DC Comics’ most revered superhero, Superman has gone through different incarnations over the decades not only in the comic book pages but also on-screen. His latest avatar on the big-screen being the brooding, masculine Henry Cavill in Zack Synder’s rebooted Man of Steel saga. However the one Superman that still holds a special place within our hearts is also the one who brought Superman to life for the first time on the big screen, Christopher Reeve.
At 6 ft 4 inches, with blue eyes and ridiculously handsome features, Christopher Reeve played the Man of Steel that won countless hearts. Today would have marked the 63rd birthday of this great superhero who at the young age of 25 back in 1977 took on the iconic role of Clark Kent/Superman alongside the then superstars, Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.
After the tragic accident at the equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia 1995 where Christopher Reeve was thrown off a horse, the actor became a quadriplegic and required a wheel-chair and a portable ventilator for the rest of his life. He died on 10 October at the age of 52 but not before expanding his encouragement and love to all those suffering from similar spinal cord injuries. He founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Centre for human embryonic stem-cell research and used all his stardom to bring the world’s focus on spinal cord injuries.
We at TheGraphicSlate.com extend a small tribute to the late American actor, reliving the Superman he brought alive on the big-screen.
The first flight as Superman
Christopher Reeve donned the Superman cape in 1978’s Superman: The Movie, 1980’s Superman II, 1983’s Superman III, and 1987’s Superman IV. However, back in 1977, the tall young Christopher Reeve was initially rejected thrice by the producers of Superman (1978) until he landed up for an audition where he added his own charisma to the role and bagged the chance to put on the tights. He was reported quoting that, “By the late 1970s the masculine image had changed. Now it was acceptable for a man to show gentleness and vulnerability. I felt that the new Superman ought to reflect that contemporary male image.” In 1978, Superman hit the theatres and instantly became a roaring success grossing over $300 million. Not only did this movie pave way for successive sequels but also revived the acceptance to the comic-adapted genre of movies which had long been dormant and neglected. Reeve’s performance was greatly marveled at and he also won a BAFTA Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.
Building up for the Man of Steel
Although Reeve had a towering personality, he was still quite under-weight and slim for the role. Being an athlete, he refused to wear any fake muscles under the Superman suit and took upon himself to beef up as the Man of Steel the world remembers him to be. Though back then the audiences weren’t finicky about the six-pack abs and chiseled muscles, Reeve accomplished a fair job in portraying the Kryptonian superhero. Reports confirmed that Reeve added thirty pounds to his frame through rigorous training regimes and a disciplined diet. The results were evident and there was absolutely no denying in the way Christopher’s Superman was saving the world in all of the four movies he played the superhero.
From Superman to Clark Kent… and back!
At the time when Reeve was in college, Cornell University, he was working as a professional actor and during his final year he was one of the two students selected (Robin Williams was the other) to study at Julliard School of Performing Arts. Although his Greek-god looks are irreplaceable for Superman, his brilliant acting performances too brought a charm to the character of Superman who also portrays his alter-ego, Clark Kent. His performance in Superman – The Movie was so critically applauded that Newsweek reported, “Christopher Reeve’s entire performance is a delight. Ridiculously good-looking, with a face as sharp and strong as an axe blade, his bumbling, fumbling Clark Kent and omnipotent Superman are simply two styles of gallantry and innocence.” Reeve’s take on the dual role was to achieve a different style altogether between Superman and Clark and to not just don a pair of spectacles standing for the character. Even in Superman III, the junkyard scene where an evil Superman battles Clark Kent while depicting Superman’s internal conflicts, the dual sides Reeve portrays was highly praised.
Homage to the original Man of Steel
Post Christopher Reeve’s take on Superman, many actors have tried donning the red cape but none have reached the depth of the character and achieved fame as the loved Kryptonian Reeve accomplished. Over the last decade various filmmakers both on the small as well as the big-screen have paid homage to Reeve. The TV-show Smallville that ran 10 seasons brought Reeve back on the screen as Doctor Virgil Swann in a couple of episodes. Bryan Singer’s take on the Man of Steel in Superman Returns (2006) had Brandon Routh take on the tights and portray a Superman so very closely followed by Christopher’s version. It is speculated that in the latest Superman reboot, Man of Steel (2013) directed by Zack Synder, Christopher Reeve’s cameo was superimposed over Henry Cavill’s face in the scene where Superman flies up into General Zod’s gravity beam.
Christopher Reeve’s Superman saga grossed over $600 million world-wide with each sequel failing to outshine the previous, but with every film Christopher Reeve left a mark deep enough in hearts of his fans, which no other actor has been able to replicate. True, Brandon Routh brought a similar friendly superhero savior look to Superman Returns and Henry Cavill flaunts the fierce and rock-solid Man of Steel personality, however neither has crossed the bar, Reeve set for Superman.
Happy Birthday, Christopher Reeves. Rest in Peace.