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SUPERMAN PHOTO GALLERY #01 (CHRISTOPHER REEVES)

Updated: August 30, 2021

Christopher Reeve as Superman:

During My Life, Stark Hesseltine told Reeve that he had been asked to audition for the leading role as Clark Kent/Superman in the big budget film Superman (1978). 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 arranged. 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 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. 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."

Portraying Superman would be a stretch for the 24-year-old actor. He was 6 ft 4 in ( 193 cm ) tall, but his physique was slim. Reeve went through an intense two-month training regimen that former British weightlifting champion David Prowse supervised. The training regimen consisted of running in the morning, followed by two hours of weightlifting and ninety minutes on the trampoline. He added thirty pounds (14 kg) of muscle to his "thin" 189-pound ( 86 kg ) frame. He later made even higher gains for Superman III (1983), though for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), he decided it would be healthier to focus more on cardiovascular workouts. One of the reasons Reeve could not work out as much for Superman IV was an emergency appendectomy he had in June 1986.

Reeve was never a Superman or comic book fan, though he had watched Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. Reeve found 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."

On the commentary track for the director's edition of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz spoke of how Reeve had talked to him about playing Superman and then playing Clark Kent. Mankiewicz then corrected Reeve, telling him that he was always, always playing Superman and that when he was Clark Kent, he was "playing Superman who was playing Clark Kent." Mankiewicz described it to Reeve as a role within the role.

The film, made without the use of computers for special effects, was the first that attempted to realistically show a person flying. Roy Field, the film's Optical Supervisor, said, "There were many techniques used to make Superman fly, but the best special effect of all was Christopher Reeve himself. We discovered very early on that he, being a glider pilot, could hold his body aerodynamically. So when he got into the harness, the whole shot began to come alive."

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 For his performance, Reeve won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles. Reeve described Superman as "the closest opportunity I've had to playing a classical role on film, the closest expression to something of mythical dimension." His co-star Margot Kidder said after his death that with the Superman films, Reeve "knew he'd done something meaningful. He was very aware of that and very happy with that role."

Reeve used his celebrity status for several philanthropic causes. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he visited terminally ill children. 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.

Sequels:

Much of Superman II was filmed at the same time as the first film. In fact, the original plan had been for the film to be a single three hour epic comprising both parts. After most of the footage had been shot, the producers had a disagreement with director Richard Donner over various matters, including money and special effects, and they mutually agreed to part ways. Film director Richard Lester, who had worked with the producers previously on the two-parter The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), replaced Donner. Lester had the script changed and re-shot some footage. The cast was unhappy, but Reeve later said that he liked Lester and considered Superman II to be his favorite of the series. Richard Donner's version of Superman II, titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, was released on DVD in November 2006 and was dedicated in memory of Reeve.

Lester directed Superman III, released in 1983, solo. Reeve believed that producers Alexander Salkind, his son Ilya Salkind, and Pierre Spengler decreased the credibility of Superman III by turning it into a Richard Pryor comedy, hence making it a not very good film. He missed Richard Donner and believed that Superman III's only really good element was the automobile junkyard scene in which Evil Superman fights Good Clark Kent in an internal battle. Reeve's portrayal of the Evil Superman was highly praised, though the film was critically panned. Any negative review for Superman III, however, was nothing compared to the totally negative reception its successor would receive.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released in 1987. After Superman III, Reeve vowed that he was done with Superman. However, he agreed to continue the role in a fourth film on the condition that he would have partial creative control over the script. The nuclear disarmament plot was his idea. Cannon Films purchased the production rights to the character of Superman from Alexander Salkind and his son Ilya Salkind, the original producers of the film series, in the mid-1980s. Cannon Films were known for low-budget, poorly-acted, poorly-scripted action films. They cut the budget of Superman IV in half to $17 million. The film was both a critical failure and a box-office disappointment, becoming the lowest-grossing Superman film to date. Reeve later said, "the less said about Superman IV the better." Both of Reeve's children from his relationship with Gae Exton had uncredited appearances in a deleted scene in which Superman rescues a girl, played by his daughter Alexandra, and reunites her with her brother, played by his son Matthew, after Nuclear Man creates a tornado in Smallville.

Reeve would have made a fifth Superman film after the rights to the character reverted to Alexander Salkind, Ilya Salkind, and Pierre Spengler if said film had a budget the same size as that of Superman: The Movie. Although there was potential for such a film in the late 1980s after Cannon Films went bankrupt, Reeve never received any script.

In 1993, two years before Reeve's accident, the Salkinds sold the rights to the character of Superman again, this time to Warner Bros. at large. "There was supposed to be a fifth Superman movie titled Superman Reborn, but because of studio shifts, the terrible box office [Superman IV] got, and ... Reeves's accident, it never saw the light of day."

1980 to 1986:

Reeve's first role after 1978's Superman was in the 1980 time-travel mystery/romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time. Reeve as Richard Collier romanced actress Elise McKenna, a popular stage actress from the early 20th century, played by Jane Seymour. The film was shot on Mackinac Island using the Grand Hotel in mid-1979, and was Reeve's favorite film ever to shoot.

After the film was completed, the plan was for a limited release and to build word of mouth, but early test screenings were favorable and the studio decided on a wide release, which ultimately proved to be the wrong strategy. Early reviews savaged the film as overly sentimental and melodramatic, and an actors' strike prevented Reeve and Seymour from doing publicity. The film quickly closed, although Jean-Pierre Dorléac was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1980. The film, commercially unsuccessful, was Reeve's first public disappointment.

However, almost 10 years after Somewhere in Time was released, at a time when other period films were beginning to be made, it became a cult film favorite, thanks to screenings on cable networks and video rentals; its popularity began to grow, vindicating the belief of the creative team. Insite, the International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts, did fundraising to sponsor a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997 for Reeve. Jane Seymour became a personal friend of Reeve and in 1996 named one of her twin sons Kristopher in his honor. The Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island has become a popular tourist site for film fans.

In that same year, Reeve made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, where he performed "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" on a piano for Miss Piggy, who had a crush on him. Reeve denied being Superman but displayed the superpowers throughout that entire episode. He then returned to continue filming on the not yet finished production of Superman II.

After finishing Superman II, Reeve and his 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. Later in the year, Reeve played a disabled Vietnam veteran in Lanford Wilson's play Fifth of July on Broadway to excellent reviews. To prepare for the role, he was coached by an amputee on how to walk on artificial legs.

In 1982 Reeve stretched his acting range further and played a devious novice playwright with questionable motives regarding his lover and mentor Michael Caine, in Sidney Lumet's suspenseful dark comedy film Deathtrap, based on the play by Ira Levin. The film was well received. The same year, Reeve portrayed partially corrupt Catholic priest John Flaherty making challenging decisions during World War II in Monsignor. Reeve felt this gave him the opportunity to play "a morally ambiguous character who was neither clearly good nor clearly bad, someone to whom life is much more complex than the characters I've played previously". Reeve blamed the failure of the film on poor editing. He said "the movie is sort of a series of outrageous incidents that you find hard to believe. Since they don't have a focus, and since they aren't justified and explained, they become laughable".

Reeve was then offered the role of Basil Ransom in 1984's 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 of which he could be proud. The film exceeded expectations and performed 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 he told her that he was currently shooting the 1985 version of 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 performed all his own stunts.

In 1984, Reeve appeared in The Aspern Papers with Vanessa Redgrave. He then played Tony in The Royal Family and the Count in a modern adaptation of the play The Marriage of Figaro.

In 1985, Reeve hosted the television documentary Dinosaur! Fascinated with dinosaurs since he was a child, as he says in the documentary, he flew himself to New York in his own plane to shoot on location at the American Museum of Natural History. Also, in 1985, DC Comics named Reeve as one of the honorees in the company's 50th-anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for his work on the Superman film series.

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 Cannon Films green-light it. 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.

1987â€"1989:

After the filming of Superman IV in February 1987, Reeve and Exton separated and Reeve returned to New York. In a depression without his children, aged seven and three, he 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. Reeve later stated that he made a fool of himself in the film and that most of his time was spent refereeing between Reynolds and Turner. The film did poorly, and Reeve believed that it marked the end of his movie star career. He spent the next years mostly doing plays. He auditioned 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.

In the late 1980s, Reeve became more active. He was taking horse-riding lessons 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.


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