On October 10, 2004, actor Christopher Reeve died at age 52 after spending years as a quadriplegic following a devastating accident where he was thrown from his horse. Here are five things you probably didn't know about this real-life Superman...
He Was Selected Over Many Famous Actors to Play the Role of Superman Christopher Reeve was chosen as the lead role in Superman in 1978, and he beat out around 200 others who were vying for this coveted spot in the movie. The shortlist held by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind included the likes of Al Pacino, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman. Even actor Dustin Hoffman was considered, and he did turn down the role of Superman’s arch-rival, Lex Luthor, preferring to work on another film instead.
Darth Vader Trained Reeve for the Part of Superman Reeve is known to have worn a bulky Shetland sweater when he auditioned for the part of Superman, but it didn’t fool anyone into thinking that he wasn’t thin. David Prowse, who played the imposing Darth Vader in Star Wars, instituted a weight-training regimen to bulk Reeve up to fit the role, and Reeve, originally at 170 pounds at a height of 6’5” beefed up to 212 pounds of pure muscle. Prowse must have been really good at his job because Reeve accomplished all this in about six weeks.
Reeve Was Paid a Pittance Compared to Other Actors in Superman Superman may have had the bulging muscles and strength, but Reeve was paid a pittance for his role compared to some others, and it’s apparent in the opening credits that Marlin Brando and Gene Hackman are given higher billing. Reeve earned only $250,00 for Superman: The Movie and for starring in Superman II. On the other hand, Brando ended up being paid $14 million for his 10 minutes of air time, and Gene Hackman was paid $2 million for performing in the role of Lex Luthor.
His Riding Accident Severed His Head Away From His Spine Reeve had recently started riding when he was participating at a Culpeper, Virginia, event on May 27, 1995, and was thrown over the head of his horse after it refused to take a jump. Although Reeve was wearing a helmet, he landed on his head, which shattered two vertebrae in his neck. The accident left Reeve paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors had to surgically reconnect his head to his spine.
Reeve Became a Real-Life Superhero Following Reeve’s accident, he and his wife set up a foundation to raise money to research finding a cure for those who suffered spinal cord injuries and to install ramps and other items that would be helpful. Reeve realized that because he was a well-known celebrity, he could use his stardom to improve conditions for others who suffered from paralysis. Reeve used that power well by urging Congress to provide support for research into stem cell therapies and by talking to Americans at home during the Academy Awards ceremony.