Christopher Reeve probably would have preferred to be only an actor. But it was his fate to be a Superman. On screen and off.
The actor who convinced movie audiences that a son of Krypton could fly and later inspired a world to believe that a paralyzed man could walk again,
died Sunday at a New York hospital, his publicist announced. He was 52.
Reeve, immobilized from the neck down in a 1995 horse-riding accident, fell into a coma Saturday at his New York home after experiencing cardiac
arrest. The film star was transported to the hospital, but never regained consciousness. His death, at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, was described as sudden.
In a statement, Reeve's wife, Dana Reeve, thanked the hospital and the family's staff of nurses and aides--"as well as the millions of fans from
around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years."
According to his publicist, Reeve had been troubled of late by a pressure wound that became severely infected. A pressure wound is a skin ulcer--a
common complication for persons confined to bed or unable to move on their own.
As late as last Tuesday, Reeve was on the road, in Chicago, for the cause he made his own in the last decade of his life: Spinal cord injury
"You know, they always say about Chicago--and that probably goes for the whole state [of Illinois], too--is that when ordinary people make up their
minds to get something done, they just go ahead and get it done," Reeve said at an appearance celebrating the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, per
As a crusader, Reeve got things done via his own organization, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, established after his life-altering
Reeve lobbied for funding for innovative medical procedures such as embryonic stem cell research. His fight was noted in Friday's presidential debate
by Senator John Kerry (news - web sites), who called Reeve a friend.
Before he became a catch-all inspirational figure, Reeve was best known for portraying no less than an American icon. Through four movies, great and
not so great, Reeve was the red-white-and-true Superman.
In 1976, the strapping, Juilliard-trained unknown, then 24, was plucked from a soap opera, Love of Life, and cast as the high-flying superhero. Though
entrusted with the Man of Steel's cape, he received just third billing in the 1978 movie, Superman, behind Marlon Brando (news), who played his
Kryptonian birth father, Kal-El, and Gene Hackman (news), who played his Earth-bound nemesis, Lex Luthor.
The original film is still considered a classic of the comic-book genre.
Reeve went on to headline three other Superman films: 1980's Superman II, 1983's Superman III and 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, on which he
also helped devise the story.
Stripped of the blue tights, Reeve struggled to establish an identity as a big-screen leading man. Arguably, his most successful non-Superman role
came in 1980's Somewhere in Time. Though not a box-office hit at the time of its release, the quaintly romantic time-travel movie subsequently became
a cult favorite.
Reeve also notably starred as an ethically compromised TV reporter in 1987's Street Smart, featuring an early career-making performance by Morgan
Freeman (news), and as a murder-minded would-be playwright in the 1982 adaptation of the Broadway play Deathtrap, opposite Michael Caine (news). He
also had a plum dramatic role in Merchant-Ivory's Oscar-nominated 1993 costume drama Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma
By the mid-1990s, Reeve's career was faltering. He was consigned to TV movies or movie supporting roles.
In 1995, he was featured in the horror remake Village of the Damned. One month after its release, on May 27, 1995, he was nearly killed when he was
thrown from his horse during an equestrian event in Virginia.
Reeve said he contemplated suicide in the days following the accident, but with his wife's support, he rallied.
Aside from his advocacy, Reeve resumed his Hollywood career in the wake of his fall, acting and directing a handful of made-for-TV projects since his
fall, including a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, which earned him a Screen Actors Guild (news - web sites) Award, and episodes of the WB's
Superman-themed series, Smallville. He won an Emmy for the 1996 special Without Pity: A Film About Abilities, which he narrated.
Reeve also won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 1999 for his inspirational memoir Still Me, which spent 11 weeks on the New York Times
Survivors include wife Dana and their son, Will, 11, and two children from his relationship with former model Gae Exton, Exton, Matthew, 25, and