Biography of christopher reeves part ii


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Biography of christopher reeves part ii

  1. 1. After the huge success of 1978s Superman: The Movie, people invariably referred to Reeveas Superman. Reeve downplayed the disdain he felt for that comment: "As far as Imconcerned there is Superman and then theres Christopher Reeve, and Im not interested inhaving them merge. What Im interested in is acting... Ive been working since I wasfourteen; I studied at Juilliard. I wasnt Superman before and I dont plan to be Supermanafter." He was a very hot young star at that point and was offered the lead in several majorfilms including American Gigolo and Body Heat. Instead Reeve chose for his next project thevery different Somewhere in Time.While promoting the movie at the time of its release, Reeve said, "Somewhere In Time,while it errs on the side of pretentiousness, is an absolutely honest attempt to create anold-fashioned romance. Its based on love rather than on sex or X-rated bedroom scenes. Idont know how to talk about a love story without getting all gooey about it, but the scriptexcited me because of the situation of the leading character... His problem struck me as thatof many people. Theyve got everything going for them, or so they say, except for a realcommitment, a real love." In 1980, Reeve spent the summer doing theater in Williamstown.He worked on Superman II and the broadway production of Fifth of July.In 1987 Christopher Reeve and Gae Exton parted unmarried, but keeping joint custody ofthe two children - not an easy arrangement with the Atlantic Ocean between the twoparents. During that summer in Williamstown, Reeve met his soul mate, Dana Morosini,where she was performing in a cabaret.
  2. 2. It was love at first sight for Reeve but Dana was not impressed. Her friend, Bonnie Monte,recalled: " Hes going to be an arrogant, stuck-up movie star idiot, and I dont want anythingto do with him, Dana said. Reeve had to fight for her, and he did. In four months they wereliving together, and in 1992 they were married and had a son, William "Will" Elliot born onJune 7, 1992.Reeve went on to appear in a total of 17 feature films, a dozen television movies, and about150 plays. In addition, he hosted or narrated numerous documentaries and televisionspecials, many of which involve interests of his such as aviation or stunt work. His strikinggood looks and imposing physique were reminisent of Hollywoods classic leading men likeJohn Wayne who, after meeting Reeve at the 1979 Academy Awards, turned to Cary Grantand said: "This is our new man. Hes taking over."But rather than limit himself to the heroic roles for which he seemed so well suited, Reevefrequently sought the challenge of parts that cast him against type - playing characters thatwere gay, sociopathic or villanous. He turned down big paychecks to appear in small filmswith directors like Sydney Lumet or James Ivory, whom he greatly respected and workedwith in The Bostonians and The Remains of the Day. But he has always preferred the stage,considering it an actors greatest test. In addition to his early stage work, Reeve appeared inThe Marriage of Figaro in New York, Summer and Smoke with Christine Lahti in Los Angeles,and he toured with Love Letters in several major cities.
  3. 3. He also starred in a well-received production of The Aspern Papers in Londons West Endwith Vanessa Redgrave and Dame Wendy Hiller. But no matter what he was doing at thetime, Reeve invariably made every effort to spend summers at the Williamstown TheaterFestival.In addition to his acting career, Reeve was extremely active in political causes. A liberalDemocrat, Reeve said "I became politically active in high school, protesting the VietnamWar. And when I went to Cornell, I became involved in environmental issues. And then, asan adult, I became involved in First Amendment issues and funding for the arts..."
  4. 4. Some of the causes Reeve supported were Amnesty International, Save the Children, TheNational Resources Defense Council, The Lindbergh Foundation, The Environmental AirForce, and People for the American Way. He was a founding member and past president ofthe Creative Coalition, an advocacy group of artists, and was one of the NationalEndowment For The Arts most passionate supporters.In 1987, he faced tear gas and real personal danger when Chilean writer Ariel Dorfmanasked him to travel to Chile and lead a demonstration in support of 77 artists targeted withdeath warrants by the Pinochet government. For his successful efforts to free the artists,Reeve received a special Obie Award in 1988 and an annual award from the Walter BriehlHuman Rights Foundation.
  5. 5. The sobering experience also reinforced his classical music several hours each day andcommitment to advocacy work, which by said in an interview that had he not beenthe late 1980s was competing with his an actor, he would have liked to have beencareer for his time. Environmental issues a professional musician.were of particular interest to Reeve. Headdressed the United Nations toencourage the banning of drift net tunafishing and he played a crucial role insecuring a landmark agreement to protectthe Hudson River and New York Citysreservoir system.Christopher Reeve approached recreationwith the same dedication and intensitythat he brought to his professional andadvocacy work. Reeve set obstacles forhimself and then worked to overcomethem. He believed that progress in oneslife comes from creating your ownchallenges and then doing the best youpossibly can to succeed. An accomplishedpianist, he composed and practiced
  6. 6. But Reeve was also a superb athlete whodid his own stunts in films and an avidoutdoorsman. He earned his pilots licensein his early twenties and twice flew soloacross the Atlantic in a small plane. He alsoflew gliders and was an expert sailor, scubadiver, and skier. By the 1990s, horses hadbecome his passion. He loved the sportcalled "eventing" which combined theprecision of dressage with the excitementof cross-country and show jumping.In May of 1995, it was during the cross- Upon regaining consciousness and realizingcountry portion of such an event in the gravity of his situation, ReeveCulpeper, Virginia, that Reeves wondered to his wife Dana if "maybe weThroughbred, Eastern Express, balked at a should just let me go." Whereupon Danarail jump, pitching his rider forward. uttered the words that gave him the will toReeves hands were tangled in the horses live: "But youre still you and I love you."bridle and he landed head first, fracturing After 6 months at Kessler Rehabilitationthe uppermost vertebrae in his spine. Institute in New Jersey, Reeve returned toReeve was instantly paralyzed from the his home in Bedford, New York, whereneck down and unable to breathe. Prompt Dana had completed major renovations tomedical attention saved his life and accomodate his needs and those of hisdelicate surgery stabilized the shattered electric wheelchair which he operated byC1-C2 vertebrae and literally reattached sipping or puffing on a straw.Reeves head to his spine.
  7. 7. Ironically, this most self-reliant and active of men was now facing life almost completelyimmobilized and dependent on others for his most basic needs. In addition, his conditionput him at constant risk for related illnesses - pneumonia, infections, blood clots, woundsthat do not heal, and a dangerous condition involving blood pressure known as autonomicdisreflexia - all of which Reeve would experience in the coming years.Even while at Kessler, Christopher Reeve began to use the international interest in hissituation to increase public awareness about spinal cord injury and to raise money forresearch into a cure. A 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters drew huge ratings and manyother television appearances would follow. Never a man to turn from a challenge, Reeveaccepted invitations to appear at the Academy Awards in 1996, to host the Paralympics inAtlanta, and to speak at the Democratic National Convention in August of that year. At suchhigh-profile appearances Reeve faced risk of embarrassment if he could not speak becausehis tracheostomy tube was slightly out of position or if his body suddenly spasmed andjerked about uncontrollably (as it did just before the curtain went up at the Oscars).Despite enormous expenses related to his paralysis, Reeve was determined to be financiallyself-sufficient. A widespread rumor that his close friend, Robin Williams, had promised topay all his medical bills was publicly denied by both Williams and Reeve. Less than a yearafter his injury, Reeve began to accept invitations for speaking engagements.
  8. 8. Traveling with a team of aides and nurses he crisscrossed the country, speaking at the PeterLowe Success Seminars, at universities, benefits, and at many functions relating to disabilityissues. Reeves publicist Maggie Friedman, at the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation,said: "He speaks off the cuff, using no notes or teleprompter and most of the time he doesnot even dictate his thoughts to an assistant.“Reeve narrated an Emmy Award winning documentary for HBO called Without Pity: A FilmAbout Abilities which sensitively told the stories of a half-dozen disabled people and alsohosted a Canadian documentary about spinal cord injury called The Toughest Break. Hereturned to acting with a small but pivotol role in the CBS television movie A Step TowardTomorrow in 1996 starring Judith Light.
  9. 9. The next year Reeve made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed HBO short filmIn the Gloaming starring his good friend Glenn Close. Gloaming went on to receive fiveEmmy nominations and was the most honored film at the Cable ACE Awards in 1997,winning awards in four of the six categories it was nominated including best "Dramatic orTheatrical Special". Dana Reeve described In the Gloaming as "a godsend for Chris." Sheadded, "theres such a difference in his outlook, his health, his overall sense of well-beingwhen hes working at what he loves, which is creative work - directing a movie, or acting inone. It completely revitalizes him and feeds him." At these times "his health is at an all-timehigh, his blood gases are good, he seems to cure skin wounds faster, he sleeps better, helooks better. Its noticeable - its like being in love.“Reeves activism after becoming spinal cord injured originally involved bringing morescientists into neurological research to more quickly discover a cure along with doubling thebudget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a government agency in the executivebranch that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But hisexperiences with his own insurance company and, particularly, the experiences of otherpatients he had met at Kessler also led him to push for legislation that would raise the limiton catastrophic injury health coverage from $1 million to $10 million.Reeve accepted the positions of Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and ViceChairman of the National Organization on Disability. In partnership with philanthropist JoanIrvine Smith, he founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center in California and he created theChristopher Reeve Foundation in 1996 to raise research money and provide grants to localagencies which focus on quality of life for the disabled.
  10. 10. Reeves star power, along with marketing for research dollars, was reasons why spinal cordinjury research was given greater attention and more money allocated to the cause. In2000, Newsweek noted that, "Thanks to Christopher Reeve, spinal-cord injuries-which affect250,000 Americans-have won great attention, while mass killers like lung cancer and strokeattract relatively less." Reeve used the contacts he had made in Washington during his yearsof advocacy work to lead the fight to increase funding for spinal cord injury research which,despite recent breakthroughs by scientists, had previously received inadequate financialsupport. Reeve pointed out: "It is one thing to present legislators with statistics, but quiteanother to make them face real people who testify at congressional hearings or speak out inthe media." Reeve ultimately raised $55 million in research grants and more than $7 millionfor nonprofit organizations that still help improve the quality of life for people living withdisabilities.Because Reeve found the strength to use his tragedy to help others after facing thisdevastating life blow, there were many who came to believe that Reeve really wasSuperman. Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton eloquently described this in his Go Make A Lifesermon: "To see Reeve in a severely incapacitated state brought back memories of hisfamous acting roles as Superman and Clark Kent. Memory told me that Reeve could leap tallbuildings with a single bound as Superman. Also, I saw Christopher Reeve as a gem of aninvestigative reporter... Admittedly, Superman was make-believe... I concluded thatChristopher Reeve is Superman, right here, right now... Reeve shows us the power, thepossibilities and the results of a fierce and persistent commitment to growth anddevelopment.
  11. 11. With Gods help, Reeve is Superman Superman for real."because: 1. He survived the horse ridingaccident and challenged himself physically Meanwhile, life for the Reeve family wentduring countless months of painful physical on in the most normal way they couldtherapy. 2. Because he remained manage. With her husbands enthusiasticcommitted to his role as a loving husband support, Dana Reeve gradually resumedand doting father 3. Because he kept hope her singing and acting career. The pressalive in the face of injury and paralysis that and public sometimes labeled her "Saintcan destroy all hope-in the face of having Dana" or "Superwoman" and Dana told ato depend on his wife and many others to reporter from Parade magazine in 2005:feed, wash, change, move and carry him to "Initially I felt very uncomfortable withthe doctor. 4. Because he came to the that. There was nothing superhumanconclusion that God still had something for about standing by Chris.him to do... So, Christopher Reeve turnedhis focus away from his paralysis and beganfiguring out how he could live afresh.Reeve decided that a lot of people mightlike to hear his story. Instead of limiting thecommunication of his story to letters,books and videos subject to edit, Reevechose the lecture circuit. That meantshowing up in public, allowing the public togawk at his incapacity, talking about hiscondition and sharing lessons learned.Thus, Christopher Reeve has become
  12. 12. [ That compliment] always felt a little false. Like, whats so saintly about that? Lucky me. Im with him!" She laughed. "And I thought, Really my job here is to be the voice for the many, many spouses who are caregivers, who dont have the advantage of the world patting them on the back every day." Matthew and Alexandra visited with Christopher, Dana, and Will at the house in Westchester County when their school schedules allowed. The family continued its tradition of spending summers at the vacation home in Williamstown, Massachusetts, after Reeves injury. Reeve said: "This accident has been difficult for all of us. But it hasnt frightened anybody away. We all miss the activities. My daughter, Alexandra, and I loved to ride together. My son, Will, and I would play piano and sing together. Matthew and I loved to play tennis. We all used to sail together. Id be kidding you if I said I didnt miss that. Ultimately, you have to accept that being together is more important than doing together." In the years after his accident, Christopher Reeve gradually regained sensation in parts of his body - notably down the spine, in his left leg, and areas of the left arm. But he remained dependent on a ventilator to breathe and was unable to move any part of his body below the shoulders. His condition stabilized and in early 1998, after the taping of a television special to benefit his foundation, Reeves wife, Dana, described him as "very healthy and very busy". His compelling autobiography, Still Me, was released in April 1998 and quickly hit the bestseller lists. "Writing the book," Reeve said, "was one of the highlights of my life, before and after the accident." Seven months later, critics praised his talent and courage when Reeve reclaimed his leading-man status by starring in an updated version of Rear Window for ABC.
  13. 13. Around the time his second book, Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life, waspublished, Reeve regained the ability to move his index finger on one hand anddemonstrated that breakthrough on Larry Kings TV show. On February 28, 2003, Reevebecame the third person to receive the experimental treatment called diaphragm pacing vialaparoscopy to stimulate his phrenic nerve and allow him to breathe more easily without arespirator; although he continued to need the machines help while speaking."I have a creative life and a political life, and theyre both equally important" Reeve said.During a Washington Post Live Chat in 2000, Reeve said: "...And now that I am disabled, ofcourse my main focus is on the quality of life for all disabled people and doing everything Ican to help scientists make progress toward cures." Reeve further explained his personalpolitical preference for the Democrat party saying, "Actually, the Republicans have donemore for the disabled and for funding medical research over the past eight years than theDemocrats.But on many other issues, such as the environment, education, gun control, choice, Isupport the Democrats, and I am more sympathetic to their position... I would like to see aDemocratic Congress." After he was asked to run for Congress, Reeve decided against itbecause he would not have had the strength or health to do it. Reeve was in the forefront ofthose lobbying for embryonic stem cell research and he delighted in the controversy. WhenPaula Zahn asked him if he liked "tweaking" people, Reeve replied, "It is my favorite thing."Reeve continued to schedule many speaking engagements and fundraisers while looking tothe future with characteristic enthusiasm saying, "My spinal cord is ready below the injury.
  14. 14. Im realistically optimistic. I dont plan to spend the rest of my life like this." Although itrequired significant preparation, Reeves travels also took him abroad to Great Britain,Australia, and Israel.On May 3, 2002, the U.S. government opened the National Health Promotion andInformation Center for People With Paralysis, known as the Christopher and Dana ReeveParalysis Resource Center through a non-competitive cooperative agreement awarded tothe Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Its purpose is to provide information servicesto people nationwide who are newly paralyzed, have been living with paralysis, or are familymembers or caregivers. Reeve said, "One of the most disabling aspects of paralysis is thelack of resources and support necessary to get back into a world that has completelychanged for the paralyzed individual - both economically and socially." Reeve continued,"When somebody is first injured or as a disease progresses into paralysis, people dontknow where to turn. Dana and I wanted a facility that could give support and information topeople. With this new Center, were off to an amazing start." Dana Reeve later wrote thatshe had a soft spot for the quality-of-life grant programs and for the resource center,because its really the people part. "I was the one who figured out, Is there a wheelchairramp so that our family can get into this movie theater? I thought if thats hard for me, itsgot to be much harder for the majority of people out there." Creatively, at that time,Christopher Reeve had in the works movie projects to direct for ABC television on theinspirational lives of Jeffrey Galli, Brooke Ellison, and Robert McCrum.
  15. 15. He also was the Creative Consultant for Freedom: A History of US, a 16-part miniseries onpublic television about American freedom that aired in early 2003. In February 2003 hehanded the Superman torch over to Tom Welling on the popular science fiction dramaSmallville playing Dr. Virgil Swann, a character created just for him. In March of that sameyear, he guest starred on The Practice in the episode "Burnout". Finally, Chris reprised therole of Dr. Swann one last time in April 2004 in his last acting appearance.Reeves oldest son, Matthew Exton Reeve graduated from Brown University in May 2002with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in art semiotics. A filmmaker, Matthew wascontracted to document and direct his fathers progress in recovery for three televisionspecials which premiered around the world in 2002 and 2003. The first of three specials,airing around Reeves 50th birthday, showed him walking on a treadmill while suspendedfrom a special harness. The other two specials are not known to have been made orreleased. Reeves daughter Alexandra entered Yale University in Connecticut in 2001 andjoined the Yale Polo Squad with her fathers enthusiastic support. After graduating in 2005,she enrolled at Columbia University in the City of New York as a student in the School ofLaw. Young Will inherited his fathers love of ice hockey and watching his son play the gamebecame one of Reeves greatest pleasures after his injury. Will also has an interest in actingas well. Dana Reeve supplemented the family income by taking a number of acting andsinging jobs within commuting distance of their home and she co-hosted a daytime talkshow, Lifetime Live, for a season.
  16. 16. In early October 2004 Reeve was busy promoting The Brooke Ellison Story, which he haddirected, and Dana Reeve was appearing onstage in Los Angeles in Brooklyn Boy preparingto bringing the play to New York. It was the first time she had been away from her husbandand son for an extended period. At the time, Reeve was being treated for a pressure wound,a common complication for people with paralysis that he had experienced many timesbefore.The wound had become severely infected, resulting in a systemic infection; yet thereseemed no unusual cause for concern. On Saturday, October 9th, Reeve attended one ofWills hockey games. That night, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic. Hefell into a coma and was rushed to Northern Westchester Hospital. Dana Reeve would laterpoint out that Reeve had a history of being sensitive to drugs that were usually welltolerated by most people. With the help of Robin Williams wife, Dana was able to board aplane and rush cross country to join Alexandra and Will at her husbands bedside; arrivingshortly before his death on October 10. Christopher Reeve was 52 years old.On November 3, 2004, the board of directors of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundationunanimously elected Dana Reeve as their new chairperson and she dedicated herself tocarrying on her husbands work. Dana had been used to being in the background of herhusbands very public efforts, but as she said in May 2005: "Suddenly, I feel like I dont havethat choice anymore. I have to carry on his mission." Dana insisted on going over everygrant proposal, lobbied and endorsed politicians, was writing a second book, and madenational television appearances both solo and with her son, Will, four months after Chrissdeath and in the immediate time following her own mothers death. She made plans
  17. 17. to resume her singing career. But in an chemotherapy. Wearing a wig after herunbelievably cruel twist of fate, less than a hair fell out, Dana appeared upbeat as sheyear after Christopher Reeves death, his attended the annual Reeve Foundationbeloved wife was diagnosed with lung fundraiser in November 2005 and sangcancer. "What I didnt know is that lung "Now and Forever" in honor of their friend,cancer is the number one cancer," said Mark Messier, a retiring New York Ranger,Dana to Kathie Lee Gifford. "I was always at Madison Square Garden in Januarylooking for breast, ovarian and uterine, and 2006. Sadly, at the age of 44, Dana lost heryou think, Im a non-smoker and I live in battle with cancer on March 6, 2006. Shethe country, so Im good. So I am had made arrangements with family andcompletely shocked." She also talked about friends for the care and future of their 13-having a cough that lasted for weeks year-old son. Alexandra, Will, and Matthewleading her to get diagnosed: "I did, and arrived arm in arm to speak at a privatepeople were saying, Oh allergies, memorial service for Dana, as they hadallergies,...[The doctor] wasnt even going done less than 18 months earlier for theirto take a chest X-ray. father.He was like, youre healthy... and then itwas huge. I probably had it for about ayear." She fought the disease with grace,courage, and the humor that hadcharacterized both her and her husband asshe endured rigorous bouts of
  18. 18. Christopher Reeve left a body of artistic work that continues to inspire and entertain millions ofpeople. He also left a left a legacy that includes love of family, heightened awareness and fundingto help people dealing with disabilities, and therapy breakthroughs brought about by greaterfunding for spinal injury research. Donations to the Christopher Reeve Foundation have onlyincreased since the Reeves deaths; and in July 2006, Christophers adult children, Matthew andAlexandra, were added to its expanded board of directors. But perhaps most significant is theinspirational example described by Reeves mother, Barbara Johnson, in 2006: "I think one of themost important things that Chris did for many, many people was, after his accident and becominga quadriplegic, he showed them that there is life after a spinal cord injury or after a stroke. Youdont have to sit in the dark feeling sorry for yourself.I think that he touched many, many, many people and certainly that was an enormouscontribution to the quality of life of the people who had been afflicted with something asrestrictive or disabling as a spinal cord injury. He didnt just help quadriplegics like himself," addedJohnson. "I know for a fact that a lot of others were kind of led to thinking their way into ahappier, more productive life. And that may well be his most lasting contribution." POSTED BY ATTORNEY RENE G. GARCIA: For a free consultation please call us at 1-866- SCAFFOLD or 212-725-1313.