[[quoteright:337:[[Film/SupermanTheMovie http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/christopher_reeve_as_superman_5508.jpg]]]]

->''"He wasn't just here to be an actor. He was Franchise/{{Superman}}."''
-->-- '''Richard Donner'''

Christopher Reeve (September 25, 1952 - October 10, 2004) was an American actor whose most famous role is Franchise/{{Superman}} and who showed that brilliant acting has a valuable place even in special-effect-heavy fantasy films like the SuperHero genre, but ended up being much more than that.

He initially studied at Juillard's theatrical arts program with his roommate Creator/RobinWilliams, but eventually graduated from Cornell. His major professional gigs were simultaneously in the SoapOpera, ''Series/LoveOfLife'' and in the Broadway play, ''A Matter of Gravity''. In the latter, he became a close enough friend to the play's star, Creator/KatharineHepburn, to get the gossip columns fluttering (despite the fact that she was old enough to be his mother). Eventually, he left and eventually appeared in his first Hollywood film, ''Film/GreyLadyDown''.

His most famous role came after the producers had a frustrating hunt for the SuperHero and Reeve himself was rejected three times before director Creator/RichardDonner and producer Creator/IlyaSalkind 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 [[Franchise/StarWars 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 ClarkKenting can really seem to work if you are a good enough actor. At that, Reeve instantly eclipsed his top billed co-stars, Creator/MarlonBrando and Creator/GeneHackman, as the true star of ''Film/{{Superman}}'' and a leading light of the rise of the modern fantasy film. For instance, after the ''Series/TheMuppetShow'' did their gloriously wacky ''Franchise/StarWars'' episode, the only way to follow up on that classic was to have the other contemporary fantasy superstar, Reeve, do the next one.

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 (Creator/JohnWayne 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 ''Film/AmericanGigolo'', ''Literature/TheWorldAccordingToGarp'', ''Film/{{Splash}}'', ''Film/FatalAttraction'', ''Film/PrettyWoman'', ''Film/RomancingTheStone'', ''Film/LethalWeapon'' and ''Film/BodyHeat''. Instead he starred in a mixed bag of films like ''Film/SomewhereInTime'', ''Film/StreetSmart'', ''Film/TheRemainsOfTheDay'' and ''Film/VillageOfTheDamned1995'', while the ''Superman'' series was gradually misused by the producers who dismissed Donner and replaced him with Creator/RichardLester, who had a fatal contempt for the comics, which drove the franchise into the ground. His villainous role in ''Film/{{Deathtrap}}'' is probably Reeve's best non-Superman performance.

Even his real life had heroic moments such as when he went to Chile, which was under the murderous tyranny of UsefulNotes/AugustoPinochet, 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 UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-nominated Chilean film ''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 and Williams, 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 Creator/AlfredHitchcock's ''Film/RearWindow'' on TV and guest appearances on ''Series/{{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:

* BecomingTheMask: Not by his own admission, but his personality on and off screen have had fans old and new dub him "The Real Superman".
* BittersweetEnding: He died when he was only 52 years old after living with his paralysis for ten years, but at the end he had at least regained some movement in his fingers and toes and had regained more feeling throughout his body allowing him to differentiate hot and cold temperatures again.
* TheCasanova: 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.
* ClarkKenting: People to this day still think that Superman and Clark Kent were portrayed by different actors because of Reeve's performance.
* {{Determinator}}: Vowed that he would walk again and was even able to regain quite a bit of movement and feeling in his body.
* DisabledCharacterDisabledActor: After his accident, all of his roles became this by necessity. He was, though, the original inspiration for the creation of the trope page.[[invoked]]
* DyeingForYourArt: He trained with David Prowse (the body of Darth Vader in the original ''Franchise/StarWars'' trilogy), and dyed his blonde hair black[[note]]his hair in his screen tests was blackened with ''shoe polish''[[/note]] in preparing to play Superman.[[invoked]]
* EveryoneWentToSchoolTogether: Creator/KevinConroy was also at Julliard at the same time, almost becoming Christopher's roommate before Creator/RobinWilliams was chosen. You read that right, Franchise/{{Superman}} and Franchise/{{Batman}} could have been roommates.
* HorsingAround: Reeve was competing at a horse trial when his horse suddenly stopped one or two strides out from a cross-country jump, catapulting Reeve head-first into the fence. No one knows why the horse stopped--Reeve shouldn't have been riding him if he didn't have confidence in him--but the horse apparently either lacked confidence in himself or had his own ideas as to whether that particular obstacle was safe to jump.
** By all accounts, Reeve was wearing the proper gear (helmet, etc) and was riding properly and not showboating or showing off; this was simply a random accident. Which makes it all the more tragic.
* ItWillNeverCatchOn: Reeve auditioned for quite a few different projects and several, including his initial Superman screen tests, were not convinced of his acting potential. The thing was he had an unflinching charisma that was atypical of the leading men of his day, as he wasn't trying to mug for the camera and many perceived it as more of a DullSurprise. But a few recognized that talent, and became emblematic of the Superman character.
* LargeHam: Although he's primarily known for nuanced dramatic performances, he'd occasionally show off a sillier side and overact his heart out to get a laugh (his performance of ''Hamlet'' on ''Series/TheMuppetShow'' being a good example).
* NiceGuy: By most accounts Reeve was said to have been a genuinely nice, friendly man in real life.
* PassingTheTorch: The first ''Smallville'' guest spot is arguably that moment.
* RemakeCameo: He appeared in ''Smallville'' as Dr. Virgil Swann.
* TrueCompanions: He and Creator/RobinWilliams had a very close relationship starting from when they were at Julliard together. While there, they promised each other that whoever made it first would take care of the other. When Reeve had his accident and was about to have a risky surgery that could have killed him, Williams burst into his room pretending to be a Russian proctologist and made Reeve laugh for the first time since becoming paralyzed which made Reeve realize that he still had the will to live. Williams was a constant supporter of Reeve, even helping to cover his friend's medical costs, and after both Reeve and Reeve's wife passed away, swore that he would take care of their now-orphaned son.