Date of Birth: September 25, 1952
Christopher Reeve was an American actor known his portrayal of Superman.
Reeve was born in New York City to a University professor father and a journalist mother. At the age of four, Reeve’s parents divorced, so his mother moved with Chris and his brother Benjamin to New Jersey. She later remarried, to an investment banker.
At a young age, Reeve entered the world of acting. His first role was in a Princeton theater company production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard. He continued to act, playing roles in high school stage productions. By age 16, he had an agent and an Actors’ Equity Association membership.
After graduating from high school, Reeve went on to study at Cornell University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and music theory. In his final year, he was one of two students chosen to study at New York’s prestigious Julliard School of Performing Arts under John Houseman. The other student was comedian Robin Williams. The two became roommates and lifelong best friends.
Reeve’s first major television role was on the soap opera Love of Life, playing Ben Harper. He stayed with the show for two years and in 1976, he made his Broadway debut in the stage a production A Matter of Gravity opposite Katherine Hepburn. When the play closed, he took a chance and moved to California, hoping to make it big in Hollywood. He made his feature film debut by 1978 in Gray Lady Down, starring Charlton Heston.
Soon after, Reeve landed the role that would change his life. He won the coveted role of Clark Kent and his alter-ego, Superman, in the 1978 blockbuster film of the same name. It earned great reviews and dominated the box office, making Reeve an instant movie star.
Naturally, the film's success demanded a sequel. Superman II was released two years later and also enjoyed massive success. Reeve went on to do two more Superman filmsSuperman III in 1983 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987.
Although audiences generally identify Reeve with his iconic character, he went on turn in other critically-acclaimed performances in other films throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, such as Somewhere in Time (1980), Deathtrap (1982), Noises Off (1992), The Remains of the Day (1992) and The Village of the Damned (1995).
While shooting Superman in England, Reeve became involved with modeling executive Gae Exton. Exton gave birth to two of their children in 1979 and 1983, but the couple split up in 1987.
That same year, he fell in love with a woman named Dana Morosini and they married in April 1992. Their son, William Elliot, was born June 7, 1992.
On May 27, 1995, Reeve had a horseback riding accident while doing a cross country competition. His horse stopped at a jump and Reeve flew over the horse’s head. His hands had gotten tangled in the reins and he was unable to break his fall, landing on his head. He was wearing a helmet, which prevented brain damage, but his first and second vertebrae were crushed and he stopped breathing. Quick action on the part of paramedics saved his life, but the fall left him paralyzed from the neck down, and unable to breathe without a ventilator.
Although the tragedy changed his life, Reeve remained strong and became an activist on behalf of the disabled. He founded the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which works to raise funds for biomedical research. He also served as a chairman for the American Paralysis Association.
In 2002, Reeve and his wife opened the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Centre, devoted to teaching paralyzed people how to live more independently.
Reeve’s final screen appearance was a guest starring role as Dr. Virgil Swann on two episodes of the television show, Smallville, which is centered on a young Clark Kent.
On October 10, 2004, at the age of 52, Reeve suffered heart failure and died at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York with his wife and children by his side.
FilmographyA Step Toward Tomorrow (1996)