It all started with George Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950’s TV series Adventures of Superman. He fell victim to the alleged “Superman curse” when he died at the age of 45 under mysterious circumstances. His death was ultimately ruled a suicide, but some think he was murdered, and a movie called Hollywoodland starring Ben Affleck explored the questions surrounding Reeves’ death. To date, numerous actors who have played the Man of Steel have fallen victim to the Superman curse, and some wonder if the most current incarnation of Superman, directed by Zack Snyder, will leave lead actor Henry Cavill to follow in their unfortunate footsteps.
It seems that most actors who play Superman, both on television and in the movies, don’t fare so well when it comes to longevity. Quite a few of them died shortly after playing the role, and some have passed away at a very young age under bizarre circumstances. After George Reeves met his untimely demise, actor Lee Quigley, who had played Superman as a baby, died from abusing solvents at the tender age of 14.
Actor Bud Collyer made out just a little better; he gave voice to the Man of Steel in two different cartoons, one created in the 1940s and the second in the 1960s. He lived to age 61, but unfortunately developed a rare ailment of the circulatory system which proved fatal.
The best-known Superman in modern times is undoubtedly Christopher Reeve, who played the role in four movies spanning nearly ten years. His fans were shocked and devastated when he suffered a terrible horseback riding accident in 1995, an incident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. When it first occurred, doctors were unsure whether or not he would survive, and his late wife, Dana Reeve, spoke poignantly of the choice he faced to either fight or to let his life end by disconnecting life support. At one point, she said to him “you’re still you and I love you.” He made the choice to live, and later courageously suffered through ailments ranging from blood clots to pneumonia.
Through it all, though, he stayed very active, lobbying Congress for funding for spinal cord injuries, attending speaking engagements all over the country, and even maintaining an extremely busy schedule acting, directing, producing films, traveling overseas and writing a book. Tragically, he lost his life in 2004 due to complications from his condition. His wife Dana died just two years later of lung cancer at the age of 44. This left some to speculate that she, too, had fallen victim to the Superman curse.
Comedian Richard Pryor was the third victim of the 1970-1980s Superman franchise. Having successfully battled a drug problem and survived a subsequent suicide attempt, he starred in Superman III and later developed multiple sclerosis. He passed away in 2005 from cardiac arrest stemming from his condition.
With all of the bad fortune befalling victims of the Superman curse, it’s only natural that people would wonder if this latest incarnation of the franchise will cause actor Henry Cavill to stumble upon some dreadful disease or worse yet, an early death. In his career thus far he has appeared in numerous television series, including the Tudors, and is slated to star in two upcoming movies after Man of Steel. At just 30 years of age, he has a wonderful career ahead of him, and his star seems destined to shine. But, that creeping doubt about the Superman curse is difficult to completely ignore. While Cavill certainly looks hale and hearty now, it’s impossible not to speculate whether he, too, will fall victim to the Superman curse. Only time will tell, so for now, fans should try to forget about the sordid history behind the Superman legacy, enjoy the movie and hope for the best. Or, the other option is to simply decide that there is no such thing as a curse and chalk it all up to coincidence… or is it?
By: Rebecca Savastio