Signed Photo as “Superman”
An original color 8″ x 10″ glossy lab print of Superman inscribed and signed “To Joe from Christopher Reeve” in black Sharpie. With auction COA.
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) was an American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter. He achieved stardom for his acting achievements, including his notable motion picture portrayal of the fictional character Superman.
Reeve found his passion in 1962 at age nine when he was cast in an amateur version of the play The Yeomen of the Guard; it was the first of many student plays. He had his pick of numerous Ivy League schools for which he had been accepted and chose Cornell, joining the theater department and acting in a number of well-received plays. In the fall of his freshman year, Reeve received a letter from Stark Hesseltine, a high-powered agent who had discovered Robert Redford and represented such actors as Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon and Richard Chamberlain. Hesseltine had seen Reeve in A Month in the Country at Harvard Summer Repertory Theater when he was just 16, and wanted to represent him. The two met and decided that instead of dropping out of school, Reeve could come to New York once a month to meet casting agents and producers to find work for the summer vacation.
In 1973, around two thousand students auditioned for twenty places in the freshman class at the famed Juilliard School. Reeve’s audition was in front of ten faculty members, including John Houseman, who had just won an Academy Award for The Paper Chase. Reeve and fellow actor Robin Williams were the only students selected for Juilliard’s Advanced Program.
After countless productions that garnered him great reviews and lots of attention, agent Stark Hesseltine told Reeve that he had been asked to audition for the leading role as Clark Kent/Superman in the big budget film, Superman: The Movie (1978). Lynn Stalmaster, the casting director, put Reeve’s picture and resume on the top of the pile three separate times, only to have the producers throw it out each time. Through Stalmaster’s persistent pleading, a meeting between director Richard Donner, producer Ilya Salkind and Reeve was set in January 1977 at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The morning after the meeting, Reeve was sent a 300-page script. He was thrilled that the script took the subject matter seriously, and that Richard Donner’s motto was verisimilitude. Reeve immediately flew to London for a screen test, and on the way was told that Marlon Brando was going to play Jor-El and Gene Hackman was going to play Lex Luthor. Reeve still did not think he had much of a chance. After the screen test, his driver said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you’ve got the part.”
Reeve was a talented all-around athlete. Portraying the role of Superman would be a stretch for the young actor, but he was tall enough for the role and had the necessary blue eyes and handsome features. However, his physique was slim. He refused to wear fake muscles under the suit, and instead went through an intense two-month training regimen supervised by former British weightlifting champion David Prowse, the man under the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars films. The training regime consisted of running in the morning, followed by two hours of weightlifting and ninety minutes on the trampoline. In addition, Reeve doubled his food intake and adopted a high protein diet. He put on thirty pounds of muscle to his thin 190-pound frame. He later made even higher gains for Superman III (1983), though for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) he decided it would be healthier to focus more on cardiovascular workouts.
Reeve was never a Superman or comic book fan, though he had watched Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. However, he found that the role offered a suitable challenge because it was a dual role. He said, “There must be some difference stylistically between Clark and Superman. Otherwise, you just have a pair of glasses standing in for a character.” He based his portrayal of Clark Kent on Cary Grant in his role in Bringing up Baby.
Following the first Superman movie, Reeve found that Hollywood producers wanted him to be an action star. He later said, “I found most of the scripts of that genre poorly constructed, and I felt the starring roles could easily be played by anyone with a strong physique.” In addition, he did not feel that he was right for the other films he was offered, and turned down the lead roles in American Gigolo, The World According to Garp, Splash, Fatal Attraction, Pretty Woman, Romancing the Stone, Lethal Weapon and Body Heat. His close friend Katharine Hepburn recommended Reeve to director Roger Donaldson for the role of Fletcher Christian in a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty entitled The Bounty, starring Anthony Hopkins. After considering it, Reeve decided that he would be miscast, and Donaldson went with his second choice, Mel Gibson.
Reeve took up horse riding in 1985 after learning to ride for the film Anna Karenina. He trained at Martha’s Vineyard, and by 1989 he began eventing. As with every other sport and activity in which he participated (sailing, scuba diving, skiing, aviation, windsurfing, cycling, gliding, parasailing, mountain climbing, baseball, tennis), he took horse riding seriously and was intensely competitive with it.
On May 27, 1995, Reeve became a quadriplegic after being thrown from his horse in an eventing competition in Culpeper, Virginia. He required a wheelchair and breathing apparatus for the rest of his life. He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries, and for human embryonic stem cell research afterward. He founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.
In early October 2004, Reeve was being treated for a pressure wound that was causing a systemic infection called sepsis, a complication that he had experienced many times before. On October 9, he went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for the infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. Eighteen hours later, on October 10, 2004, Reeve died of heart failure at the age of 52.
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