Christopher Reeve Biography

Christopher Reeve was an American actor of the ‘Superman’ fame. Check out this biography to know about her childhood, family life, achievements and other facts related to her life.

Quick Facts

Birthday: September 25, 1952

Nationality: American

Famous: Actors Directors

Died At Age: 52

Sun Sign: Libra

Born in: Mount Kisco, New York, United States

Famous as: Actor


Spouse/Ex-: Dana Reeve (m. 1992–2004)

children: Alexandra Reeve, Matthew Reeve, William Reeve

Died on: October 10, 2004

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

U.S. State: New Yorkers

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Christopher Reeve was a legendary American actor, director, writer, producer and activist who rose to prominence for his perfect portrayal of the DC Comic book superhero, ‘Superman’. With deep blue eyes, towering height and athletic built, Reeve played the role of a superhero with utmost ease and élan. Born in an upper-class household, Reeve was bit by the acting bug early in his life. It was while studying at Cornell University that Reeve took up acting professionally. He made his Broadway debut and soon was asked to play the lead character of Clark Kent/Superman. Over the years, apart from the Superman series, Reeve showed his brilliance as an actor in various films including ‘The Remains of the Dark’, ‘Rear Window’ and so on. Acting apart, Reeve was a licensed pilot and flew solo across the Atlantic twice. He was also an active campaigner of various issues related to health and society. It was a tragic accident during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia that left him as a quadriplegic. However, ‘superman’ that he was, he did not let his physical impairment come in between his acting and activism. He founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation and lobbied for issues related to spinal cord injuries and human embryonic stem cell research.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Christopher Reeve was born on September 25, 1952 in New York City to Barbara Pitney and Franklin D’Olier Reeve. While his mother was a journalist, his father served as a teacher, novelist, poet and scholar. He had a younger brother, Benjamin. His parents divorced when he was young. Reeve and his brother moved with their mother who remarried Tristam B Johnson in 1959.
  • Reeve attended Princeton Day School. Academically brilliant, he excellent in athletics and theatre as well. Such as his brilliance in sports that he was on the honor roll and played soccer, baseball, tennis, and hockey.
  • At the age of nine, Reeve found his passion for acting after he was cast in an amateur version of the play, ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’. By 1967, he was working as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The following year, he received an offer to work professionally at Harvard Summer Repertory Theatre Company. He graduated from Princeton Day School in 1970.
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  • Post graduation, Reeve acted in plays in Boothbay, Maine and planned to go to New York City to find a career in theatre. However, upon his mother’s insistence, he applied for college and accepted an offer from Cornell University.
  • At Cornell, Reeve continued to fuel his passion for dramatics and theatre. He acted in several plays including ‘Waiting for Godot’, ‘Segismundo in Life Is a Dream’, ‘Hamlet in Rosencrantz’, ‘Guildenstern Are Dead’ and The Winter's Tale.
  • Impressed by his acting talent, Stark Hesseltine, a high-powered agent, proposed to establish Reeve’s acting career and represent him. Monthly visits to New York City and meetings with casting agents and producers helped Reeve find his first work in a production of ‘Forty Carats’ with Eleanor Parker.
  • Artistically endowed, Reeve soon received a full-season contract with the San Diego Shakespeare Festival. Reeve played prominent roles in several plays including ‘Richard III’, ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, and ‘Love's Labour's Lost’.
  • In his final year at college, Reeve took a three-month leave of absence. He travelled to Glasgow wherein he immersed himself in the country’s theatre culture. He then moved to Paris and absorbed European theatre culture, keenly observing the performances by established stage actors and imbibing in the goodness. Having engrossed everything, he returned to US.
  • Having found his real calling in acting, Reeve convinced theatre director Jim Clause and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences that he couldn’t comply by the educational requirements at Cornell University and instead would achieve more as a student in Juilliard than at Cornell. Following this, an arrangement was made according to which his first year at Juilliard was counted as his senior year at Cornell.
  • At Juilliard, Reeve befriended Robin Williams for life. The two were the only students selected for Juilliard's Advanced Program. As per the arrangement, Reeve completion of the first year at Juilliard meant the completion of his graduation from Cornell University.
  • In 1975, Reeve successfully auditioned for the Broadway play ‘A Matter of Gravity’. His performance earned him the attention of Katherine Hepburn who helped him bag a role in the CBS Network’s ‘Love of Life’. For the next one year, Reeve juggled between theatre and television. His Broadway performance earned him critical appreciation.
  • Reeve's made his Hollywood debut with a small role as a submarine officer in the 1978 naval disaster ‘Gray Lady Down’. He then acted in the play ‘My Life’ at the Circle Repertory Company with friend William Hurt.
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  • It was while performing in for the show ‘My Life’ that Reeve auditioned for a lead role in the big budget fantasy action film, ‘Superman’. Previously rejected, he finally bagged the role after weeks of speculation. Though Reeve athletic background, soaring height, deep blue eyes and handsome features stood in favour of him, his lean figure came in as a hindrance. Refusing to wear fake muscles, he underwent an intensely strict two-month training regimen.
  • ‘Superman’ served as the magnum opus of Reeve’s career. A major worldwide blockbuster, the film grossed more than $300 million worldwide. He instantly gained an international star status as critics and audience unanimously praised his act as Clark Kent/Superman. The convincing finesse that Reeve brought into his characters, easily switching between the bumbling, fumbling Clark Kent and omnipotent Superman were noted as two styles of gallantry and innocence in one role.
  • Following the magnanimous success of ‘Superman’, it was only natural for the sequels to follow soon. Meanwhile, he made appearance in several television shows including ‘Smallville’, ‘The Muppet Show’. Before ‘Superman II’ hit the screens, Reeve was seen playing the character of Richard Collier in the 1980 romantic fantasy ‘Somewhere in Time’. Though the movie failed commercially, it became a cult film 10 years later. It was also Reeve first taste of disappointment and failure.
  • Reeve next screen outing was for the dark comedy ‘Deathtrap’. The film was well received and earned him rave reviews. He soon followed it up with the first sequel to the ‘Superman’ series, ‘Superman II’. The film received positive reviews from the critics, who praised the visual effects and story. It grossed about $190 million at the box office.
  • Following ‘Superman II’, Reeve found role of Basil Ransom in ‘The Bostonians’. The film was brilliantly received, both critically and popularly. A stream of film offers came by Reeve as he found himself in several noteworthy projects including ‘The Aviator’, ‘The Aspern Papers’, ‘The Royal Family’, ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and ‘Street Smart’.
  • In 1983, he starred in the third edition of the ‘Superman’ series, ‘Superman III’. Though the film was panned critically, Reeve's portrayal of the evil Superman was highly praised. The dismissal performance of ‘Superman III’ was closely followed by ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’ which failed equally disastrously. It became the lowest grossing Superman film to date.
  • Reeve career seemed to have hit the lowest bottom. His ‘Superman’ flicks had failed and so were his attempts at doing anything else. Following the dismissal reception of his film ‘Switching Channels’, Reeve thought it to be the end of his film career. He spent the next couple of years mostly doing plays.
  • Towards the late 1980s, Reeve concentrated his energies on other areas. He took horse riding lessons, involved himself in several environmental friendly organizations, became a part of governmental councils, took part in political affairs and so on.
  • In 1990, Reeve returned to cinema with the Civil War film ‘The Rose and the Jackal’. He next starred in the classic ‘The Remains of the Day’. The film was a super hit and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. Alongside films, he made his presence felt in television as well in several television shows including ‘Bump in the Night’.
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  • A horse-riding accident impaired his life in the 1990s. After a major surgery and months of recuperation at rehabilitation centre, he acted again in films, including a television production ‘Rear Window’ and made his directorial debut with television films on health themes, ‘In the Gloaming’ and ‘The Brooke Ellison Story’.
  • In 1998, his autobiography ‘Still Me’ appeared. After spending eleven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, it eventually won Reeve a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
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Major Works
  • Reeve most iconic career work came with the Superman film series, wherein he played lead role of ‘Superman/Clark Kent’. Reeve did full justice to his role as Superman and Clark Kent, perfectly switching between the two vastly different personalities. The film garnered immense success and was a major worldwide blockbuster, grossing more than $300 million worldwide. He instantly gained an international star status.
Awards & Achievements
  • 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.
  • A licensed pilot, Reeve used his flying skills to reach Chile where he led a protest march to safeguard the lives of people. For his heroics, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Bernardo O'Higgins Order, the highest Chilean distinction for foreigners. He also received the Obie Prize and the Annual Walter Brielh Human Rights Foundation award.
  • His autobiography ‘Still Me’ won him a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
  • He received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the television remake of ‘Rear Window’.
  • Other awards won by him include the Emmy Award in 1997, Screen Actor Guild Award in 1998 and Lasker Award in 2003.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Reeve in his lifetime dated quite a few women including Katherine Hepburn before finally tying the knot with Gae Exton. The couple was blessed with two children, Matthew Exton Reeve and Alexandra Exton Reeve. Reeve and Exton headed for splits in 1987.
  • In April 1992, Reeve remarried Dana Morosini after months of dating. The couple welcomed their first child, William Elliot ‘Will’ Reeve on June 7, 1992.
  • Reeve met with a serious horse riding accident in 1995 that left him paralysed from neck down and wheelchair bound. Such was the intensity of the accident that he broke his first and second vertebrae thus detaching his skull from his spinal cord.
  • Reeve underwent a crucial surgery that though saved his life, left him physically impaired for the rest of his life. He also required a respirator to assist his breathing from thence on. He stayed for months at the Kessler Rehabilitation Centre, recuperating from his injuries.
  • Reeve used his celebrity status for several philanthropic causes throughout his lifetime. He was a part of various charitable organizations and campaigns. Following his injury, he became involved in campaigns supporting handicapped children and paraplegics. In 1998, he founded the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation to promote research into spinal cord injuries. He even lobbied for expanded federal funding on embryonic stem cell research.
  • Reeve breathed his last on October 10, 2004 from cardiac arrest. His wife, Dana passed away in 2006 from cancer.

1. The Remains of the Day (1993)

  (Drama, Romance)

2. Somewhere in Time (1980)

  (Drama, Romance, Fantasy)

3. Superman (1978)

  (Drama, Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure)

4. Deathtrap (1982)

  (Crime, Comedy, Thriller, Mystery)

5. Noises Off... (1992)


6. Superman II (1980)

  (Adventure, Action, Sci-Fi)

7. The Brooke Ellison Story (2004)

  (Biography, Drama)

8. Above Suspicion (1995)

  (Drama, Thriller)


Primetime Emmy Awards
1997 Outstanding Informational Special Without Pity: A Film About Abilities (1996)
BAFTA Awards
1979 Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Superman (1978)
Grammy Awards
1999 Best Spoken Word Album Winner

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- November 13, 2017
Christopher Reeve

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