callan from Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is a close second. Annette made Martha youthful again. Even in the Superboy comics, the Kent’s were always elderly. Keeping the Kent’s young gave a parental relevance to them both. The Elderly versions still have their place and importance in the history of the character, but I personally prefer seeing his parents at age younger than 70 years old. But this is a subject that many fans are divided on.
Diane Lane as Martha Kent seems to be following Smallville’s theme of younger parents. Even Kevin Costner is almost a decade younger than Glenn Ford was when he played Pa Kent. Lane will bring a sensibility to the part that we’ve seen before, but only certain women can pull off. Clark needs to grow up knowing the love of a mother and Lane can deliver that in spades.
Finally, just yesterday Chris Meloni was confirmed to play a role in The Man of Steel. The question is who will he be? Meloni himself confirmed that whatever part he’ll play will not be Lex Luthor. He could play any of a number of other roles, but has only gone so far to claim he’s a General. Which leads me to believe he’ll be General Samuel Lane, Lois Lane’s father. Or he could be an entirely new character from Krypton in General Zod’s army.
Meloni is best known for playing Detective Elliot Stabler in TV’s Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, but he can be seen playing a bad guy in HBO’s original series Oz. Keep your eyes on this column at The Superman Homepage for the official casting announcement once it happens.
What role do you think Chris Meloni should play in The Man of Steel?