Family & Companions
Having emerged from the heady days of the free-spirited 1960s, actress Margot Kidder became instantly famous for her fiery take on Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve in "Superman: The Movie" (1978). Prior to her career-defining role, Kidder made her first major film with director Brian De Palma in "Sisters" (1973). She followed up with "The Amityville Horror" (1979) and reprised Lois Lane for both "Superman II" (1981) and "Superman III" (1983). Kidder continued to appear in film and television into her 60s. Margot Kidder died at her home in Livingston, Montana on May 13, 2018. She was 69.
Born on Oct. 17, 1948 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, Margot Kidder was raised by her American-born father, Kendall, a mining engineer, and her British Columbia-born mother, Jill, a homemaker. Because of her father's work, the family was required to move frequently and on occasion live in rather strange locations, including trailers, motel rooms and even a caboose. Her family's transient lifestyle led Kidder to attend 11 different schools during her first 12 years. Following a trip to New York City where she saw a production of the Broadway musical "Bye, Bye Birdie," Kidder was taken with the idea of becoming an actress. But early signs of her later struggles with mental illness became frighteningly apparent when she swallowed a handful of codeine pills in a suicide attempt following a breakup with a boyfriend. At the time, no one thought to send her to a psychiatrist and instead, her parents enrolled her in boarding school to give her more stability. While there, Kidder studied drama and continued her acting training at the University of British Columbia. After graduating, she joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Vancouver and made her small-screen debut in the National Film Board production of "The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar" (1968), which won the Canadian Film Award for Film of the Year in 1969.
Following her first feature with the satirical "Gaily Gaily" (1969), Kidder was dissatisfied by her performance in "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx" (1970) enough to step back and study her craft further in New York City. She paid the bills by acting in TV commercials while attending classes, but soon returned to Los Angeles, where she met actress Jennifer Salt while on an audition. The two moved in together into a Nicholas Beach house that was frequented by New Hollywood luminaries like Donald Sutherland, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. Kidder had romantic relationships with both Spielberg and De Palma at the time, and later revealed that she led a rather indulgent life of sex and drugs during this period. Still struggling to find work, she finally landed her breakout role in De Palma's Hitchcockian thriller, "Sisters" (1973), which co-starred Jennifer Salt and Charles Durning. Kidder played the dual role of Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchon, Siamese twins successfully separated as young children. With a budget of only $500,000, the film proved a commercial and critical success, and established Kidder as an incipient Hollywood star.
Kidder went on to star in "The Gravy Train" (1974), written by Terrence Malick and co-starring Stacy Keach, and found further success in the holiday-themed slasher flick, "Black Christmas" (1974). From there, Oscar winner George Roy Hill directed the actress in his historical adventure film about an air circus flier, "The Great Waldo Pepper" (1975) starring Robert Redford. Meanwhile, Kidder met her first husband, Thomas McGuane, when cast in the film based on his novel "92 in the Shade" (1978), a sunbaked melodrama that boasted an impressive cast - Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith and Harry Dean Stanton - and received positive reviews, but ultimately failed at the box office. Though Kidder and McGuane had a daughter, Maggie, the couple divorced after a year of marriage. By then, Kidder's career skyrocketed when she was cast in her most famous role, playing feisty reporter Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve's beloved superhero in "Superman: The Movie" (1978). Kidder was one of 100 actresses who auditioned and managed to beat out fellow finalist Stockard Channing for the role. While the lion's share of praise was heaped on newcomer Reeve and Gene Hackman's take on Lex Luther, Kidder more than held her own, showcasing both a fiery temperament touched by occasional sentiment and a palpable chemistry with Reeve.
The following year, newly minted star Kidder starred in the horror classic "The Amityville Horror" (1979), opposite James Brolin and Rod Steiger. Also in 1979, she married her second husband, actor John Heard, only to divorce a mere six weeks later. Returning to the role that made her famous, Kidder reprised the fiery Lois Lane for "Superman II" (1981), which was actually shot at the same time as the original. But because of Richard Donner's famous fallout with producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind, he was fired in favor of British director Richard Lester, which prompted considerable reshoots. After a starring turn in the friendship drama "Heartaches" (1981), she starred alongside Richard Pryor in the offbeat tragi-comedy "Some Kind of Hero" (1982). Because of their steamy onscreen scenes, rumors swirled at the time that the two were romantically involved. Though Kidder initially denied them, the rumors turned out to be true. But by 1983, she had moved on and married third husband, French director Philippe de Broca, and divorced him a year later. She went on to appear as Lois Lane for the campy "Superman III" (1983), which co-starred Pryor and marked the critical and commercial low point of the series. Due to her very vocal complaints against the Salkinds and their replacement of Donner on "Superman II," Kidder's role was significantly reduced to the bare contractual minimum, leading to the installment of Annette O'Toole as Superman/Clark Kent's new love interest, Lana Lang.
On the small screen, Kidder played Eliza Dolittle opposite Peter O'Toole's Henry Higgins in a cable adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" (Showtime, 1983) and made her TV miniseries debut in the French-Canadian co-production "Louisiana" (1984), directed by de Broca. But her career was in the midst of a precipitous decline from which she was unable to recover. Following the little-seen psychological drama "Little Treasure" (1985) and an episode of "The Hitchhiker" (HBO, 1983-87), Kidder reprised Lois Lane one last time for the critical and commercial disaster known as "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987). Meanwhile, after decades of battling extreme mood swings behind the scenes, the actress was diagnosed with manic depression in 1988, though Kidder flatly rejected both her doctor's conclusions and their prescribed course of treatment. She went on to star in the TV movie "Body of Evidence" (CBS, 1988) and the Canadian drama "White Room" (1990), but suffered a serious car accident while on the set of the Canadian production "Nancy Drew and Daughter" that injured three discs in her neck. Just as she did with her psychiatric diagnosis, Kidder refused treatment - in this case surgery - and spent the next two years confined to a wheelchair due to muscle spasms. She eventually submitted to surgery, but her insurance company refused to pay for her care and left Kidder with a whopping $600,000 in medical bills, leaving the actress no choice but to declare bankruptcy.
Back in the saddle, Kidder appeared in the Canadian film "La Florida" (1993), had an uncredited appearance in the Western comedy "Maverick" (1994), starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, and landed a guest starring role on the revival of "Burke's Law" (CBS, 1994-95). Following a recurring role as an acting teacher on the short-lived sitcom "Boston Common" (NBC, 1996-97), Kidder was back in the news once again, this time for a notorious incident that became an international tabloid spectacle. In April 1996, she was discovered by police sharing a cardboard box with a homeless man named Charlie in downtown Los Angeles after disappearing for four days. Her hair had been cut and her dental bridge removed to avoid being recognized. Kidder, who was suffering a severe manic-depressive episode, told police she was being stalked by the CIA and ex-husband Thomas McGuane. She was put into psychiatric care and was later released. Later in an appearance on "20/20" (ABC, 1978- ), Kidder recounted her ordeal and her lifetime of battling bipolar disorder, explaining that she finally accepted her illness and was able to keep it in check with amino acids and mineral supplements.
The incident failed to slow her work load, however, and Kidder appeared in a number of Canadian-made features while landing episodes of "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ). In the 2000s, Kidder settled into a quiet life in Montana, although she still worked fairly regularly, and even became a U.S. citizen in order to participate in the electoral process. She appeared in a production of "The Vagina Monologues" (HBO) in 2002 and had a major supporting role an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" (2002), starring Crispin Glover as Raskolnikov. Touching on her "Superman" fame, Kidder played Bridgette Crosby for two episodes of the long-running "Smallville" (The WB/The CW, 2001-2011), and went on to play Mia Kirshner's mother on an episode of "The L Word" (Showtime, 2004-09). Following a two-episode arc on "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-2011), Kidder returned to features with roles in "On The Other Hand, Death" (2008) and "Halloween 2" (2009), Rob Zombie's sequel to his remake of the classic slasher flick, "Halloween" (1978). Kidder next appeared in supporting roles in the western "Redemption: For Robbing the Dead" (2011) and Canadian crime drama "Real Gangsters" (2013). Kidder's film roles continued to slow as she moved into her mid-60s, but included a co-starring role in action comedy "The Dependables" (2014) and a continued association with "Real Gangsters" writer/director Frank D'Angelo, who cast Kidder in his films "The Big Fat Stone" (2014). "No Deposit" (2015), "The Red Maple Leaf" (2016) and "The Neighborhood" (2017). Kidder also appeared on an episode of "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour" (HUB/Discovery Family 2010-14), winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming in 2014. Margot Kidder committed suicide in her home in Livingston, Montana on May 13, 2018. She was 69.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Film debut in Jewison's "Gaily, Gaily"
First feature lead, "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx", an Irish-shot comedy starring Gene Wilder
TV-movie acting debut, "Suddenly Single", an ABC drama about the swinging singles scene
TV series debut on "Nichols", an NBC Western set in the early 20th century; played Ruth, the barmaid girlfriend of series star James Garner
Appeared in "92 in the Shade", a feature written and directed by husband Tom McGuane
Filmmaking debut, wrote and directed the short film "And Again"
Breakthrough feature lead, played Lois Lane in "Superman" (reprised the role in three sequels in 1980, 1983 and 1987)
Portrayed Eliza Doolittle (opposite Peter O'Toole's Henry Higgins) in a Showtime adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion"
TV miniseries acting debut, "Louisiana" (Cinemax), a Franco-Canadian co-production helmed by future husband Philippe de Broca
Provided a voice for the children's animated feature "Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords"
Starred on the CBS comedy-drama series "Shell Game", as a con artist turned investigative journalist (series was a short-lived mid-season replacement)
First diagnosed with manic-depression; rejected the diagnosis and the prescribed course of treatment
Injured in a car accident on the set of "Nancy Drew and Daughter", a Canadian cable TV production; incurred three damaged discs in her neck
Provided narration for "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", an HBO children's animated series based on four of the six Oz books by L. Frank Baum
Declared bankruptcy; sold her home and jewelry
Did a guest shot on an episode of HBO's "Tales From the Crypt" entitled "Curiosity Killed"
Relocated to Prague after filming there
Provided a voice for "Phantom 2040", a syndicated cartoon sci-fi series extrapolated from Lee Falk's comic strip
Appeared in first major theatrical role, touring in "Stieglitz Loves O'Keefe", as artist Georgia O'Keefe
Moved to Livingstone, Montana
Completed work in "Never Met Picasso", a gay-themed, low-budget independent feature that received festival screenings in 1996
After behaving erratically in public and subsequently disappearing for three days, found behind a woodpile in the backyard of a suburban Glendale, CA, home, ragged, dirty and babbling incoherently about a plot against her
Did a guest shot on the NBC sitcom "Boston Common" as an acting teacher; character returned in recurring status
Voiced Mistres Helga on a pair of "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters" episodes
Appeared on an episode of the revitalized "Outer Limits"
Guested on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
Had a recurring guest role on "Smallville"
Cast as Elaine Wainwright on "Robson Arms"
Appeared in Rob Zombie sequel "Halloween II"
Appeared in her final screen role in Frank D'Angelo-helmed crime drama "The Neighborhood"