Christopher Reeve was an American actor, director, and activist, best known for playing the main character and titular role in the 1978 film Superman and its three sequels. On what would have been Reeve’s 69th birthday, Google honoured the legacy of the late actor and paid homage to Reeve with a Doodle. As an ode to the veteran actor, here is all you need to know about the Superman actor.
Christopher Reeve started out his career in acting on Broadway through the play A Matter of Gravity. Veteran actor Katharine Hepburn, impressed by his audition and cast him as her character’s grandson in the play. Reeve’s first role in Hollywood was for the 1978 naval submarine disaster movie Gray Lady Down, where he played a very small role as a junior officer. He then acted in the play My Life at the Circle Repertory Company.
In what went down as the most iconic role in his career, the actor was initially turned down three times by the producers. Reeve, who was 24 at the time went through an intense two-month training program that former British weightlifting champion David Prowse conducted to fit him into the physique of the superhero. For his performance, Reeve won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles. Reeve then went on to reprise his role in three other sequels, Superman II, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Following his success of Superman, several Hollywood directors offered action movies to Reeve, but the actor turned many roles in the action genre. The actor instead chose to work in small films and plays with more complex characters. He later appeared in critically successful films such as The Bostonians (1984), Street Smart (1987), and The Remains of the Day (1993), and in the plays Fifth of July on Broadway and The Aspern Papers.
In 1995, Christopher Reeve was involved in a tragic accident that left him paralyzed for the rest of his life. He was thrown from a horse during a competition test, resulting in a spinal cord injury that made it impossible for him to regain movement again. As per People, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in a statement said, “The injuries were so critical that even his mother begged the doctors to withdraw his mechanical ventilation, and he came to comprehend the possibility of ending his life.” But when Dana, Reeve’s wife, told him, “You’re still you. And I love you,” it gave the actor the force he needed to ‘grab on to life.’ Reeve continued to require care for the rest of his life, with a team of ten nurses and aides working in his home.
Post the accident, he advocated for spinal cord injury research, including human embryonic stem cell research, and worked for better insurance coverage for people with disabilities. His aid work included leading the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. In 1996, ten months post the injury that paralyzed him, Reeve arrived at the 68th Academy Awards to a long-standing ovation. He used the opportunity to encourage Hollywood to make more films on social issues, saying, “Let’s continue to take risks. Let’s tackle the issues. In many ways, our film community can do it better than anyone else.”
As per Washington Post, In early October 2004, he was being treated for an infected pressure ulcer that was causing sepsis, a medical issue that he had experienced many times before. On October 4, 2004, he spoke at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on behalf of the institute’s work, which was reportedly his last public appearance. On October 9, the actor went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to the hospital and Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died at the age of 52.
Christopher Reeve’s son whom he shares with his wife Dana Reeve, Will Reeve spoke about his parents legacy to People and said, “I think his legacy is never going to go away and think that is a responsibility that I feel, to carry his and my mother’s legacy on for the rest of my life and hopefully beyond that,” he said. “I think that the foundation is one way, one tangible way, that his legacy and my mom’s legacy will always live on. And I think the way that I, and my siblings, live our lives is another way. And I think that his impact is felt by the millions of lives that he touched.”