Christopher Reeve, the lead actor of four Superman movies, died at the age 52 on October 10, 2004. He suffered from a heart failure and had his last breath at a hospital in Westchester County, New York, near his home. He left his mark on the world not just as an actor, but also as an advocate for spinal cord research following his paralysis from a horse-riding accident.
Christopher Reeve was born on September 25, 1952 in New York City. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the Julliard School. In 1976, he made his debut in the Broadway scene in a play starring Katherine Hepburn, A Matter of Gravity. The 6’4” actor was cast for the lead role in the 1978 film Superman. This was considered a stroke of luck considering that there were more than 200 other actors who wanted the role. He soon found himself starring in three more Superman films.
While the movies were a massive success, Reeve didn’t want to be typecast as the hero in a red cape. He then went on to star in a variety of stage and screen roles. His name can be seen in the film credits of Time (1980), Deathtrap (1983), The Remains of the Day (1993), and Village of the Damned (1995).
Reeve was also an athlete and a very passionate equestrian. On May 27, 1995 he suffered serious injuries during a competition. He was thrown from his horse and broke his neck. The incident left him paralyzed from the neck down. His personal experience led him to lobby for embryonic stem-cell research government funding to aid people like him who suffered from spinal cord injuries.
He gave a speech at the 1996 Academy Awards, urging the Hollywood community to create movies that addressed social issues. On top to his fundraising and advocacy work, Reeves also took on a new interest — writing. He wrote two books containing his life experiences and continued on with his acting career. He also became a director and made his debut in HBO’s In the Gloaming, a film which was nominated for five Emmy Awards. He also starred in the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window in 1999. Reeve was the director of the A&E’s 2004 movie, The Brooke Ellison Story, which was based on the story of the first quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard University.
Reeve continued to subject himself to intensive physical therapy. It was sometime in 2000 that he was able to move his index finger. He publicly announced that he wanted to walk again. He was commended by one of the doctors who treated him in his New York Times obituary. The doctor said that Reeve changed the way people perceived spinal cord injury. His life was a testimony that spinal cord injury should not totally cripple a victim and that hope still exists.