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  • CHRISTOPHER REEVE

    September 25, 1952
    New York, New York

    Deceased: October 10, 2004

    Christopher Reeve is the eldest of two sons born to a Russian scholar/ writer/ Ivy League professor and his wife, a newspaper reporter. But before the boys even entered their teens, their parents were divorced. Reared in Princeton, New Jersey, Chris attended the Princeton Day School where he played ice hockey, served as assistant conductor of the school orchestra, and sang with a madrigal group, as well as appearing with a professional reportory company. He also apprenticed with the prestigious Williamstown Playhouse in Massachusetts.
          Following high school, Christopher appeared in a touring production of "The Irregular Verb of Love" with Celeste Holm and later went on to Cornell University, where he juggled his studies with his acting assignments. He earned a BA in English with honors and went on to study at the renowned Juilliard School. Among his schoolmates were William Hurt, Kevin Kline, and Robin Williams. While at Juilliard, Reeve traveled to England for research on a thesis he was writing on British repertory theatre and was employed as a "dogsbody" -- A glorified errand boy, he later recalled -- at the noted Old Vic theatre, where he wound up teaching the British actors how to speak with an American accent. From there he went to Paris where he worked with the Comedie Francaise Troupe.
          When he returned to New York, Christopher took a role as Ben Harper on the soap opera "Love of Life." He was so credible in the role of the unscrupulous character, that an irate fan smacked him with her handbag, for at the time, Harper was cheating on his pregnant wife!
          Upon leaving the soap, he co-starred with Katherine Hepburn in the play "A Matter Of Gravity" as the Oscar-winner's grandson. Reeve made his cinematic debut with a supporting role in "Gray Lady Down." Following a lengthy search, the young actor traveled to England for a screen test for the lead role in the big-budgeted film based on the long-running comic book hero Superman. Director Richard Donner was convinced that the striking, charismatic actor was right for the part. Interestingly, Reeve's studio driver told the actor he had the role when he was taken from Pinewood Studios, where the production was based, to the airport.
          While he had the height to seem convincing as the larger-than-life Man of Steel, Reeve thought that his lanky build did not seem convincing to portray the mighty hero. The producers told him they would compensate for it by sewing foam rubber muscles into the costume. The actor thought that such an idea was ridiculous and he undertook an intense regimen under the tutleage of an actor, British weightlifter and bodybuilding champ David Prowse. He dedicated himself to the grueling efforts which encompassed weightlifting, running, and work on a trampoline. Upon hearing that his son got the role, Chrstopher's father thought initially it was in George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman." Upon realizing the part was a comic book hero, the elder Reeve was less impressed. Interestingly, shortly after completing the film, Christopher obtained his pilot license; perhaps all of that flying around rubbed off. The actor had also entered into a relationship with a modeling agent named Gae Exton, whom he later had two children with.
          "Superman: The Movie," was released at the end of 1978, becoming the year's top moneymaker. It was critically acclaimed with many noting the believability Christopher brought to the role of the creation of school friends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Though the success of the film resulted in several film offers, the actor was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of being a superstar and sex symbol, preferring to keep his feet on the ground and continue to challenge himself as an actor.
          Christopher next portrayed playwright Richard Colier, who travels back in time to romance Jane Seymour -- who would later name one of her sons after her co-star and friend -- in Jeannot Szwacz' "Somewhere in Time". The film did little business in theatres but later drew a large following via its cable broadcasts and release on videotape. It earned a virtual legion of fans who held gatherings at the beautiful Mackinac Island in Michigan where the film took place.
          Christopher returned to the dual role of Superman/ Clark Kent in "Superman II." When it opened domestically in 1981, it became one of the year's top earners. He also served as a second-unit director on "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." He only made the film provided Cannon films, headed up by Israeli-born producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus if he were allowed input into the story and if Cannon would make the film "Street Smart," a script he had come across and very much wanted to be in.
          Following his portrayal in the title role in the 1982 box office disaster "Monsignor" and in Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Ira Levin's "Deathtrap," which also bombed, Chris again dooned the red, yellow and blue tights to portray the role that made him a star in Richard Lester's "Superman III." The film performed well but the actor vowed to never play the role again. Reeve's follow-up efforts were largely unnoticed. He earned some kudos for his role in James Ivory's "The Bostonians", but playing another flier in "The Aviator" did nothing.
          In addition to his continuing efforts in theatre, both in America and England, and roles in telefilms, Christopher guest-conducted orchestras, became active in Amnesty International, was a founding member of the Creative Coalition, and was an environmental activist.
          In his professional life, he continued to take roles that challenged him, and had the chance to stretch his abilities in the ensemble farce "Noises Off", directed by Peter Bogdonavitch. He wed a young actress and singer whom he had met at Williamstown some years before, named Dana Morosini in 1992, whom he later had a son with.
          In May of 1995, Reeve was thrown from his mount while competing in a horse show in Virginia. The accident severed his spinal cord and made him a quadraplegic. After months of grueling rehab and a determination to one day walk again, he became a prominent voice among the disabled. He has met with Congressman to support efforts to federally fund efforts to find a cure. Christopher's appearance at the Oscar telecast in March 1996 drew a standing ovation, as did an appearance at the 1996 Democratic National Convention.
          Christopher made his full-fledged directorial debut with the HBO telefilm "In the Gloaming." He also wrote his memoirs "Still Me" and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
    Photo © Steve Granitz

    Written by Robert Baum © 2001 - [Used with permisson]

    Keep scrolling for more CHRISTOPHER info!



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    FILM/TV CREDITS

    - Smallville (2003) [TV]
    - Rear Window (1998) [TV]
    - Nine (1996) [voice]
    - A Step Toward Tomorrow (1996)
    - Black Fox (1995) [TV]
    - Above Suspicion (1995)
    - Village of the Damned (1995)
    - Speechless (1994)
    - Morning Glory (1993) [TV]
    - The Remains of the Day (1993)
    - The Sea Wolf (1993) [TV]
    - Nightmare in the Daylight (92) [TV]
    - Mortal Sins (1992) [TV]
    - Noises Off... (1992)
    - Death Dreams (1991) [TV]
    - Bump in the Night (1991) [TV]
    - Earthday Birthday (1990)
    - The Rose and the Jackal (90) [TV]
    - Road to Avonlea (1990) [TV]
    - Tales from the Crypt (1989) [TV]
    - Switching Channels (1988)
    - Great Escape II (1988) [TV]
    - Street Smart (1987)
    - Superman IV (1987)
    - The Aviator (1985)
    - Anna Karenina (1985) [TV]
    - The Bostonians (1984)
    - Sleeping Beauty (1983) [TV]
    - Superman III (1983)
    - Monsignor (1982)
    - Deathtrap (1982)
    - Somewhere in Time (1980)
    - Superman II (1980)
    - Superman (1978)
    - Gray Lady Down (1978)
    - Love of Life (74-76) [STV]

    PRODUCING CREDITS

    - Rear Window (1998)
    - A Celebration of Hope (1997)

    DIRECTING CREDITS

    - In the Gloaming (1997) [TV]

    WRITING CREDITS

    - Superman IV (1987) [story]

    ARTICLE LINKS:

    1. A Positive Light - [report]
    2. US News - [report]
    3. Talk City - [report]
    4. ABCNews.com - [report]
    5. Ability Mag - [report]
    6. Mercury Center - [report]
    7. Larry King - [report]
    8. Why Not - [report]

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