After a fall from a horse caused a spinal cord injury, Christopher Reeve dedicated his life to advocacy and research.
find out more about her incredible story.
become the man of steel
As a young man, Christopher Reeve had played a few roles, but his big break came when he received a call to audition for the role of Superman.
The film’s director and producers had been searching for the right actor to play the role for three years with no luck! Reeve was eventually offered the role just 35 days before filming began.
At first, Reeve didn’t think he had much of a chance of landing the part; Even though he was 6 feet 4 feet (193 cm), he feared that he would be too skinny.
The producers suggested that he use fake muscles under the suit, but he refused. instead, he began an intense two-month training program that added 14kg to his 86kg frame. Because he exercised continuously during filming, they even had to reshoot earlier scenes because they didn’t match later takes.
when the first superman movie came out, reeve became an instant megastar! not wanting to lose his star power, the studios had him return to the role three times.
a fall from a horse would change reeve’s life
On May 27, 1995, Reeve’s world changed. Reeve was an accomplished horseman and that day he was participating in an equestrian competition.
mounting their horse, male, they jumped the first two fences of the course and rode to the third. for some reason, when they reached the fence, the horse refused to jump and stopped suddenly.
reeve shot off his horse. His hands somehow got tangled in his reins and he landed head first on the other side of the fence.
The impact shattered the top two vertebrae in her spine, meaning her skull and spine were no longer connected. this is what some doctors refer to as a hangman’s fracture (sometimes causing death by asphyxiation).
reeve remained in intensive care for five weeks while battling several life-threatening complications.
When he recovered, doctors told him his injury had caused paralysis from the shoulders down. he would no longer feel sensation in 90% of his body and he would no longer be able to breathe on his own and would need to use a ventilator.
robin williams helped reeve recover
after his accident, reeve was preparing to undergo an operation that would reattach his skull to his spine, an operation so risky that he only had a 50% chance of survival.
This, of course, was a very difficult time for Reeve, as the weight of the operation played on his mind. He later revealed the person who got him through this moment: his close friend, the late actor Robin Williams.
“I lay on my back, frozen, unable to stop myself from thinking the darkest thoughts,” reeve said.
“Then, in a particularly somber moment, the door was flung open and a stocky guy in a blue surgical cap and yellow surgical gown and glasses rushed in, speaking with a Russian accent. he announced that he was my proctologist (rectal doctor) and that he had to examine me immediately.”
williams was reprising the character he played in the movie ‘nine months’.
“For the first time since the accident, I laughed. my old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”
williams and reeve had a long and close friendship. They met at the Julliard School for Drama in New York, where they were the only two students to enter the Advanced Program.
after reeve’s passing, williams dedicated his award at the golden globes to his old friend.
“chris reeve, i miss you. May flights of angels sing your rest, sweet prince,” she said.
reeve hoped to walk again
Throughout his life, Christopher Reeve spoke publicly about his desire to walk again by the time he turned 50.
This claim was not always welcomed by doctors, scientists, and disability advocates, who said it gave false hope to others with spinal cord injuries.
This is because when most parts of the body are injured, they can regenerate, but the spinal cord cannot. Still, Reeve made some amazing progress.
about five to seven years after his accident and after trying different treatments, he began to see slight but noticeable changes.
Although he never achieved his goal of walking again, he did regain some movement in his fingers and toes, could feel a pinprick anywhere on his body, and could tell the difference between hot and cold temperatures.
reeve became a fierce advocate for people with disabilities
After his accident, Reeve became the leading advocate for spinal cord injury research in the United States.
He also worked tirelessly to advance medical advances, especially controversial stem cell research. His hope was that one day they would find a cure for paralysis and other diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
“When John Kennedy promised that by the late 1960s we would put a man on the moon,” Reeve told “Time” magazine, “everyone, including scientists, shook their heads in dismay. but we did. we can also heal spinal cord injuries, if the will exists. what was possible in outer space is possible in inner space.”
one of his many legacies is the christopher & dana reeve foundation, which has raised tens of millions of dollars for research. he also opened the christopher and dana reeve paralysis resource center, which is dedicated to teaching people with paralysis to live more independently.
Although her dream of being able to cure paralysis is not yet a reality, you never know what the future holds.
there is an urban legend of a superman curse
we don’t believe in curses, but superman’s curse is famous.
Conspiracy theorists believe that a curse caused several actors who played the role of Superman to die unexpectedly, suffer accidents or experience misfortune.
It is said that the curse is now so famous that producers find it difficult to cast actors for superman roles.
Christopher Reeve’s life is a big part of this conspiracy theory, but so is George Reeves (pictured, but not related to Christopher). george reeves played the man of steel on tv, but days before they were to get married, he died from a gunshot wound. the death was ruled a suicide, but controversy surrounds his death.
apparently other people involved in the movies have also been “victims” of the curse, including stagehands, family members, and co-stars.
There were even reports that Kate Bosworth, who played Lois Lane in the 2006 film Superman Returns, blamed her breakup with Orlando Bloom on the curse!
The logical explanation is that, of course, accidents happen. as the superman story has been around for many years, you would expect to see a number of misfortunes during this time, and actually the level of misfortune has been shown to be the same as what you would see in a random selection of people.
he and his wife both died young
In early October 2004, Christopher Reeve was being treated for an infected pressure sore, a common complication in people with spinal cord injuries.
On October 10, he was given an antibiotic to treat the infection, but that night he went into cardiac arrest. he slipped into a coma and passed away 18 hours later at the age of 52.
His wife, Dana, ran the Christopher Reeve Foundation after his death. Although she did not smoke, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and she died at age 44 on March 6, 2006. After her death, the foundation was renamed Christopher & dana reeve foundation.
Today, all three of Reeve’s children, Matthew, Alexandra, and William, serve on the board of directors of Christopher & dana reeve foundation.