Superman The Movie
Darryl Laycraft Owner of the Kent Farmhouse Interview
INTERVIEW BY JASON THOMAS
Photographs by Jason Thomas, David Stewart, Derek Seitz
and Reno Anastasio
In December of 2011 I had the opportunity to meet with the former owner of the
farmhouse and barn used as the Kent farm for Superman the Movie.
It was a pleasure to talk with Darryl about his memories and experiences and
learn some more about the history of such an iconic setting from motion
picture history. Thank you, Darryl!
**Please note that Mr. Laycraft no longer owns the property**
Jason: How and when were you approached to use your farm in Superman
Darryl: Well it would have been in the spring maybe in 1977. They showed up at
our farmhouse- which was about, well, straight west of Superman’s building.
Jason: So 1977..?
Darryl: I’d say it was ‘77, because they worked on it for the best part of a
year likely before they got there.
Jason: Well I know they were filming in 1977.
Darryl: So it might have been even fall of 1976.
Jason: Do you recall why it was selected or what features they were looking for?
Darryl: Well, just the location. (Supervising art director) Bill Brodie had been
driving the country and... he was an englishman too, but he lived out of...
I know it more or less said in one of the articles he was living in... still lived in England,
but he moved to Toronto then, him and his wife, and they lived there until he died.
We got a Christmas card from him every year for 15 years likely. He worked in
the Arctic with Ice Jam movie. Oh, he always had a lot of good stories.
(He’d) usually come and have dinner with us very often. Along with his wife.
Jason: So you met him from the Superman scouting but became friends after
Jason: How long had you owned the farm property? Did you ever live in it?
Darryl: No, I bought it in ‘65 and I never lived in it.
Jason: Were you planning on living in it one day?
Darryl: No, it had been vacant for a long time when I bought it and I know the
whole story. It was built in 1917 I think, somewhere in there. The guy came
from Iowa and built it and his wife didn’t stay. A guy by the name of
Joel Cassidy. And his story is in the Blackie/Gladys history book.
Jason: What changes were made by the set designers for Superman The Movie?
Darryl: Oh, they cleaned it up a lot, and built a dormer on it, redid windows.
Jason: The back kitchen windows right?
Darryl: Yeah, and also the barn they did a lot of work on.
Jason: You were saying how they took the loft area out of the barn?
Darryl: Yeah, they cut it out so you could lift parts out of it for shooting down.
Jason: Were any walls removed for filming inside the house?
Darryl: No, I don’t think so.
Jason: The upstairs area... looks like they renovated it?
Darryl: Yeah they did and they varnished. They made it very presentable.
Jason: Was the storage area under the barn floor added for filming?
Darryl: Well, they dug a hole and that’s where the Kryptonite was right?
You can remember from the movie when he lifts the trap door. Four
foot or five foot square, maybe, on hinges and he lifted it.
Jason: So it was just a hole?
Jason: And did they put the fake ship in there?
Darryl: Yeah I suppose it likely was.
Jason: Do you recall, when Pa Kent died, they had pigeons on the roof of the
barn. Were those fake pigeons?
Darryl: No they were doves. When (the film crew) left they stayed for a
while, you know, I guess they integrated with pigeons. I don’t know.
Jason: Was the driveway Pa Kent and Clark wander up there or did they make it
for that shot?
Darryl: Yeah. It stayed there for years but we farmed through it. And they
used it also in pretty near every film and the TV commercial with Nissan.
Jason: There were other films that used your farm?
Darryl: Yeah, well the Chautauqua Girl, scenes were in that and Bruce Dern and
Gordon Lightfoot in Desperado and then a Pacific Airlines commercial. They
actually, during it, they had filmed across Canada and starting on the ocean there
with horses running along. And it must have been up in Toffino or somewhere,
and they went east across BC and then, of course, in Alberta. They filmed my
daughter and Jason Glass running up the field and then they also filmed me.
It was harvest and straight cutting wheat. Of course, there’s a lot of hills and we
used to back down the hill and they were there with helicopters and I’d cut
going up the hill and they’d fly right over me as near as they can.
Jason: Were you present during filming of Superman?
Darryl: Some of it. We could go and watch, and eat. I ate quite a few meals.
Jason: We’re aware there was a series of photos taken of the boys of various
ages that was never used in the film. Do you know of any other scenes or
photos taken that didn’t make it to the film?
Darryl: No, not really. I’m sure there was.
Jason: What are some memories you have from filming or dealing with the
cast and crew?
Darryl: You know, I didn’t have much to do with them really.
Jason: But you did meet Richard Donner?
Darryl: Yeah, just once.
Jason: What was he like?
Darryl: You know, I don’t know. I don’t hardly even remember.
He was just there and I was introduced to him.
Jason: Did you meet Phylis Thaxter?
Darryl: Yeah I guess. I must have... yeah.
Jason: What about Jeff East, the teenage Clark Kent?
Darryl: I’m sure I did or I might not have met him but I was there beside him
almost when he was acting. They did a whole bunch of stuff on the south side
of the house there too one day. Maybe I’m mixed up with one of the other films.
Jason: Were you left with any set pieces or props and what became of them?
Darryl: Yeah I’ve got the baseball glove, a bat, a ball. Actually I’ve got the
rock that burnt down to nothing too.
Jason: The crashed ship?
Jason: What happened to that?
Darryl: I’ve still got it.
Jason: What about things like the mailbox or...?
Darryl: Yeah it stayed there.
Jason: Somebody finally took it or..?
Darryl: You know I’m not sure.
Jason: Did you have a lot of problems with people stealing?
Darryl: Um...no, you know when they left they pretty well took everything and
it became a place where people would bring their friends... Sunday drive...
you know. We had lost a bunch of stuff out of the old house before that when I
first bought it. There was a bunch of furniture in it and I bought it and then there
was a big ol’ coal covered stove that was stolen out of it, and things of that
nature but that was before, that would be in the the late 60’s. But we never did
have a lot of vandalism really. Used to be the odd time school kids would get
there and we could see it from where I lived, see a bunch of lights and go over
and there’d be a bunch there having a beer drinking party and (laughs) we’d
have to put the run on them.
Jason: Did you ever watch the movie there on location?
Jason: After the film crews left the house just sat there?
Darryl: Well, until the next movie. (Production manager- Canada) Les Kimber
would show up, or Bill Brodie, but it was usually Kimber that would front for him.
It was Brodie who first found it.
Jason: So basically your house was then on the map for other producers?
Darryl: Yeah. We made quite a bit of money on it actually over the years. And
then this other guy came and wanted to buy it, so it ended up... it needed
shingling. It needed work and he was gonna do it and offered us a pretty good
dollar for it at the time and that would have been in the early nineties maybe.
Jason: How did it feel to see the movie with your house and barn portraying
such an iconic movie location?
Darryl: Oh, just... we knew it was happening. (Laughs) And it wasn’t that I
ever built it, we just straight bought it... for the dirt, not the building.
Jason: Do you ever watch the film and do you enjoy it?
Darryl: Yeah, oh yeah. If it’s on TV I may click on it, especially looking for
the parts. And I have them there on VHS.
Jason: Have you seen the 2001 DVD release with an extended scene of
Ma Kent opening the blinds and saying ‘good morning’ to Smiley the bird?
Darryl: No? No I never watched the DVD.
Jason: Do you know where they found the truck used for filming, or what
became of it?
Darryl: They brought it. See for the Nissan one, done ten years later or more,
they came up out of California, and I guess it likely was Les Kimber who
brought them. I know there was a guy... Paul somebody, and another
producer, and they came to our farm for our layout, and then a couple of
hundred yards back from our farm was the old farm where my grandfather had
lived. We were over there and then we had a 1948 Ford 1 Ton and that’s
what he was going to use in the Nissan commercial. He was gonna have this old
farmer drive into the yard and park right in front of the Superman house and it
would be boiling with steam coming out of it and he said that his wife would
have to go to town and buy the new car, so then thats what they do and there are
a few more scenes then they bring in the 1998 Nissan Altima and they had
swinging platform that was... oh a circle disk that was likely 24 feet wide or so
and they pulled the car up on it and made out they were doing power turns in the
yard, but they weren’t really... it was the disk spinning and Iris Glass was there
with horses, and with chickens... with strings on the chickens where they would
throw the chickens out and they had binder twine on them which there was so
much dust they weren’t visible. So it was interesting. And since then my nephew
has taken that truck and restored it all. It was a 1948 Ford.
Jason: Do you know if the black dog from the film was a local dog?
Darryl: No idea.
Jason: The filming of a big Hollywood blockbuster must have been the talk of
the town in Blackie. Did you have to keep quiet about it all?
Darryl: No, I don’t think so really. They’d of course, come out from Calgary.
There must have been 100 people there.
Jason: To watch the filming?
Darryl: Well, no, the (filming crew) had a massive number of people
standing around doing nothing, most of ‘em (laughs). And of course before
that they had hired landscapers, and they stripped trees because all of that that
the main driveway was pretty well grown over cuz nobody lived there for,
I don’t know how many years.
Jason: Were you invited to a screening of the movie?
Jason: Were you approached at the time of filming Superman IV to grant
permission for your house and barn to be duplicated in the UK? Did you see
Superman IV and what do you think of the rebuild?
Darryl: No, well they had got a written permission to redo anything they wanted,
and we had signed off, and there’s a letter in here that states that. And they,
of course, had insurance on everything while they were there in case it burned
and then down the road they had insurance on the quonsets. They had to pretty
well cover all their bases, but I’m sure they have to.
Jason: Were you approached by the producers of Superman III in case they
wanted to revisit Clark’s home?
Darryl: No, I think they had permission to do it if they wanted it. That’s where
they were cutting grain too and they found the boys out in front of the cutter bar.
I know some of the boys that were driving the combines. They were from
Farmway Machinery in High River.
Jason: According to Bill Brodie's notes, you had intended to tear down the
structures after filming wrapped. Did you change your mind?
Darryl: Actually a neighbour had wanted to buy the barn a year or two before
they showed up, and I agreed to sell him the barn... he was gonna move it. So he
bought it for a couple thousand dollars or whatever. Of course, a couple
thousand in 1976 was like ten thousand now, but he never got around to it.
Well then in the spring these guys showed up so then I said, “Well I sold that!”,
so then I had to go to him and he agreed to use it and then I bought it back from
him. He likely never would have got it moved. He’s still alive. He was gonna use
it as a barn. He was kind of a dreamer too.
Jason: Why did you end up selling the property and did you inform the current
owners of it's place in film history?
Darryl: Oh, yeah. Of course (he) knew, and since we sold the whole quarter
about four of five years ago. It was a lady from Scotland that bought it who
owns the dirt now all around it. 150 acres.
Jason: So they are still using it for crops?
Darryl: Oh yeah. Yep.
THE SPACESHIP TODAY