Still Me - Christopher Reeves
May 27th 1995 has two special meanings for me, it was the day of my first serious date as an adult but it was also the day when one of my heroes Christopher Reeve suffered a serious horse riding accident which would leave him a quadriplegic. Here was this actor synonymous with playing Superman, the man of steel, in hospital fighting for his life and then having to come to terms with not only being wheel chair bound but also with out feeling below his neck/shoulders. Yet like the man of steel Christopher Reeves kept on fighting, kept on working, kept on looking for a solution right up until he sadly passed away on the 10th October 2004.
During those years following his accident Reeves became a fighter for those in similar situations, campaigning, doing public speeches and he is also found time to write "Still Me" which is a very moving book/biography. Technically I suppose it's a biography but it is so much more as it covers the accident, his rehabilitation and life after as well as dipping into more standard biographical area from childhood, teenage years and acting along the way mentioning many of those moments which were pivotal in his life both personal and public.
Initially I will put my hands up and say I struggled with "Still Me", not because that it covered a lot about the accident and his recovery because it feels a little choppy. The first couple of chapters focus on the lead up to the accident, the accident itself and the first few weeks in hospital as his prognosis was diagnosed. But then you get a chapter all about growing up, his childhood and so on before another chapter returns back to dealing with his recovery. I say initially because after about the fourth chapter it all made sense, it stopped it becoming too hard to read on an emotional level as well as stopping it from feeling like just another biography.
But like any traditional biography it covers all those expected sessions from his childhood, is difficulty with relationships, his children and of course his days as an actor as well as directing. What comes across is that not only Did Reeves enjoy life, from sailing, climbing and horse riding but he also enjoyed performing on the stage. Much of his recollections around his acting career revolve around his time in theatre as he continued to hone his acting skills working with the likes of Katherine Hepburn among many. His love for theatre definitely comes across and it's fascinating when you read about all the different roles he did on the stage, as well as his time in the UK touring round theatres as a young man.
Then there is also the movie side of things, his performance in the "Superman" movies, how he felt about each of them as well as performances in other movies such as "Somewhere in Time". In fact it is surprisingly enlightening as to all the different movies he appeared in as well as many notable ones he turned down, such as "American Gigolo", "The Bounty" and "Romancing the Stone". Alongside this you get an insight into his friendship with many actors from Katherine Hepburn, Robin Williams who was his roommate at Julliard and also a young unknown actor when they met, Morgan Freeman.
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There is of course the other side of "Still Me" which focuses on the accident with left Reeves a quadriplegic as well as his rehabilitation which there are several chapters devoted to. It has to be said that it is both fascinating and hard hitting, reading about the problems he encountered as he lay there in hospital and the several near death experiences he had. But it is also uplifting, such as when he managed to beat the doom and was able to breathe a little while without the ventilator as well as his close relationships with those who cared for him.
It not only covers his life in hospital and the journey through rehabilitation, but also life outside of hospital. His campaigning for more funds for research, his talks with spinal specialists as well as his personal life adjusting to life at home in his wheel chair seeing all those things around him which caused him to reminisce over what life was like. But what comes across more is that despite the tragic accident Reeves never let it bring him down, even though he understandably had those darker days, he continued to live a remarkable life when many others would have just given up.
What is for sure is whilst for many Christopher Reeves was a hero on the screen as Superman, he was just as much a hero of it as he kept on fighting rather than giving up and allowing his situation to make him depressed.
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (May 29, 1999)