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Christopher Reeve (September 25, 1952 – October 10, 2004) was an American actor, director, producer and writer. He established himself early as a Juilliard-trained stage actor before portraying Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent in four films, from 1978 to 1987. In the 1980s, he starred in several films, including Somewhere in Time (1980), Deathtrap (1982), The Bostonians (1984), and Street Smart (1987). He also starred in many plays, including the Broadway plays Fifth of July (1980 - 1982) and The Marriage of Figaro (1985). In 1987, he led a public rally in support of 77 Chilean actors, directors, and playwrights who had been sentenced to death by the dictator Pinochet for criticizing his regime in their works. Pinochet canceled the sentence after the ensuing media coverage, and Reeve was awarded with three national distinctions from Chile for his actions. In the 1990s, Reeve acted in such films as Noises Off (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993), and Village of the Damned (1995).
In May 1995, Reeve was paralyzed in an accident while competing in an equestrian tournament, and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He lobbied for people with spinal cord injuries, and for human embryonic stem cell research. He founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. Reeve died at age 52 on October 10, 2004 from cardiac arrest caused by an adverse reaction to antibiotics given for a systemic infection.
Reeve married Dana Morosini in April 1992, and they had a son, Will. Reeve also had two children, Matthew and Alexandra, from a previous relationship. Dana Reeve died of lung cancer in March 2006.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Cornell
* 3 Juilliard
* 4 Soap operas and Broadway
* 5 Superman
o 5.1 Sequels
* 6 Career, family, and political involvement
* 7 Injury
* 8 Recovery
* 9 Rehabilitation
* 10 Activism
* 11 Death
* 12 Selected filmography
o 12.1 Television
o 12.2 Theater
* 13 Footnotes
* 14 References
* 15 External links
 Early life
Reeve was born in New York City on September 25, 1952. His father, Franklin d'Olier Reeve, was a poet and scholar. He was a Princeton University graduate and, when Christopher was born, was studying for a master's degree in Russian language at Columbia University. Franklin's father, Colonel Richard d'Olier, had been the CEO of the Prudential Financial for over twenty-five years. Despite being born wealthy, Franklin Reeve spent summers working at the docks with longshoremen. Reeve's mother, Barbara Pitney Lamb, had been a student at Vassar College, but transferred to Barnard College to be closer to Franklin, whom she had met through a family connection. They had another son, Benjamin, born on October 6, 1953.
Franklin Reeve's interests in socialism and Russian language and literature became increasingly important to him, and he and Barbara divorced in 1956. She moved with her two sons to Princeton, New Jersey, where they attended Nassau Street School. Franklin Reeve married Helen Schmidinger in 1956, a Columbia University graduate student. Barbara Pitney Lamb married Tristam Johnson, a stockbroker, in 1959. Johnson had Christopher and his brother, Benjamin, enroll in Princeton Country Day, a private school. Reeve was one of the few kids to excel in both academics and sports; he was on the honor roll and played soccer, baseball, tennis and hockey. Reeve later admitted that he put pressure on himself to act older than he actually was in order to gain his father's approval.
Reeve found his true passion in 1962 at age nine when an amateur group held tryouts for the play The Yeomen of the Guard, and he was cast; it was the first of many student plays that he would act in. In the summer of 1968, at age fifteen, Reeve was accepted as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The other apprentices were mostly college students, but Reeve's older appearance and maturity helped him fit in. In a workshop, he played a scene from A View From The Bridge that was chosen to be presented in front of an audience. After the performance, actor Olympia Dukakis said to him, "I'm surprised. You've got a lot of talent. Don't mess it up." The next summer, Reeve was hired at the Harvard Summer Repertory Theater Company in Cambridge for $44 per week. He played a Russian sailor in The Hostage and Beliaev in A Month in the Country. Famed theater critic Elliot Norton called his performance as Beliav "startlingly effective." The 23-year-old lead actress in the play, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, turned out to be Reeve's first romance. She was engaged to a fellow Carnegie Mellon graduate at the time; they mutually ended the relationship when he made a surprise visit to her dorm room at seven in the morning and found Reeve with her. Reeve's romance with the actress fizzled a few months later when the age difference became an issue for them.
After graduating from Princeton Day School in June 1970, Reeve acted in plays in Boothbay, Maine, and planned to go to New York City to find a career in theater. Instead, at the advice of his mother, he applied for college. He was accepted into Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, Carnegie-Mellon, and Cornell. He chose Cornell primarily because it is a five-hour drive from New York City, where he planned to start his career as an actor.
Reeve joined the theater department in Cornell and played Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, Segismundo in Life Is a Dream, Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Polixenes in The Winter's Tale. In the fall of his Freshman year, Reeve received a letter from Stark Hesseltine, a high-powered agent who had discovered Robert Redford and represented actors such as Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon and Richard Chamberlain. Hesseltine had seen Reeve in A Month in the Country and wanted to represent him. The two met and decided that instead of dropping out of school, Reeve could come to New York once a month to meet casting agents and producers to find work for the summer vacation. That summer, he toured in a production of Forty Carats with Eleanor Parker.
The next year, Reeve received a full-season contract with the San Diego Shakespeare Festival, with roles as Edward IV in Richard III, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Dumaine in Love's Labour's Lost at the Old Globe Theatre.
Before his third year of college, Reeve took a three-month leave of absence. He flew to Glasgow and saw theatrical productions throughout Scotland and England. He was inspired by the actors and often had conversations with them in bars after the performances. He helped actors at the Old Vic with their American accents by reading the newspaper aloud for them. He then flew to Paris, where he spoke fluent French for his entire stay; he had studied it from third grade until his second year in Cornell. He watched many performances and immersed himself into the culture before finally going back to New York to reunite with his girlfriend.
After coming back from Europe, Reeve decided that he wanted to focus solely on acting. In Cornell, he was still required to take classes such as Intellectual History and Physics. He managed to convince theater director John Clancy and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences that, as a theater major, he would achieve more in Juilliard than in Cornell. They agreed that his first year at Juilliard would be counted as his senior year at Cornell.
In 1973, around two thousand students auditioned for twenty places in the freshman class at Juilliard. Reeve's audition was in front of ten faculty members, including John Houseman, who had just won an Academy Award for The Paper Chase. Reeve and Robin Williams were the only students selected for Juilliard's prestigious Advanced Program They had several classes together in which they were the only students. In their dialects class with Edith Skinner, Williams had no trouble mastering all dialects naturally, whereas Reeve was more meticulous about it. Though Williams would not impress some teachers with his manic comedy, his dramatic performances impressed everyone. Williams and Reeve developed a close friendship; they were able to laugh together, and were also able to confide in each other about their relationship problems.
In a meeting with John Houseman, Reeve was told, "Mr. Reeve. It is terribly important that you become a serious classical actor. Unless, of course, they offer you a shitload of money to do something else." Houseman then offered him the chance to leave school and join the Acting Company, among actors such as Kevin Kline and David Ogden Stiers. Reeve declined as he had not yet received his Bachelor's degree from Cornell.
In the spring of 1974, Reeve and other Juilliard students toured the New York City middle school system and performed The Love Cure. In one performance, Reeve, who played the hero, drew his sword out too high and accidentally destroyed a row of lights above him. The students applauded and cheered with approval. Reeve later said that this was the greatest ovation of his career. After completing his first year at Juilliard, Reeve graduated from Cornell in the Class of '74.
 Soap operas and Broadway
Reeve took a job in the soap opera Love of Life in July 1974, because he needed the money. He played Ben Harper, an antagonistic character due to his polygamist lifestyle and criminal behavior. By August, the character had become popular and ratings for the show went up. Reeve was now no longer an anonymous actor; people on buses would give him advice as to which female character to marry, and one woman at a service station hit Reeve with her handbag and said, "how dare you treat your mother that way!" Reeve said that he took this as a compliment. The soap opera schedule eventually forced him to drop out of Juilliard. He took acting classes at HB Studios, performed at the Theater for the New City, and starred in Berkeley Square, which became a hit. He also starred in Berchtesgaden as a Nazi.
In the fall of 1975, he auditioned for the Broadway play A Matter Of Gravity. Katharine Hepburn watched his audition and cast him as her character's grandson in the play. With Hepburn's influence over the CBS network, Reeve was able to work out the schedules of Love of Life and the play so that he would be able to do both. Due to his busy schedule, he ate candy bars and coffee in place of meals, and suffered from exhaustion and malnutrition. On the first night of the play's run, Reeve entered the stage, said his first line, and then promptly fainted. Hepburn turned to the audience and said, "this boy's a goddamn fool. He doesn't eat enough red meat." The understudy finished the play for him, and Reeve was treated by a doctor who advised him to eat a healthier diet. He stayed with the play throughout its year-long run and was given very favorable reviews. He and Hepburn became very close. She said, "you're going to be a big star, Christopher, and support me in my old age." He replied, "I can't wait that long." A romance between the two was rumored in some gossip columns. Reeve said, "she was sixty-seven and I was twenty-two, but I thought that was quite an honor...I believe I was fairly close to what a child or grandchild might have been to her." Reeve said that his father, who was a professor of literature and came to many of the performances, was the man that Hepburn was most captivated by. When the play moved to Los Angeles in 1976, Reeve dropped out, to Hepburn's disappointment. They stayed in touch for years after the run of the play. Reeve later regretted not staying closer instead of just sending messages back and forth.
Reeve's first role in a Hollywood film was a small part as a submarine officer in the disaster movie Gray Lady Down. He then acted in the play My Life with friend William Hurt.
Superman DVD boxset cover.
Superman DVD boxset cover.
After My Life, Stark Hesseltine told Reeve that he had been asked to audition for the lead in the big budget film, Superman. Lynn Stalmaster, the casting director, put Reeve's picture and resume on the top of the pile three separate times, only to have the producers throw it out each time. Through Stalmaster's persistent pleading, a meeting between director Richard Donner, producer Ilya Salkind and Reeve was set in January 1977 at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The morning after the meeting, Reeve was sent a 300 page script. He was thrilled that the script took the subject matter seriously, and that Richard Donner's motto was verisimilitude. Reeve immediately flew to London for a screen test, and on the way was told that Marlon Brando was going to play Jor-El and Gene Hackman was going to play Lex Luthor. Reeve still did not think he had much of a chance. Though he was 6 ft 4, he was a self-described "skinny WASP." On the plane ride to London, he imagined how his approach to the role would be. He later said, "by the late 1970s the masculine image had changed...Now it was acceptable for a man to show gentleness and vulnerability. I felt that the new Superman ought to reflect that contemporary male image." He based his portrayal of Clark Kent on Cary Grant in his role in Bringing up Baby. After the screen test, his driver said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but you've got the part."
Although Reeve was tall enough for the role and had the blue eyes and handsome features, his physique was slim. He refused to wear fake muscles under the suit, and instead went through an intense two-month training regimen supervised by former British weightlifting champion David Prowse, the man under the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars films. The training regimen consisted of running in the morning, followed by two hours of weightlifting and ninety minutes on the trampoline. In addition, Reeve doubled his food intake and adopted a high protein diet. He put on thirty pounds of muscle to his thin 190 pound frame. He later made even higher gains for Superman III, though for Superman IV he decided it would be healthier to focus more on cardiovascular workouts.
Characterizations of Superman and Clark Kent.
Characterizations of Superman and Clark Kent.
Reeve was never a Superman or comic book fan, though he had watched Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. However, he found that the role offered a suitable challenge because it was a dual role. He said, "there must be some difference stylistically between Clark and Superman. Otherwise, you just have a pair of glasses standing in for a character."
The film grossed $300,218,018 worldwide (unadjusted for inflation). Reeve received positive reviews for his performance:
* "Christopher Reeve's entire performance is a delight. Ridiculously good-looking, with a face as sharp and strong as an ax blade, his bumbling, fumbling Clark Kent and omnipotent Superman are simply two styles of gallantry and innocence." - Newsweek
* "Christopher Reeve has become an instant international star on the basis of his first major movie role, that of Clark Kent/Superman. Film reviewers - regardless of their opinion of the film - have been almost unanimous in their praise of Reeve's dual portrayal. He is utterly convincing as he switches back and forth between personae." - Starlog
Reeve used his newfound celebrity for good causes. Through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, he visited terminally-ill kids. He joined the Board of Directors for the worldwide charity Save the Children. In 1979, He served as a track and field coach at the Special Olympics, alongside O.J. Simpson.
Superman II was filmed at the same time as the first film. After most of the footage had been shot, the producers had a disagreement with director Richard Donner and fired him. He was replaced by Richard Lester, who changed the script and reshot most of the footage. The cast was unhappy with this, but Reeve later said that he liked Lester and considered Superman II to be his favorite film of the series. Due to fan encouragement, Richard Donner's version of Superman II, titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, was released on DVD on November 28, 2006.
Superman III, released in 1983, was filmed entirely by Lester. Reeve believed that the producers ruined it by turning it into a Richard Pryor comedy. He missed Richard Donner and believed that Superman III's only saving grace was the junkyard scene in which evil Superman fights Clark Kent in an internal battle.
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, released in 1987, was initially never going to be made; after Superman III, Reeve vowed that he was done with Superman. However, he accepted the role on the condition that he would have partial creative control over the script. The nuclear disarmament plot was his idea. The production rights were given to Cannon Films, who cut the budget in half to $17 million. Reeve later said, "the less said about Superman IV the better."
 Career, family, and political involvement
Following the first Superman movie, Reeve found that Hollywood producers all wanted him to be an action star. He later said, "I found most of the scripts of that genre poorly constructed, and I felt the starring roles could easily be played by anyone with a strong physique." In addition, he did not feel that he was right for the other films he was offered, and turned down the lead roles in American Gigolo, The World According to Garp, and Body Heat. Katharine Hepburn recommended Reeve to director David Lean for the role of Fletcher Christian in a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty starring Anthony Hopkins. After considering it, Reeve decided that he would be miscast, and Lean went with his second choice, Mel Gibson.
With Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time.
With Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time.
Reeve's first role after Superman was as Richard Collier in the 1980 romantic fantasy, Somewhere in Time. Jane Seymour played Elise McKenna, his love interest. The film was shot on Mackinac Island in May 1979 and was one of Reeve's favorite films to shoot. Early reviews and screenings were favorable. However, the film did not do well at the box office. It was Reeve's first public disappointment and he immediately returned to London to shoot Superman II. Since then, the film has developed a wide cult following. INSITE, the International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts, has thousands of members. Thanks to the activism of these members, Reeve was given a star on the Walk of Fame in 1997. Jane Seymour remained a life-long friend of Reeve's and named one of her sons after him.
Gae Exton, Reeve's girlfriend at the time, gave birth to their son, Matthew Reeve, on December 20, 1979. After finishing Superman II, the family left London and rented a house in Hollywood Hills. Soon after, Reeve grew tired of Hollywood and took the family to Williamstown, Massachusetts where he played the lead in the successful play The Front Page, directed by Robert Allan Ackerman. In the fall, Reeve played a disabled Vietnam veteran in the critically-acclaimed play The 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 stretched his acting range further and played a psychopath opposite Michael Caine in Sydney Lumet's film Deathtrap. The film was well-received. Reeve was then offered the role of Basil Ransom in The Bostonians alongside Vanessa Redgrave. Though Reeve ordinarily commanded over one million dollars per film, the producers could only afford to pay him one-tenth of that. Reeve had no complaints, as he was happy to be doing a role that he could be proud of. The film exceeded expectations and did very well at the box office for what was considered to be an art house film. The New York Times called it "the best adaptation of a literary work yet made for the screen." Katharine Hepburn called Reeve to tell him that he was "absolutely marvelous" and "captivating" in the film. When told that he was currently shooting Anna Karenina, she said, "Oh, that's a terrible mistake."
Reeve was a licensed pilot and flew solo across the Atlantic twice. During the filming of Superman III, he raced his sailplane in his free time. He joined The Tiger Club, a group of aviators who had served in the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. They let him participate in mock dogfights in vintage World War I combat planes. The producers of the film The Aviator approached him without knowing that he was a pilot and that he knew how to fly a Stearman, the plane used in the film. Reeve readily accepted the role. The film was shot in Kranjska Gora, and Reeve did all of his stunts. At this time, Gae Exton gave birth to their second child, Alexandra.
In 1984, Reeve appeared in The Aspern Papers with Vanessa Redgrave. He then played Tony in The Royal Family and the Count in Marriage of Figaro. In 1986, he was still struggling to find scripts that he liked. A script named Street Smart had been lying in his house for years, and after re-reading it, he had it green-lit at Cannon Films. He starred opposite Morgan Freeman, who was nominated for his first Academy Award for the film. The film received excellent reviews but performed poorly at the box office, possibly because Cannon Films had failed to properly advertise it.
After Superman IV in 1987, Reeve's relationship with Exton fell apart and they separated. He moved to New York without his children. He became depressed and decided that doing a comedy might be good for him. He was given a lead in Switching Channels. Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner had a feud during filming, which made the time even more unbearable for Reeve. The film did not do well, and Reeve believed that it marked the end of his movie star career. He spent the next years mostly doing plays. He tried out for the Richard Gere role in Pretty Woman, but walked out on the audition because they had a half-hearted casting director fill in for Julia Roberts.
Although Reeve's career was bottoming-out, these were some of the happiest times of his life. Five months after separating from Gae Exton and after filming Switching Channels, he went back to Williamstown with his children Matthew and Alexandra, who were seven and three years-old respectively. Reeve watched a group of singers called the Cabaret Corps perform, and took notice of one of the singers, Dana Morosini. The two began dating and were married in Williamstown in April 1992.
In the late 1980's, Reeve became more active than ever. He was taking horse riding more seriously, and trained five to six days a week for competition in combined training events. He built a sailboat, The Sea Angel, and sailed from the Chesapeake to Nova Scotia. He campaigned for Senator Patrick Leahy and made speeches throughout the state. He served as a board member for the Charles Lindbergh Fund, which promotes environmentally safe technologies. He 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 used his Cheyenne II turboprop plane to take government officials and journalists over areas of environmental damage. In the fall of 1987, 77 actors in Santiago, Chile were threatened with execution by the dictator Pinochet. Reeve was asked by Ariel Dorfman to help save their lives. Reeve flew to Chile and helped lead a protest march. A cartoon then ran in a newspaper showing him carrying Pinochet by the collar with the caption, "Where will you take him, Superman?" For his heroics, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Bernardo O’Higgins Order, the highest Chilean distinction for foreigners. He also received the Obie Prize and the Annual Walter Brielh Human Rights Foundation award. Reeve's friend Ron Silver later started the Creative Coalition, an organization designed to teach celebrities how to speak knowledgeably about political issues. Reeve was an early member of the group, along with Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Blythe Danner.
On June 7, 1992, Will Reeve was born to Dana and Christopher. In October, Reeve was offered the part of Lewis in The Remains of the Day. The script was one of the best he had read, and he unhesitatingly took the part. 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. The organization's work was noticed nationwide, and Reeve was asked to run for Congress. He replied, "run for Congress? And lose my influence in Washington?" At this time, he had received scripts for Picket Fences and Chicago Hope and was asked by CBS if he wanted to start his own television series. This meant moving to Los Angeles, which would place him even further from Matthew and Alexandra, who lived in London. In Massachusetts, Reeve could take a Concorde and see them any time. He declined the offers. Reeve did not mind making trips, however; he went to New Mexico to shoot Speechless and went to Point Reyes to shoot Village of the Damned.
Shortly before his accident, Reeve played a paralyzed police officer in the HBO special Above Suspicion. He did research at a rehabilitation hospital in Van Nuys, and learned how to use a wheelchair to get in and out of cars. Reeve was then offered the lead in Kidnapped, to be shot in Ireland. He was excited to be going to Ireland, and he and Dana decided that they would conceive their second child there. Reeve also planned to direct his first big screen film, a romantic comedy entitled Tell Me True. Not long after making these plans, the family went to Culpeper, Virginia for an equestrian competition.
Reeve took up horse riding in 1985 after learning to ride for the film Anna Karenina. He was initially allergic to horses, so he took antihistamines. He trained at Martha's Vineyard, and by 1989 he was accomplished enough to compete in combined training events. As with every other sport and activity he participated in (sailing, scuba diving, skiing, flying, windsurfing, cycling, gliding, parasailing, mountain climbing, baseball, tennis), he took horse riding seriously and was intensely competitive with it. His allergies soon disappeared.
Reeve bought a twelve-year-old American Thoroughbred horse named Eastern Express, nicknamed Buck, while filming Village of the Damned. He trained with Buck in 1994, and planned to do Training Level events in 1995 and move up to Preliminary events in 1996. Though Reeve had originally signed up to compete at an event in Vermont, his coach invited him to go to the Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association finals at the Commonwealth Park equestrian center in Culpeper, Virginia. Dressage and cross country were scheduled for Saturday and show jumping was scheduled for Sunday. Reeve finished at fourth place out of twenty-seven in the dressage. Afterwards, he walked the course to scope out the jumps. 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'.
On May 27, 1995, Reeve was paralyzed from the neck-down after being thrown from his horse. He had no recollection of the incident. Witnesses said that Buck started the jump over the third fence, and then suddenly stopped. Someone said that a rabbit spooked the horse, and another person claimed that it might have been a shadow. Reeve held on and the bridle, the bit, and the reins were pulled off the horse and tied his hands together. He landed headfirst on the other side of the fence. His helmet prevented any brain damage, but the impact of his 215 pound body hitting the ground shattered his first and second vertebrae. Reeve had not been breathing for three minutes before paramedics arrived. He was taken to the local hospital, and then flown by helicopter to the University of Virginia medical center.
For the first few days after the accident, Reeve was heavily sedated. He began to suffer from "ICU psychosis" and would wake up sporadically and mouth words to Dana such as "get the gun" and "they're after us." After five days, he regained full consciousness, and Dr. John Jane explained that he had decimated his first and second cervical vertebrae, which meant that his head and spine were not connected. His lungs were filling with fluid and were suctioned by entry through the throat; this was the most painful part of Reeve's recovery.
After considering his situation, believing that not only would he never walk again, but that he may never move a body part again, Reeve considered suicide. He mouthed to Dana, "maybe we should let me go." She tearfully replied, "I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you." Reeve never considered suicide as an option again.
Reeve went through inner anguish in the ICU, particularly when he was alone during the night. As he lay there one day, the door opened and a man with glasses wearing a yellow surgical gown and a blue scrub hat entered. He said that he was a proctologist and was going to perform a rectal exam on Reeve. It was Robin Williams. Reeve said, "for the first time since the accident, I laughed." They had a long conversation and Williams assured Reeve that he would do anything for him. It was this support from family and friends that convinced Reeve that his life was still worth living.
Dr. John Jane performed the surgery that reconnected Reeve's head to his body. He put wires underneath both laminae and used bone from Reeve's hip to fit between the C1 and C2 vertebrae. He inserted a titanium pin and fused the wires with the vertebrae, then drilled holes in Reeve's skull and fit the wires through to connect the head to the spinal cord.
On June 28, 1995, Reeve was taken to the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange, New Jersey. He was given several blood transfusions in the first few weeks due to very low hemoglobin and protein levels. Many times his breathing tube would disconnect and he would be at the mercy of nurses to come in and save his life. His aide was a Jamaican man named Glenn Miller, nicknamed Juice. Juice gave him invaluable support in adapting to his new condition. He helped him learn how to get into the shower and how to use a wheelchair, which moved by blowing air through a straw. Juice and Reeve would watch the film Cool Runnings and joke about Reeve directing the sequel, Bobsled Two.
In the physical therapy gym, Reeve worked on moving his trapezius muscle. Electrodes connected to him sent out readings to therapists, and every day he would try to beat his numbers from the day before. The most difficult part of rehabilitation was respiratory therapy. The therapist, Bill Carroll, used a hose to see how much air Reeve could suck in, measured in cubic centimeters as the vital capacity. In order to even consider getting off the artificial respirator, a patient needs a vital capacity of 750 cc's. Initially, Reeve could hardly get above zero. By the end of October, he was able to get around 50 cc's. This inspired him, and he felt his natural competitive edge coming back. The next day, he went up to 450 cc's. He reached 560 cc's the day after. Bill Carroll said, "I've never seen progress like that. You're going to wean. You're going to get off this thing." On December 13, 1995, Reeve was able to breathe without a respirator for 30 minutes.
Christopher Reeve on the cover of TIME, August 26, 1996
Christopher Reeve on the cover of TIME, August 26, 1996
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 suffering from spinal cord injuries and other disabilities. 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, never needing a teleprompter or a script. For these efforts, he was placed on the cover of TIME on August 26, 1996. In the same year, 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 Christopher Reeve Foundation to speed up research through funding, and to use grants to improve the quality of the lives of disabled people. The Foundation to date has given more than $65 million for research, and more than $8.5 million in quality-of-life grants. The Foundation has funded a new technology called "Locomotor Training" that uses a treadmill to mimic the movements of walking to help develop neural connections, in effect re-teaching the spinal cord how to send signals to the legs to walk. This technology has helped several paralyzed patients walk again.
In 1997, Reeve made his directorial debut with the HBO film In the Gloaming with Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Bridget Fonda and David Strathairn. The film won 4 Cable Ace Awards and was nominated for 5 Emmy Awards including "Outstanding Director for a Miniseries or Special." Dana Reeve said, "there's such a difference in his outlook, his health, his overall sense of well-being when he's working at what he loves, which is creative work." In 1998, Reeve produced and starred in Rear Window, a remake of the original Alfred Hitchcock 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.
Throughout this time, Reeve kept his body as physically strong as possible by using specialized exercise machines. He did this both because he believed that the nervous system could be regenerated through intense physical therapy, and because he wanted his body to be strong enough to support itself if a cure was found. In 2000, he began to regain some motor function, and was able to sense hot and cold temperatures on his body. His doctor, John MacDonald of Washington University, asked him if anything was new with his recovery. Reeve then moved his left index finger on command. "I don't think Dr. MacDonald would have been more surprised if I had just walked on water", said Reeve in an interview.
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. Reeve said, "when somebody is first injured or as a disease progresses into paralysis, people don't know where to turn. Dana and I wanted a facility that could give support and information to people. With this new Center, we're off to an amazing start."
On the controversial human embryonic stem cell research, Reeve lobbied for expanded federal funding to include all embryonic stem cell lines in existence and for open-ended scientific inquiry of the research by self-governance. In an interview with Brian Williams, Reeve responded to the controversy by noting that the research would only use embryos that had already been discarded. He said, "We don't want to create embryos just for research. We want to rescue these cells from the garbage....I don't understand how you can be opposed to that. I don't." President George W Bush limited the federal funding only, private funds are not regulated, on the research to human embryonic stem cell lines created up to August 9, 2001, the day he announced his policy, and allotted approximately $100 million for it. Reeve called this "a step in the right direction," until it was known that most lines are contaminated as a part of the early research by mixing the human cells with mouse cells. In 2002, Reeve lobbied for the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001, which would allow somatic cell nuclear transfer research, but would theoretically ban reproductive cloning. He argued that stem cell implantation is unsafe unless the stem cells contain the patient's own DNA, and that because somatic cell nuclear transfer is done without fertilizing an egg, it could be fully regulated. In the final days of his life, Reeve urged California voters to vote yes on Proposition 71, which would establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and allot $3 billion of state funds to stem cell research. Proposition 71 was approved less than one month after Reeve's death.
Reeve discusses stem cell research at a conference at MIT, March 2, 2003
Reeve discusses stem cell research at a conference at MIT, March 2, 2003
On February 25, 2003, Reeve appeared in the television series Smallville as Dr. Swann in the episode Rosetta. He also appeared in the episode Legacy. Rosetta set ratings history for The WB network.
In April 2004, Random House published Reeve's second book, Nothing is Impossible. This book is shorter than Still Me and focuses on Reeve's world views and the life experiences that helped him shape them.
Also 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 at this time was also directing the animated film Everyone's Hero.
Reeve had an unusual medical history. He suffered from asthma and allergies since childhood. At age sixteen, he began to suffer from alopecia areata, a condition that causes patches of hair to fall out from an otherwise healthy head of hair. Generally he was able to comb over it and often the problem disappeared for long periods of time. Later in life, the condition became more noticeable and he shaved his head. He had experienced several illnesses, including Infectious mononucleosis and malaria. He suffered from mastocytosis, a red blood cell destroying disorder. More than once he had a severe reaction to a drug. In Kessler, he tried a drug named Sygen which was theorized to help reduce damage to the spinal cord. The drug caused him to go into anaphylactic shock and his lungs shut down. He had an out-of-body experience. He remembered saying, "I'm sorry, but I have to go now," before leaving his body. In his autobiography, he wrote, "and then I left my body. I was up on the ceiling...I looked down and saw my body stretched out on the bed, not moving, while everybody—there were fifteen or twenty people, the doctors, the EMTs, the nurses—was working on me. The noise and commotion grew quieter as though someone were gradually turning down the volume." After receiving a large dose of epinephrine, he woke up and was able to stabilize later that night.
In 2003 and 2004, Reeve fought off a number of serious infections believed to have originated from the bone marrow. He recovered from three that could have been fatal. In early October 2004, he was being treated for a pressure wound that was causing a systemic infection called sepsis, a complication that he had experienced many times before. On October 9, Reeve felt well and attended his son Will's hockey game. That night, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to North Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died of heart failure at the age of 52. His doctor, John McDonald, believed that it was an adverse reaction to the antibiotic that caused his death.
Dana Reeve headed the Christopher Reeve Foundation after his death. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. Although she was a lifelong non-smoker, her singing career in nightclubs and bars had exposed her to secondhand smoke. She died on March 6, 2006 at age 44.
Christopher and Dana Reeve are survived by their son, Will, and Christopher's son Matthew and daughter Alexandra. Christopher is also survived by his parents and Dana by her father. Matthew and Alexandra now serve on the board of directors for the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
- Subhasis GLv 41 decade ago
This is too big to be posted. Send your email address. Would send it.