Christopher Reeve (Superman)

American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author & activist Christopher Reeve was born September 25, 1952. He achieved stardom for his acting achievements, in particular his motion-picture portrayal of the fictional superhero Superman. Reeve had been asked to audition for the leading role as Clark Kent/Superman in the big budget film, Superman: The Movie . A meeting between director Richard Donner, producer Ilya Salkind and Reeve was set in January 1977., Reeve was sent a 300-page script for the film. He accepted & was told that Marlon Brando was going to play Jor-El and Gene Hackman was going to play Lex Luthor. He based his portrayal of Clark Kent on Cary Grant in his role in Bringing Up Baby & felt that the new Superman ought to reflect a contemporary male image.Although Reeve was a talented all-around athlete, portraying the role of Superman would be a stretch for him, but he was tall enough for the role & had the necessary blue eyes and handsome features. However, his physique was slim & he went through an intense two-month training regimen supervised by former British weightlifting champion David Prowse, (Darth Vader). Despite landing the role, Reeve was never a comic book fan, though he had watched Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves.

The film was a worldwide hit & Reeve won a BAFTA Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles & became an instant international star. He also guest starred in Smallville, about Clark Kent/Superman’s childhood. He appeared as Doctor Virgil Swann, in two episodes titled “Rosetta” and “Legacy”, while his death was made known in the fourth season episode “Sacred”.Reeve’s first role after 1978′s Superman was as Richard Collier in the 1980 romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time which co-starred Jane Seymour . Sadly reviews savaged the film as overly sentimental & melodramatic, however thanks to screenings on cable networks and video rentals; its popularity began to grow and it has since gone on to become something of a cult classic. Director Jean-Pierre Dorléac was also nominated for an Academy Award in Costume Design for the movie.In 1980 Reeves played the lead in the successful play The Front Page,as well as a disabled Vietnam veteran in the critically acclaimed Broadway play Fifth of July. In his research for the role, he was coached by an amputee on how to walk on artificial legs. After The Fifth of July, Reeve played a novice playwright opposite Michael Caine in Sidney Lumet’s film Deathtrap, Reeve was then offered the role of Basil Ransom in The Bostonians alongside Vanessa Redgrave. In 1984, Reeve appeared in The Aspern Papers with Vanessa Redgrave and played Tony in The Royal Family and the Count in Marriage of Figaro.

In 1985, Reeve hosted the television documentary Dinosaur! having been Fascinated with dinosaurs since he was a kid. DC Comics also named Reeve as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for his work on the Superman film series. In 1986 He starred opposite Morgan Freeman, in the film Street Smart, for which Freeman was nominated for his first Academy Award. The film also received excellent reviews.Reeve was very active and went sailing, scuba diving, skiing, aviation, windsurfing, cycling, gliding, parasailing, mountain climbing, Played baseball, tennis and went horse riding after learning to ride for the film Anna Karenina, he also built a sailboat, The Sea Angel, which he sailed from the Chesapeake to Nova Scotia. He was also a licensed pilot and flew solo across the Atlantic twice, & also raced his sailplane in his free time and joined The Tiger Club, a group of aviators who had served in the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, who let him participate in mock dogfights in vintage World War I combat planes. He was approached by The producers of the film The Aviator to fly a Stearman in the film, Reeve readily accepted the role and did all of his stunts.

He also served as a board member for the Charles Lindbergh Fund, which promotes environmentally safe technologies, & lent support to causes such as Amnesty International, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and People for the American Way. He joined the Environmental Air Force and was also awarded The Bernardo O’Higgins Order and the Obie Prize and the Annual Walter Brielh Human Rights Foundation award, for helping to save the lives of 77 Actors in Santiago during 1987. Reeve was a member of the Creative Coalition, an organization designed to teach celebrities how to speak knowledgeably about political issues. along with Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Blythe Danner. In 1990, Reeve starred in the Civil War film, The Rose and the Jackal, in which he played Allan Pinkerton, the head of President Lincoln’s new Secret Service, he was also offered the part of Lewis in The Remains of the Day. The film was deemed an instant classic and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. In 1994, Reeve was elected as a co-president of the Creative Coalition. Reeve was also asked by the Democratic Party to run for the United States Congress. He also went to New Mexico to shoot Speechless (co-starring Michael Keaton). Reeve also played a paralyzed police officer in Above Suspicion. He research the role at a rehabilitation hospital and learned how to use a wheelchair to get in and out of cars. Reeve was then offered the lead in Kidnapped and also planned to direct a romantic comedy entitled Tell Me True until his life took An unexpected turn…

Not long after making these plans, Reeve was invited to compete in the Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association finals at the Commonwealth Park equestrian center in Culpeper, Virginia . He took horse riding seriously and was intensely competitive with it and finished fourth out of 27 in the dressage, before walking his cross-country course. He was concerned about jumps sixteen and seventeen, but paid little attention to the third jump, which was a routine three-foot-three fence shaped like the letter ‘W’. Sadly during the event On May 27, 1995, Reeve’s horse refused to jump the 3rd fence and Reeve fell and sustained a cervical spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down. He had no recollection of the incident but landed headfirst on the other side of the fence. His helmet prevented any brain damage, but the impact of his 215-pound (98 kg) body hitting the ground shattered his first and second vertebrae which meant that his skull and spine were not connected. When paramedics arrived he was taken to the local hospital, then flown by helicopter to the University of Virginia Medical Center. He had an operation to reattach his skull to his spine.Reeve was taken to the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange, New Jersey. At the Institute, one of his aides was a Jamaican man named Glenn Miller, nicknamed Juice, who helped him learn how to get into the shower and how to use a powered wheelchair, which was activated by blowing air through a straw. Reeve had occupational therapy and physical therapy in rehab. In the therapy gym, Reeve worked on moving his trapezius muscle, every day he would try to do better. The most difficult part of rehabilitation was respiratory therapy, the ammount of air Reeve could inhale had to be 750 ccs before getting off the artificial respirator could even be considered. Initially, Reeve could hardly get above zero. By the end of October, he was able to get around 50 ccs. This inspired him, and he felt his natural competitive edge coming back. The next day, he went up to 450 ccs. He reached 560 ccs the day after, and by December 13, 1995, Reeve was able to breathe without a ventilator for 30 minutes.

In July 2003, Christopher Reeve’s continuing frustration with the pace of stem cell research in the U.S. led him to Israel,which was at the center of research in spinal cord injury, He was invited by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek out the best treatment for his condition. During his visit, Reeve called the experience “a privilege” and said, “Israel has very proactive rehab facilities, excellent medical schools and teaching hospitals, and an absolutely first-rate research infrastructure.” Throughout his intensive tour, Reeve visited ALYN Hospital, Weizmann Institute of Science, and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, among many other places. Israelis were very receptive to Reeve’s visit, calling him an inspiration to all and urging him to never give up hope.Reeve left Kessler feeling deeply inspired by the other patients he had met. Because he was constantly being covered by the media, he realized that he could use his name to the benefit of everyone with spinal cord injuries. In 1996, he appeared at the Academy Awards to a long standing ovation and gave a speech about Hollywood’s duty to make movies that face the world’s most important issues head-on.

He also hosted the Paralympics in Atlanta and spoke at the Democratic National Convention. He traveled across the country to make speeches, he narrated the HBO film Without Pity: A Film About Abilities. The film won the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Informational Special.” He then acted in a small role in the film A Step Towards Tomorrow.Reeve was elected Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. He co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, which is now one of the leading spinal cord research centers in the world. He created the the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed up research through funding, and to use grants to improve the quality of the lives of people with disabilities. Reeve used his celebrity status for good causes.He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal-cord injuries and for human embryonic stem cell research, founding the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he visited terminally ill children. He joined the Board of Directors for the worldwide charity Save the Children. and has done more to promote research on spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders than any other person before or since.

In 1997, Reeve made his directorial debut with the HBO film In the Gloaming with Robert Sean Leonard, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Bridget Fonda and David Strathairn. The film won four Cable Ace Awards and was nominated for five Emmy Awards including “Outstanding Director for a Miniseries or Special. In 1998, Reeve produced and starred in Rear Window, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance. On April 25, 1998, Random House published Reeve’s autobiography, Still Me. The book spent eleven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and Reeve won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. In 2000, he also began to regain some motor function, and was able to sense hot and cold temperatures on his body, and was also able to move his left index finger on command, Reeve also lobbied for expanded federal funding on embryonic stem cell research. In 2002, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, a federal government facility created through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention non-compete grant, was opened in Short Hills, New Jersey. Its mission is to teach paralyzed people to live more independently. In 2004, Reeve directed the A&E film The Brooke Ellison Story. The film is based on the true story of Brooke Ellison, the first quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard University Reeve’s second book, Nothing is Impossible was also published, Reeve also directed the animated film Everyone’s Hero.

During his recovery He experienced a number of illnesses, including mononucleosis, malaria, and superior mesenteric artery syndrome. He also suffered from mastocytosis, a blood cell disorder and fought off a number of serious infections believed to have originated from bone marrow. He also had asthma and many allergies and More than once he had a severe reaction to a drug. In Kessler, he tried a drug named Sygen which helps reduce damage to the spinal cord. The drug caused him to go into anaphylactic shock and his heart stopped, He fell into a coma and was taken to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died of cardiac arrest at the age of 52. His doctor, John McDonald, believed that it was an adverse reaction to the antibiotic that caused his death. During the final days of his life, Reeve also urged California voters to vote yes on Proposition 71, which would establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, & allot $3 billion of state funds to stem cell research. A memorial service for Reeve was held at the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, which his wife attended. Reeve was cremated & his ashes scattered. Proposition 71 was also approved less than one month after Reeve’s death.

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