Christopher Reeve
Photo: Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Christopher Reeve

Biography
(1952–2004)
Actor Christopher Reeve played Superman in the movie and its sequels. After a spinal cord injury, he started a foundation to help other paraplegics.

Who Was Christopher Reeve?

Christopher Reeve had various stage and television roles before becoming the star of Superman and its sequels. In 1995 he became paralyzed from the neck down following a horse-riding accident. He founded what became the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 1996 to promote research on spinal cord injuries. He died of cardiac arrest in 2004.

Early Life and Career

Christopher D'Olier Reeve was born on September 25, 1952, in New York City. He studied at Cornell University and the Juilliard School in New York, before landing roles in the Broadway play A Matter of Gravity, alongside Katharine Hepburn, and the soap opera Love of Life

'Superman' and Other Films

The actor catapulted to stardom when, following a two-year casting search, he was selected to play the titular superhero of Superman (1978). The popularity of the film, and Reeve's winning portrayals of the Man of Steel and his alter ego, Clark Kent, spawned the release of Superman sequels in 1980, 1983 and 1987.

Reeve also starred in Somewhere in Time (1980), Deathtrap (1982), The Aviator (1985) and a TV movie adaptation of Anna Karenina (1985), during which time he developed a fascination with horse riding. His post-Superman films included Noises Off (1992), Morning Glory (1994) and Village of the Damned (1995).

Injury and Paralysis

In May 1995 Reeve became paralyzed from the neck down when he sustained a severe cervical spinal injury in a horse-riding accident. Despite being confined to a wheelchair and needing a respirator to assist with his breathing, he became heavily involved in campaigns supporting handicapped children and paraplegics, testifying before a Senate subcommittee in favor of federal funding for stem cell research.

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Reeve tirelessly sought to overcome the limitations of his condition, undergoing an experimental operation in 2003 that enabled him to breathe for hours without use of his respirator.

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve on tilt table accustoming his body to being upright, therapy in hopes of being able to walk again, July 1996

Foundation

After launching the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation in 1996, the actor merged his organization with the American Paralysis Association in 1999 to create a powerful advocate for the disabled in the quest to raise awareness, fund spinal cord research and forge medical breakthroughs. The organization was renamed the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2007.

Directing and Books

Reeve continued to work after ongoing rehabilitation. He returned to acting in a television production of Rear Window (1998), for which he picked up a Golden Globe nomination, and directed two television films with health themes, In the Gloaming (1997) and The Brooke Ellison Story (2004). Reeve also penned two autobiographical books, Still Me (1998) and Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life (2002).

Death

Reeve died from cardiac arrest on October 10, 2004. He was survived by his wife Dana and son William, as well as his two children, Matthew and Alexandra, from his previous relationship with model Gae Exton.

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