"He wasn't just here to be an actor. He was Superman."
— Richard Donner
Christopher Reeve (September 25, 1952 — October 10, 2004) was an American actor whose most famous role is Superman
and who showed that brilliant acting has a valuable place even in special effect heavy fantasy films like the Super Hero
genre, but ended up being much more than that.
He initially studied at Juillard's theatrical arts program with his roommate Robin Williams
, but eventually graduated from Cornell. His major professional gigs were simultaneously in the Soap Opera
, Love Of Life
and in the Broadway play, A Matter of Gravity
. In the latter, he became a close enough friend to the play's star, Katharine Hepburn
, to get the gossip columns fluttering. Eventually, he left and eventually appeared in his first Hollywood film, Grey Lady Down
His most famous role came after the producers had a frustrating hunt for the Super Hero
and Reeve himself as rejected three times before director Richard Donner
and producer Ilya Salkind
finally had a face to face meeting with this unknown actor. At that, he was signed on with an exercise regime supervised by David Prowse (better known to the world as the guy wearing the Darth Vader costume
). In the film, Reeve proved a more valuable asset than anyone could have guessed with such skill making the world feel that they could believe a man could fly considering he piloted a glider for a hobby and thus knew how to make his flying scenes seem real. Even more amazingly, Reeve showed that Clark Kenting
can really seem to work if you are a good enough actor. At that, Reeve instantly eclipsed his top billed co-stars, Marlon Brando
and Gene Hackman
, as the true star of Superman
and a leading light of the rise of the modern fantasy film.
After the success of the first two Superman films it appeared that Reeve was poised to become one of Hollywood's next great leading men (John Wayne
himself reportedly proclaimed him as such), but his career unfortunately proved turbulent with his artistic standards and desire for roles that would help offset any potential Superman typecasting leading him to turn down roles in American Gigolo
, The World According To Garp
, Fatal Attraction
, Pretty Woman
, Romancing the Stone
, Lethal Weapon
and Body Heat
. Instead he starred in a mixed bag of films like Somewhere In Time
, Street Smart
, The Remains of the Day
and the remake of Village of the Damned
, while the Superman
series was gradually misused by the producers who dismissed Donner and replaced him with Richard Lester
who had a fatal contempt for the comics which drove the franchise into the ground.
Even his real life had heroic moments such as when he went to Chile, which was under the murderous tyranny of Augusto Pinochet, to help a group of artists that were under arrest. Later, he appeared in commercials for the 1988 referendum for the "No" side to urge the people to vote to strip the dictator of his power, which can be seen in the Academy Award
nominated Chilean film No
In 1995, Reeve had a serious horseriding accident that led to a catastrophic spinal cord injury, rendering him quadriplegic. However, with the help of his wife, Reeve refused to surrender to his despair and became a universally hailed advocate for spinal cord research and the disabled. He even continued in his artistic career under the circumstances as a director and even starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock
's Rear Window
on TV and guest appearances on Smallville
Sadly, he died in 2004 in a typical lifespan for a person suffering his kind of injuries. At the end, he was hailed as a hero who never needed a cape after all.
Tropes Invoked By This Actor:
- Badass: Both onscreen and off.
- Becoming the Mask: Not by his own admission, but his personality on and off screen have had fans old and new dub him "The Real Superman."
- The Casanova: Reeve was said to have been quite the babe magnet back in his college days. Former roommate Robin Williams said he used to try hooking up with the girls Reeve politely declined to date.
- Dead Artists Are Better: His performance of Superman was roundly hailed before, but after his death, it became the definitive portrayal that all other actors playing the role will be compared against.
- Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: After his accident, all of his roles became this by necessity. He was, though, the original inspiration for the creation of the trope page.
- Clark Kenting: People to this day still think that Superman and Clark Kent were portrayed by different actors because of Reeve's performance.
- The Determinator: Vowed that he would walk again and was even able to regain quite a bit of movement in his body.
- Nice Guy: By most accounts Reeve was said to have been a genuinely nice, friendly man in real life.
- Passing the Torch: The first Smallville guest spot is arguably that moment.