Christopher Reeve

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Christopher D'Olier Reeve (September 25, 1952 – October 10, 2004) was an American actor, director, producer, and writer. He established himself early as a Juilliard-trained stage actor before portraying Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent in four films, from 1978 to 1987. In the 1980s, he starred in several films, including Somewhere in Time (1980), Deathtrap (1982), The Bostonians (1984), and Street Smart (1987). He also starred in many plays, including the Broadway plays Fifth of July (1980 - 1982) and The Marriage of Figaro (1985). In 1987, he led a public rally in support of 77 Chilean actors, directors, and playwrights who had been sentenced to death by the dictator Augusto Pinochet for criticizing his regime in their works. Pinochet canceled the sentence after the ensuing media coverage, and Reeve was awarded with three national distinctions from Chile for his actions. In the 1990s, Reeve acted in such films as Noises Off (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993).

In May 1995, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an accident during the cross country portion of an Eventing competition. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries, and for human embryonic stem cell research after this accident. He founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. Reeve died at age 52 on October 10, 2004 from cardiac arrest caused by a systemic infection.

Reeve married Dana Morosini in April 1992, and they had a son, Will. Reeve also had two children, Matthew and Alexandra, from a previous relationship with Gae Exton. Dana Reeve died of lung cancer in March 2006.

Contents

Superman

After My Life, Stark Hesseltine told Reeve that he had been asked to audition for the leading role as Clark Kent/Superman in the big budget film, Superman: The Movie (1978). Lynn Stalmaster, the casting director, put Reeve's picture and resume on the top of the pile three separate times, only to have the producers throw it out each time. Through Stalmaster's persistent pleading, a meeting between director Richard Donner, producer Ilya Salkind and Reeve was set in January 1977 at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The morning after the meeting, Reeve was sent a 300 page script. He was thrilled that the script took the subject matter seriously, and that Richard Donner's motto was verisimilitude. Reeve immediately flew to London for a screen test, and on the way was told that Marlon Brando was going to play Jor-El and Gene Hackman was going to play Lex Luthor. Reeve still did not think he had much of a chance. Though he was 6 ft 4, he was a self-described "skinny White Anglo-Saxon Protestant." On the plane ride to London, he imagined how his approach to the role would be. He later said, "By the late 1970s the masculine image had changed... Now it was acceptable for a man to show gentleness and vulnerability. I felt that the new Superman ought to reflect that contemporary male image." He based his portrayal of Clark Kent on Cary Grant in his role in Bringing up Baby. After the screen test, his driver said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but you've got the part."

Although Reeve was tall enough for the role and had the blue eyes and handsome features, his physique was slim. He refused to wear fake muscles under the suit, and instead went through an intense two-month training regimen supervised by former British weightlifting champion David Prowse, the man under the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars films. The training regime consisted of running in the morning, followed by two hours of weightlifting and ninety minutes on the trampoline. In addition, Reeve doubled his food intake and adopted a high protein diet. He put on thirty pounds of muscle to his thin 190 pound frame. He later made even higher gains for Superman III (1983), though for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987) he decided it would be healthier to focus more on cardiovascular workouts.

Characterizations of Superman and Clark Kent
Characterizations of Superman and Clark Kent

Reeve was never a Superman or comic book fan, though he had watched Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. However, he found that the role offered a suitable challenge because it was a dual role. He said, "there must be some difference stylistically between Clark and Superman. Otherwise, you just have a pair of glasses standing in for a character."Bergan, Ronald. Christopher Reeve. The Guardian, October 12, 2004, Reeve, Christopher (1998), p 200

On the commentary track for the director's edition of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz spoke of how Reeve had talked to him about playing Superman and then playing Clark Kent. Mankiewicz then corrected Reeve, telling him that he was always, always playing Superman and that when he was Clark Kent, he was "playing Superman who was playing Clark Kent." Mankiewicz described it to Reeve as a role within the role.

During the production of the first two films, both Reeve and actor Jack O'Halloran(who played Kryptonian criminal Non in both productions)clashed in a dispute. In a October 2006 interview with Starlog Magazine, O'Halloran stated that Reeve had been polite to some of the crew and rude to others. O'Halloran would later go record as describing Reeve as an egotist. Despite this dispute, O'Halloran would later give high praise to Reeve for his work in spinal cord research and the helping of others with spinal cord injuries.

The film grossed $300,218,018 worldwide (unadjusted for inflation).Box Office Mojo, Superman (1978), accessed October 23 2006 Reeve received positive reviews for his performance:

  • "Christopher Reeve's entire performance is a delight. Ridiculously good-looking, with a face as sharp and strong as an ax blade, his bumbling, fumbling Clark Kent and omnipotent Superman are simply two styles of gallantry and innocence." - Newsweek
  • "Christopher Reeve has become an instant international star on the basis of his first major movie role, that of Clark Kent/Superman. Film reviewers - regardless of their opinion of the film - have been almost unanimous in their praise of Reeve's dual portrayal. He is utterly convincing as he switches back and forth between personae." - Starlog

Reeve used his newfound celebrity for good causes. Through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, he visited terminally-ill children. He joined the Board of Directors for the worldwide charity Save the Children. In 1979, He served as a track and field coach at the Special Olympics, alongside O.J. Simpson.

Sequels

Much of Superman II was filmed at the same time as the first film. After most of the footage had been shot, the producers had a disagreement with director Richard Donner about going over budget and fired him. He was replaced by director Richard Lester, who changed the script and reshot some of the footage. The cast was unhappy with this, but Reeve later said that he liked Lester and considered Superman II to be his favorite film of the series.Reeve, Christopher (1898), pp 201-203 Due to fan encouragement, Richard Donner's version of Superman II, titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, was released on DVD in 2006 and dedicated to Reeve.

Superman III, released in 1983, was filmed entirely by Lester. Reeve believed that the producers ruined it by turning it into a Richard Pryor comedy. He missed Richard Donner and believed that Superman III's only saving grace was the junkyard scene in which evil Superman fights Clark Kent in an internal battle.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, released in 1987, was initially never going to be made; after Superman III, Reeve vowed that he was done with Superman. However, he accepted the role on the condition that he would have partial creative control over the script. The nuclear disarmament plot was his idea. The production rights were given to Cannon Films, who cut the budget in half to $17 million. The film was a major flop and Reeve later said, "the less said about Superman IV the better."

Television

On February 25, 2003, Reeve appeared in the television series Smallville as Dr. Swann in the episode "Rosetta". In that episode, Dr. Swann brings to Clark Kent (Tom Welling) information about where he comes from and how to use his powers for the good of mankind. The scenes of Reeve and Welling feature music cues from the 1978 Superman movie, composed by John Williams and arranged by Mark Snow. At the end of this episode, Reeve and Welling did a short spot inviting people to support the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

Reeve also appeared in the Smallville episode "Legacy", in which he met again with fellow stage actor John Glover who played Lionel Luthor in the show. "Rosetta" set ratings history for The WB network.

Facts

Reeve was born in New York City on September 25, 1952. His father, Franklin D'Olier Reeve, was a teacher, novelist, poet and scholar. He was a Princeton University graduate and, when Christopher was born, was studying for a master's degree in Russian language at Columbia University. Franklin's father, Colonel Richard Henry Reeve, had been the CEO of the Prudential Financial for over twenty-five years. Despite being born wealthy, Franklin Reeve spent summers working at the docks with longshoremen. Reeve's mother, Barbara Pitney (née Lamb), a journalist, had been a student at Vassar College, but transferred to Barnard College to be closer to Franklin, whom she had met through a family connection. They had another son, Benjamin, born on October 6, 1953. Reeve's father was descended from a sister of Elias Boudinot, as well as from Massachusetts governors Thomas Dudley and John Winthrop, Pennsylania deputy governor Thomas Lloyd, and Henry Baldwin, a US Supreme Court Justice. Reeve's mother was the granddaughter of Mahlon Pitney, another US Supreme Court Justice, and was also a descendant of William Bradford, a Mayflower passenger.

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