JEFFREY BROWN: Christopher Reeve soared to fame in 1978 with his blockbuster role as the man of steel, Superman, and his mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent.
LOIS LANE: Any more at home like you?
CLARK KENT: Not really, no.
JEFFREY BROWN: The film and its three sequels made more than $300 million at the box office, and made Reeve an international star. Reeve was trained at Julliard and made his start on the stage, to which he returned often over the years. He also had a passion for horses, and trained regularly. But in 1995 Reeve broke his neck after being thrown from his horse during a competition.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: As the horse pulled back and I went forward I had the great misfortune to get my hand stuck in the horse's bridle.
JEFFREY BROWN: He was left paralyzed from the neck down, but vowed to walk again. Often needing a ventilator to breathe, he endured years of difficult rehabilitation. In recent years, aided by technological advances such as electrical stimulation, Reeve gained some movement in his fingers and minimal sensation in his legs, arms, and toes. Even after the accident, he continued to work, acting in and directing a handful of productions. But his biggest role was as an advocate for spinal cord injury research. He appeared often before the public and here in 1997, before Congress.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: Research today is not speculative. It is not a waste of money. It is the only way to relieve suffering.
JEFFREY BROWN: Last year, he spoke to Barbara Walters.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE (2003 ABC News): I'm getting older. I'm 51, and time's ticking. What a profound statement that was. Sorry.
BARBARA WALTER: That's okay.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: The more time goes by, the more I feel a sense of urgency. I can accept anything except for complacency.
JEFFREY BROWN: Reeve made his last public appearance last week in Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Institute.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: It's been an honor to spend this time with you. Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: Soon after, he developed serious complications from an infection caused by bedsores. He fell into a coma and died yesterday of heart failure. Christopher Reeve was 52 years old.