A new documentary premiering at Sundance is peeling back the curtain on the man behind the iconic Superman cape.
“Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” charts the late actor’s meteoric rise to fame as the Man of Steel, his tragic horse riding accident that left him paralyzed, and his rebirth as a disability rights activist. It features extensive archival footage and interviews with Reeve’s inner circle, including his children Will, Matthew, and Alexandra.
“You might think you know Superman, or the advocate, or whatever version of Christopher Reeve you think you know, but then you get to see him as a dad,” Will Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s youngest son, said at TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP.
Reeve’s children were intimately involved in the documentary, granting the filmmakers unrestrained access to personal archives, while also offering their own poignant perspectives. Alexandra found seeing private home video footage profoundly moving.
“One of the joys is that they uncovered so much archival footage. So there’s the outtakes from the original audition for Superman, interviews with dad from the ’70s and ’80s when we were still young kids,” Reeve’s daughter Alexandra Reeve Givens, said.
“Seeing him at the height of fame and even old home movies we hadn’t spent much time with – suddenly we’re uncovering these moments and seeing them on the big screen. All of that woven together has been really beautiful and powerful,” she added.
The film also pays tribute to Reeve’s wife Dana, who cared for him after his injury and became an influential activist in her own right before passing away from cancer.
“The most emotionally stirring parts in the film are the interviews and hearing them talk about their experiences with our dad and Dana,” Matthew Reeve, Christopher Reeve’s eldest son, said. “It was important to step back and let the filmmakers do their thing to properly do historical justice with that element of objectivity.”
“What I’m just beyond touched by and so proud of is the way that the filmmakers tell my mom’s story, the way that my mom Dana features in this documentary, because she featured so heavily as you might expect in our lives,” Will Reeve said.
“As much of an honor as it is to be the son of Christopher Reeve, I’m also the son of Dana Reeve,” Will Reeve added. “Anytime I can tell her story and share with the world what a singular force she was makes me so proud.”
According to co-director Ian Bonhôte, capturing the complexity of Reeve’s journey in a single film was a massive challenge. But with unrestricted access to the family’s personal archives, the result is an intimate portrait showing both his towering successes and private struggles.
“The excitement is not one particular moment, it’s the entirety – how do you distill someone’s complexity, entire life, great moments and tragedies into 90 minutes?” Bonhôte said.
By foregrounding Reeve’s unexpected transformation into an activist the doc aims to reintroduce new generations to a 20th-century icon who learned the true meaning of heroism.
“To become severely disabled, he realizes he can harness his ‘superpowers’ to do real good and affect change in the world,” said co-director Peter Ettedgui.
“Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” premieres this week. The film is a sales title and seeking distribution.