Updated: August 30, 2021
SUPERMAN PHOTO GALLERY #01 (CHRISTOPHER REEVES)
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
"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.
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 DorlĂ©ac 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.
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
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.