Who is Ilya Salkind?

Ilya Salkind, an executive producer, never would have imagined that his comic book hero from infancy would ultimately shape his career.

When he was offered the chance to direct “Superman” for the first time on the big screen, he was 31 years old. This was the 1978 smash that made Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder overnight successes at the box office.

Ilya Juan Salkind Dominguez, the son of Russian-Jewish producer Alexander Salkind and Mexican author Berta Dominguez, was born on July 27,1947, in Mexico City. Salkind was captured on camera at just one year old, perched on Zsa Zsa Gabor’s knee. 

Ilya’s grandfather, Milkhail Salkind, a pioneer of silent cinema, directed Joyless Street in 1952, in which Swedish-American actress Greta Garbo played a significant part. Garbo is acknowledged as one of the all-time great cinema actresses. After that, Mikhail and Ilya’s father, Alexander Salkind, teamed together to direct a number of popular movies, including Austerlitz by Abel Gance in 1960 and The Trial by Orson Welles in 1962. 

Ilya joined his family of filmmakers as the third generation in 1969. He and his father, Alexander, collaborated on a number of movies, beginning with the worldwide box office successes The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), the first major motion picture and its immediate sequel to be shot concurrently. Salkind was a Jew with Russian ancestry. Ilya has experience working in cities including Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, New York, and Los Angeles. He is a native speaker of English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

“The Three Musketeers” was introduced to the big screen in 1973 by three generations of Salkinds. In order to film both “The Three Musketeers” and “The Four Musketeers” simultaneously, the Salkinds hired filmmaker Richard Lester (who would go on to helm “Superman II”). Spengler, Salkind’s boyhood pal, had now also joined the Salkind production crew. The two “Musketeers” movies were a commercial and critical success.

However, the Salkinds also experienced certain setbacks as a result of their achievement. A legal dispute ensued over the precise number of “Musketeers” movies the Salkinds wanted to make and the number of movies for which the cast and crew were paid. Because of this, the Screen Actors Guild mandated that every SAG contract include a “Salkind Clause” that demands that an actor be paid for each film that he or she is doing.

Grandfather Mikhail passed away in the period between the two “Musketeers” films as well. Salkind took up his grandfather’s position as creative director of the family company.

It was in 1974 after he wrapped up work for the film “The Four Musketeers” when he discussed the idea  for a new movie they might work on together. Ilya advised his father to make Superman and highlight the superhero’s superpower abilities. The concept sounded interesting to his father and the elder Salkind gave him the go-ahead to produce the movie the next day.

Ilya later started the wildly popular “Superman” franchise, one of the most lucrative in movie history. Superman (1978), which won an Academy Award, holds the distinction of being the first significant comic book film ever created. This movie and its first two sequels all achieved international success under Ilya’s direction. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films named Superman II (1980) the Best Science Fiction Film of the Year.

Superboy (1988) (1988-1992), Ilya’s foray into television, was likewise a hit, running for four seasons and 100 episodes. The program won one of the Young Artist Awards’ prizes for best family television series. Ilya and his wife Jane Chaplin (daughter of Charles Chaplin and granddaughter of Eugene O’Neill) settled down in Orlando, Florida, and took a break to raise their two young sons after directing the $50 million Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) with Marlon Brando, Benicio Del Toro, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Christopher Columbus. The famous couple divorced amicably at the end of 1999.

Salkind believed he was done with super heroes after spending more than a decade working on projects involving Kryptonians. Instead, in “Santa Claus: The Movie” from 1985, he focused on cheery old Saint Nick. Salkind and his father received a credit in the 1987 “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” film for launching the Superman film franchise, and by this point, the Salkinds had already started negotiating to transfer the license to produce one “Superman” movie to the Canon Group, which eventually led to the 1987 release of “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

With a permanent residence in the United States, Salkind has his own production business, The Ilya Salkind Company and continued to make high-profile movies and TV shows that have made him famous. However, the Ilya Salkind Company had been dissolved as of 2010.The mega-producer whose resume displays a strong commercial creative vision and the smart business acumen to execute film and television productions on time and under budget, belongs to a select group of producers whose movies have brought in more than $4 billion in adjusted worldwide earnings, or $266 million on average, for each one.

Ilya was first married to Skye Aubrey in 1976, with whom he has two children, Anastasia and Sebastian. In 1979, the couple got divorced. In 1980, he wed Patricia Bonnet with whom he had one kid. Later on, he wed Jane Chaplin. They were divorced in 1999 and have two boys. He has shared a residence with Deborah Moore for the last 20 years, whom he has not wed and does not have any kids.

On February 2, 2011, Moore, Ilya’s longtime partner, filed a missing persons report with Mexican authorities, while Salkind was staying at his family’s Tepoztlán residence. Ilya had left his cell phone at his Mexico City estate on January 30, telling his staff that he was going to run errands, and had not been seen since. Family and friends became concerned when he did not show up for a dentist appointment the following day. On February 3, investigators discovered Salkind at a nearby hospital, where he was reportedly sedated after being assaulted.