As the Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Margot Kidder was the first lady of superhero cinema. So where is she now?
“When I was 12, my mom took me to New York and I saw ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, with people singing and dancing, and that was it.” says Margot Kidder. “I knew I had to go far away. I was clueless, but I did okay.” She’s being typically modest: Margot Kidder did more than okay. The Canadian actress landed the role of a lifetime when she scored the role of Lois Lane in 1978’s 'Superman: The Movie’, a superhero film based on some comic or other than ended up being the grandfather to an entire cinematic genre. While it was Reeve’s Man of Steel who hogged the limelight, Kidder’s intrepid reporter more than kept up.
For a while, Kidder soared like her screen co-star – the TV actress won other high profile roles in movies like 'The Amityville Horror’ and Oscar-fancied drama 'Heartaches’ – but she had to come crashing down to Earth sooner or later. Her star power declined roughly in line with Superman’s popularity: by 1983’s ill-fated 'Superman III’, Lois Lane had been reduced to a mere cameo (her screen time amounted to around five minutes), and though her role was beefed up a little for 1987’s 'Superman IV: The Quest For Peace’, the franchise had already reached its nadir. Aside from a cameo in TV series 'Smallville’ in 2004 (alongside her former co-star Christopher Reeve, by then wheelchair-bound), that was that for Kidder and 'Superman’: it made her and it broke her.
Things got tough for Margot Kidder. She picked up work in TV movies and voiceover gigs, but she never quite hit the heights of her superhero heyday. What’s more, troubles with her personal life were starting to bleed into her professional life. Kidder was married three times within 1976 and 1983 – including her marriage to 'Home Alone’ actor John Heard – but none of the relationships lasted longer than a year. In 1990, she was involved in a serious car crash which left her unable to work for two years. Over that period, Kidder filed for bankruptcy, meaning she could no longer afford to be choosy about her work. But her problems were just beginning.
In 1996, Kidder began to have violent mood swings. While writing her memoirs, her computer became infected with a virus, which led her to believe she was under surveillance and that her first husband, French director Philippe de Broca, was trying to kill her. Unbeknownst to Kidder, she was bipolar, and in her paranoid state she suffered a major manic episode. Convinced her life was in danger, Kidder left home and faked her own death, cutting her hair off with razor blades and removing the caps from her teeth. She was homeless for a short while until she was found sheltering under a family’s porch, coincidentally just yards from where 'Superman’ was filmed. Kidder was entered into psychiatric care, where she was finally diagnosed as bipolar.
Mercifully, Kidder survived the episode and thanks to her bipolar medication, was able to put her life back together piece by piece. Returning to work, she continued making movies like 'The Clown At Midnight’ and 'Apocalypse III: Tribulation’ that existed solely to fill early morning timeslots. “I’ll do practically anything,” says Kidder (pictured below in 2008).
“I’m the biggest whore on the block. I live in a little town in Montana, and you have to drag me out of here to get to LA, so I’m not readily available. But unless it’s something sexist or cruel, I just love to work. I’ve done all sorts of things, but you just haven’t seen them because they’re often very bad and shown at four in the morning.” Again, she’s under-selling herself: her hard graft and willingness to start again from the bottom eventually won her parts in acclaimed TV serial 'Brothers & Sisters’ and she appeared on Broadway in 'The Vagina Monologues’.
Kidder now only spends part of her time making movies – breaking her rule about sexist and cruel films by accepting a part in Rob Zombie’s woeful sequel 'Halloween II’ – because she dedicates much of her life to politics. A long time supporter of liberal causes, Kidder was the State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America in Montana and has spoken out against several injustices; she was arrested at a 2011 protest against the extension of the controversial Keystone Pipeline. Just last year, Kidder hosted a fund-raiser for 2016 Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Today, things are looking up for Margot Kidder. She hasn’t had a manic episode since 1996 and has become a spokesperson for mental wellness. Even the work has picked up: in 2015, she won an Emmy for her part in spooky children’s television programme 'R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour’, the first high profile award she’d ever won (unless you consider the Canadian Film Awards to be high profile). Having ridden the fame rollercoaster with all its ups and downs, and emerged unscathed from mental illness, Kidder is happy with her lot in life: “My grandson sees me as Lois on TV every Christmas,” she says, “and that scores me points.”
Image Credit: Rex Features