Man of Steel
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." Christopher Reeve
Deceased actor Christopher Reeve is widely remembered as the Man of Steel, Clark Kent/Superman, in Superman films (1978, 1980, 1983 and 1987). He received critical acclaim for starring in the TV movie Rear Window (1998) and for directing the TV movies In The Gloaming (1997) and for narrating the documentary Without Pity: A Film About Abilities (1996). The actor, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997, released the best-selling autobiography Still Me (1998) and the Grammy-winning spoken word album with the same title in 1999.
Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995 and was paralyzed for the rest of his life. Along with his wife, Reeve established the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, which trains paralyzed people to live more independently. An outspoken advocate for stem cell and spinal-cord-injury research, Reeve chaired the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which funds research on paralysis and supports the disabled. He was also honored with a special OBIE Award and recognition from the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation for his courageous work on defending Chilean artists.
The inspiring actor passed away on October 10, 2004, at age 52, from heart failure.
Childhood and Family:
On September 25, 1952, Christopher Reeve, nicknamed Toph (as a child), was born in New York, New York, to Franklin Reeve (professor/writer) and Barbara Johnson (journalist). At age 4, his parents divorced and Christopher and brother Benjamin Reeve (lawyer; born in 1953) moved with their mother to Princeton, New Jersey. Their mother later married her second husband, an investment banker, and Christopher has two half brothers named Jeff and Kevin Johnson.
After finishing high school, Christopher enrolled at Cornell University as a member of the class of 1974, majoring in Music Theory and English. He also spent some time studying theater in England and France, and worked at the prestigious Old Vic Theater in London and the Comedie Francaise in Paris. Having performed in school plays at age 8, Christopher was selected to study at the prestigious Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York, alongside future life-long friend Robin Williams, under the famed acting coach John Houseman.
Christopher Reeve was involved with modeling executive Gae Exton (born 1951) from 1977 to 1987. They have two children: son Matthew Reeve (born in 1979) and daughter Alexandra Reeve (born in 1983). In 1992, Reeve married actress and singer Dana Reeve (a.k.a. Dana Morosini; born in 1961) and they have one son, Will Reeve (born in June 7, 1992).
In May 1995, Reeve was paralyzed in a horse riding accident near Charlottesville, Virginia. He once considered suicide because of his severe disabilities, but wife Dana Reeve pulled him out of the depression by saying, "I still love you no matter what. You are still you."
Christopher died of heart failure on October 10, 2004, in Mount Kisco, New York, New York. Christopher Reeve was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and an honorary degree at Stony Brook University in May of 2005.
"Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool, or you go out in the ocean." Christopher Reeve
Teenage Christopher Reeve worked at Princeton's McCarter Theater after school and apprenticed at Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in 1968. He toured the state with the play "Irregular Verb to Love," opposite veteran actress Celeste Holm, and once lived in England working as a stagehand. Returning to the US, Reeve was cast to play Ben Harper (1974-1976) on the CBS daytime soap "Love of Life."
During that time, Reeve was cast to play opposite screen legend Katharine Hepburn in his Broadway debut, “A Matter of Gravity,” and made his film acting debut with a bit part in the submarine adventure flick, Gray Lady Down (1978). After appearing in an off-Broadway production of “My Life,” Reeve joined the audition for the title role in Superman: The Movie (1978).
Despite his skinny figure, Reeve won the role and had to gain muscle and weight for the role. He subsequently underwent an intensive bodybuilding program under British weight lifting champion David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original series of Star Wars films. The portrayal of the muscular, handsome and brainy super hero catapulted Reeve’s name toward stardom. He nabbed BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award’s Most Promising Newcomer and later reprised his role in the Superman sequels in 1980, 1983 and 1987.
"Look, I've flown, I've become evil, loved, stopped and turned the world backward, I've faced my peers, I've befriended children and small animals, and I've rescued cats from trees. What else is there left for Superman to do that hasn't been done?" Christopher Reeve
Reeve also appeared in other films, playing a role in a tale of time-travel and romance in Somewhere In Time (1980, costarring best friend Jane Seymour), portrayed Micheal Caine's playwright lover in Deathtrap and became an American priest in Monsignor (both in 1982). He continued to perform on stage, starring as Ken Talley in the Broadway production of Lanford Wilson's "Fifth of July" (1980) and debuted on the London stage opposite Vanessa Redgrave in "The Aspern Papers" (1984). Reeve then appeared in two period dramas, The Bostonians (1984) and a CBS movie version of Anna Karenina (1985, opposite Jacqueline Bisset), playing Count Vronsky. He also hosted the "Saturday Night Live" show in April of 1985.
In Street Smart (1987), Reeve costarred with Morgan Freeman and followed it up with a string of films, including Switching Channels (1988), Earthday Birthday (1990), Noises Off... (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993) and Speechless (1994, opposite Michael Keaton and Geena Davis). He also hosted the second season of the Discovery Channel's compilation documentary "The Hollywood Stuntmakers" (1992-1993) and the Travel Channel's ecology series "Earth Journeys with Christopher Reeve."
Four months after being paralyzed in a horse riding accident in May of 1995, Reeve appeared in a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters on ABC. In the interview, he was quoted as saying, "I am getting older and time is ticking. The more time goes by the more I feel a sense of urgency and I can accept anything except for complacency."
The next year, Reeve was invited to appear at the Academy Awards, to host the Paralympics in Atlanta and to speak at the Democratic Convention. On screen, he could be seen in Village of the Damned, Above Suspicion (both in 1995) and A Step Toward Tomorrow (1996). He also made his directorial debut with the HBO’s movie In The Gloaming (aired in April 1997, starring Glenn Close) and netted five Emmy nominations as well as six CableAce Awards, including Best Dramatic Special and Best Director. Additionally, Reeve took home an Emmy’s Outstanding Informational Special for narrating the HBO’s documentary Without Pity: A Film About Abilities (1996).
On April 15, 1997, Reeve received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and subsequently released his autobiography, Still Me, on April 25, 1998. The book was published by Random House and became a bestseller. He also released the recording of the book and won Grammy’s Best Spoken Word Album in 1999.
A TV remake of Rear Window (1998, also executive-produced) was Reeve’s first acting performance after his accident. The portrayal of Jason Kemp handed Reeve a Golden Globe nomination and he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
Commenting on his post-accident role in Rear Window (1998, TV), Reeve said, "I was worried that only acting with my voice and my face, I might not be able to communicate effectively enough to tell the story. But I was surprised to find that if I really concentrated and just let the thoughts happen, that they would read on my face."
On his 50th birthday, in September of 2002, Reeve released his second book, Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life. The spoken word album of the book received a Grammy nomination. He did a second interview with Barbara Walters on ABC in 2002 and guest starred as mysterious scientist Dr. Swann in an episode of WB’s "Smallville" in February 2003. Reeve also served as the executive producer for the PBS documentary series "Freedom: A History of Us" (2003) and reprised his Dr. Swann role on the WB series "Smallville" in April 2004. After his death, A&E aired Reeve's second directorial project, the true-life based The Brooke Ellison Story (starring Lacey Chabert), on October 25, 2004.
"What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely. From an acting point of view, that's how I approached the part." Christopher Reeve
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, Rear Window, 1999
Grammy: Spoken Word Album, Still Me, 1999
Emmy: Outstanding Informational Special, Without Pity: A Film About Abilities, 1997
Young Artist: Jackie Coogan Award, 1996
Special OBIE: Courageous work on behalf of Chilean artists, 1988
Fantafestival: Best Actor, Somewhere in Time, 1981
BAFTA: Best Newcomer, Superman, 1979