Interview with Jon Cording "Bad Vibrations" Superman the Movie


Alexei: Hi. Welcome. Today we’re sat with John, who was in Superman The Movie, with Christopher Reeve starring opposite.

John Cording: Yeah.

Alexei: Bad vibrations? 

John Cording: Bad vibrations is a phrase that I hear quite often now. 

Alexei: So, tell me, how did you get the gig in the film? 

John Cording: You know, it’s 1976. I can’t remember how it happened, but my agent must have phoned me up, and I must have gone along to meet Richard Donner, and he obviously liked the way I look. I probably, in 1976, looked a bit Mexican or something, or looked like a bad guy, which…

Alexei: It’s the mustache. 

John Cording: It’s the mustache, and I had really dark hair in those days, unlike today. So, he obviously liked the look, and he employed me to play the second hood.

Alexei: So, was it kind of like you had to test for that, or you just…

John Cording: No, no, just went along and he fell in love with me straight away.

Alexei: Did you get much interaction with Richard Donner at all?

John Cording: Yes. He was a very- I found him a very nice bloke. And before we actually did the filming, myself and two other guys who were the hoods, Richard said, “Come and see this,” and we went along to see it. And they’d already filmed Chris Reeve flying, and it looked- in 1976 it looked absolutely fantastic. it looked so real that we just stood there like, “Wow, that looks absolutely fantastic.” So, that was very interesting. And you seemed a nice bloke. And so, then we started filming. And it was funny, we filmed it at… Remind me, at… London, the film studio in London.

Alexei: Pinewood, or… ? 

John Cording: Pinewood. So, they built this storyline- you know the storyline. Anyway we’d done the robbery, and we jumped onto the boat to escape from the cops, and we were standing on the boat. And the boat that they built at Pinewood was fantastic. They just built the front of a boat, and it went up and down like that on some sort of roller. And there were blokes in the front throwing water over the front of the boat, splashing to make it look like the…

Alexei: No expense spared. 

John Cording: Absolutely. And then I come out behind Chris Reeve, and with my crowbar, and I whack him- I go to whack him on the back of the head, and then came the famous line, “Bad vibrations?” But on one of the takes — they did quite a few takes — the camera was there, Chris was here, I was behind there, so I hit Chris on the back of the right-hand side of his head, and the crowbar awas made of glass fiber. And I remember, on the one take I stopped it, so it didn’t actually hit him, and it broke, it snapped, and it hit Chris on the back of the head. And everyone was like, “Chris, are you okay? Are you alright, Chris? Everything alright, Chris?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, don’t worry.” And I said, “Sorry, Chris.” He said, “Eh, I’m Superman.” So, that was a nice little story with Chris. He was such a nice guy.

Alexei: Yeah? Did you get much time with Chris, or?

John Cording: No, not a lot really, because it was just that scene. We talked it through, of course, I met him, we had a chat. Nothing… You know, he didn’t ask me how my wife was, how life’s treating me and all that, just… He just seemed very friendly in the small conversation we had. And then we did that scene, which took us… It took me about four weeks, I think. 

Alexei: Four weeks? 

John Cording: What happened was, I was booked for three days in a week. You could never tell we’re filming, and whether you’re able to get there on time- sorry, whether you’d be able to get the filming done on time, or whether something holds you up, or whatever. Anyway, I was booked for three days within a week. So, I turned up on the first day, and we did the rehearsal. Then we went home. We came back the next day, and Richard Donner, the director, had had some sort of argument with the producers, something to do with money, I guess. So, he thought, “Sod this” — if I can say that — “I’m going back to America.” So, he went off back to America. We didn’t know anything about it. Well, I didn’t know anything about it. So, I came back the next day for filming, no filming because there was no director. So, I thought, “Okay.” So, I came in the next day, no filming, no director. And then the following week I came in on a Tuesday or whatever it was, no director, no filming. Wednesday, no director. And this was a fair way for me to travel every day. No director the next day. So, the first assistant said, “Listen, don’t come in again, wait until we call you.” Two weeks later I got a call. So, I was on the show for four weeks to do one scene. 

Alexei: But you were paid for the whole time? 

John Cording: I was paid for the four weeks, yeah. 

Alexei: Wonderful. 

John Cording: Which was great. It was lovely. And it was 1976, I needed the money. I don’t need it today, he lied.

Alexei: So, when you were all arrested, you’re not actually in that scene at all, are you? 

John Cording: No.

Alexei: Why is that? Why weren’t you arrested?

John Cording: Well, they filmed the chase, the police car chase in America, and the guys getting onto the boat in America. So, those were American actors. They weren’t us at all. And so, they transferred then to… I think it was a lot cheaper to film in Britain. A lot of Americans were filming in Britain because it was a lot cheaper. So, then we just took over. They all had hoods on, so no one had seen their faces. So, we’d take the hoods off, and we were them. And when they were arrested… I don’t know if they had their hoods on or not. We couldn’t see their faces. 

Alexei: Sat on the front of the boat, weren’t they?

John Cording: Yeah. You couldn’t see their faces. 

Alexei: But they filmed that in the States, that part. 

John Cording: They filmed that in the States, yeah. 

Alexei: Wonderful. So, do you happen to still get residuals from the film? Because you are named in the credits. 

John Cording: I am named in the credits. I think, maybe about four weeks ago, quite recently, I had something. I think it was a penny or a tuppence. I’m still getting residuals, but it’s nothing worth talking about. 

Alexei: Not enough to retire. 

John Cording: No, not enough to retire. 

Alexei: So, this is actually your first Comic Con as well, isn’t it?

John Cording: It is, yes. 

Alexei: And you’ve not done any before because you weren’t aware of them.

John Cording: I wasn’t aware of them at all. 

Alexei: How did you find out about this one?

John Cording: Well, apparently Mark, I think… I think it was Mark who phoned up my agent, said he’s been trying to get hold of me for years, but… I’m not sure if I believe that totally. But I think he went through the cast. Because he tried [08:57 inaudible] and… I can’t remember the guy’s name… But they couldn’t do it, so maybe I was the last resort. 

Alexei: Well, I think you were the best guess. 

John Cording: I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it very much. It’s great. And it’s great to see all the people dressing up, and taking part, which I think is great. 

Alexei: There’s still fans of the movie, even though it’s almost 45 years, isn’t it?

John Cording: It is, yeah. 

Alexei: Which is- it makes me feel old, you know what I mean?

John Cording: Yeah, yeah. Don’t remind me. 

Alexei: It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you, John. 

John Cording: Oh, and you. 

Alexei: Thank you very much for talking to me today. 

John Cording: Thank you.