As Mankiewicz explained, “The WGA [Writer’s Guild of America], DGA [Director’s Guild of America], and everyone else, they say, ‘writer, producer, and director.’ You don’t put a writer with another title after the writers, it’s just not done.”
According to Mankiewicz, the reason he did so much extra work for “Superman” is that the film’s producers, Ilya and Alexander Salkind, didn’t have much practical filmmaking experience. The Salkinds infamously fired Donner three-fourths of the way through “Superman II,” which was shot mostly back-to-back and had originally been part of the same 400-page script as “Superman.”
Mankiewicz, meanwhile, had his own problems with the WGA because of where his name was placed in the “Superman” credits. In the same interview, he revealed:
“The Writers Guild sued me, in the sense that they called me to a hearing with the head of the guild and everyone else, including Warner Bros.’ legal department. I showed them thirteen round trips to London after I finished writing [‘Superman’] — then it was the editing, the scoring, and I said that it really reflects what I did and I’m so sorry about the placement of it because I didn’t know that was where they were gonna put it there and they said, ‘Fine, but in ‘Superman II’ we’d like to correct it, it should come before the writers,’ which is what happened. That’s how that credit came and [was] subsequently outlawed by the Writer’s Guild. It’s called the ‘Tom Mankiewicz rule.’ Informally, there’s no such thing as a separate title called ‘creative consultant’ anymore.”
The average moviegoer might not register that Mankiewicz’s name comes after the writers in “Superman,” but before them in “Superman II,” yet it was instrumental in determining how future screenwriters would be credited onscreen. The “Superman” credits saga didn’t end there, though.