for 28 November 1996. Updated every THURSDAY.

 

 

Superman Agonistes

 
A pocketful of kryptonite has given
Superman the kind of comeback that
Spin Doctors can only dream about
and real doctors could only spoil:
Getting crippled was the best damn
career move Reeve ever made.
 
Since being tossed by his horse
(named "Buck," of all things),
Reeve's filmic grade point average
has gone from B to A-list. While his
physical rehab moves along more
slowly than the plot of The Remains
of the Day (in which he played a
colorless retired American
politician who bought an old English
estate), Reeve's professional
makeover is going faster than a
speeding bullet. In the wake of his
May 1995 accident, big stars who had
previously closeted their affection
for Reeve have publicly paid
tribute: Robin Williams - who knew
him way back when at Juilliard! -
outed himself as Reeve's best friend
and, even more astoundingly, largely
refrained from doing shtick as he
described the actor's horrific
physical condition for Entertainment
Tonight.
 
Reeve, whose performances in such
cinematic cardinal sins as
Monsignor (in which he played a
boner-ridden, Mafia-connected man of
the cloth) had failed to elicit much
whoop-de-do from the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
nonetheless found himself on center
stage at this year's Oscars,
dissertating on Hollywood's
"courage" and topping an appearance
by semiparalyzed Kirk Douglas, who
had merely suffered a stroke in his
old age. In August, Reeve, a B-list
activist as well as actor, got to
play the Carnegie Hall of liberal
activism, the Democratic National
Convention. And, as Entertainment
Weekly noted, he is directing for
the first time - a picture about an
AIDS-stricken rich kid called In the
Gloaming.
 
Indeed, judging from the universally
accepted benchmark of George Jetson
journalism (the Nexis search),
Reeve's career has kicked into
hyperdrive since his accident.
During October 1994, when a fully
ambulatory Reeve was no doubt
running lines for the remake of
Village of the Damned (a film whose
most believable special effect was
its efficiency in turning audiences
into zombies), he netted a measly 30
newspaper references. Two years
later, in October '96, he scored a
whopping 195. Not bad at all for an
actor whose next role probably would
have been playing himself in a
Margot Kidder biopic.
 
 
And yet, for all his newfound fame,
friends, and sympathy, there are
signs that he still can't work an
audience very successfully. In
October, as Reeve was given a
"National Courage Award" by
something called the Courage Center,
he prompted a demonstration by 50
disabled protestors who felt he sent
the wrong message by insisting that
disabled people are not whole unless
cured. Try to cross that picket
line.
 
At the Oscars, as clips of "relevant"
box office hits like Norma Rae
rolled in the background, he wheezed
on about Hollywood's great
willingness to take "risks." As if
it took more guts to make a movie
about a union organizer than to be a
union organizer (and as if Sally
Field didn't take greater
professional - and physical -
chances playing the Flying Nun).
Viewers could be forgiven for
remembering that Reeve once tried to
keep his risk-taking to less lethal
activities, such as screenwriting.
(He helped with the story for
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a
movie described by a sympathetic
reviewer as "overlong, overwrought,
confusing and... downright dull.")
 
 
During the Democratic National
Convention, Reeve's demand for
increased federal funding for a
"cure" for paralysis and spinal-cord
injuries failed to get the
obligatory standing ovation,
possibly because he acknowledged no
responsibility for his predicament.
And possibly because he reduced his
plea to an equation made
uncomfortable in fiscally tough
times: You owe me for my mistakes.
Here's an idea that doesn't cost a
penny: Stop riding horses at brick
walls.
 
In a cover story in Time, Reeve even
managed to strain vast reserves of
readerly sympathy by admitting that,
prior to his accident, he didn't
give his kids the "attention they
deserved" (better hope they don't
catch Whatever Happened to Baby
Jane? on the tube) and that he
didn't want to make a full-time
nurse out of his wife (better it be
somebody else's wife?) But Reeve
faces a longer-range PR problem, as
well: Courageous or not, Hollywood -
and the paying public - demand
novelty in their celebrities,
especially in their celebrities'
triumphs over adversity (Kelsey
Grammer is the current pacesetter,
having in recent years skipped bail
on a cocaine charge, boffed the
babysitter, and checked in to Betty
Ford just in time for sweeps week).
Reeve's doctors say that a
miraculous recovery (certainly worth
a couple of People covers) is not in
the cards, and that means his
current splash may be his last.
 
 
Remember, after all, Daffy Duck, who,
in pre-Space Jam times, responded to
an unresponsive crowd with
self-inflicted bomb(l)ast. Even Bugs
had to applaud. "They loved it,"
said Bugs as the harp-toting Daffy
passes by. "I know, I know,"
muttered the dazed duck, "but I can
only do it once."
 

[Zero Baud Archive]

courtesy of
Mr. Mxyzptlk